Feb 21st, 2013
"Luke, I have a pull-up"
Anyone ever dreamed about doing pull-ups? Perfect, efficient, gorgeous pull-ups all day long? I know I have. Barring extreme injury, the perfect pull-up does not need to remain in your dreams. Here are a couple of steps to help you on your way. Ultimately, this is a commitment to a goal. If you make it, we will help you get there.
Step One: As will all of the movements we perform in the gym (and in life), body positioning in the pull-up is key to not only performing the movement, but performing it safely and efficiently. Watch this video from Carl Paoli. Watch it 5 times (or 10). The information is that valuable — and Carl is pretty easy on the eyes, so it really is a no-brainer.
Step Two: Familiarize yourself with the muscles of the shoulders and upper back and how they work. In the case of the pull-up, you are primarily using the lats or latissimus dorsi. You engage this muscle by squeezing your armpits and ‘packing’ the shoulder – focus on keeping your shoulders back and down and in the socket. If your shoulders are shrugged up into your ears, you are using your upper trapezius muscle or traps, which is not what you want. Beware of the upper traps — they can be very strong and override neighboring muscles. Keep them down in the pull-up.
Step Two: Have a coach check your body position in your dead-hang pull-up. We can look for faults or ‘breaks’ in your body as you move through the range of motion and give you tips to correct them.
Step Three: Commit to correcting faults — even if it makes the movement more difficult at first. This is the equivalent to dropping weight in the back squat in order to gain full depth or the deadlift to gain hamstring engagement. This practice takes patience and focus, but will always benefit you in the long run. Embrace it.
Step Four: Practice, practice, practice. On certain days, programming allows time for skill work. Use it. You can also practice before or after class or during Open Gym or on rest days.
1. For those of you still seeking that elusive first strict pull-up, check out this video from Primal Blueprint Fitness and this one from Global Bodyweight Fitness. There are many different ways to work toward that pull-up. Remember, body positioning is KEY to success with these progressions. So make sure you watch Carl’s video a couple more times. And ask your coach for help with these.
You can also work to strengthen the lats and other muscles involved in the pull-up by doing strict ring-rows and also single-arm dumbbell rows. Please ask us how to do these properly.
2. For those who already have a pull-up and want to make it better – work on that body positioning. Get a coach to sign-off so you know you’ve got it locked in. Once you are confident in your mechanics – add some weight! Build strength in that range of motion – stronger is better.
Side note to the ladies: Contrary to some of the stuff you read out there, women CAN do pull-ups. Keep in mind that the musculature of the female shoulder is anatomically different that that of a man, so perhaps it does not happen as quickly for us. But be assured that with hard work, you can get strong enough to pull yourself up – and them some.
Hope this helps you on the road to that perfect, dreamy pull-up! Read More