From Pull-up Zero, to Pull-up Hero

The Open Season is upon us! It's an exciting time of year, because we have the opportunity to come together as a community, and throw every ounce of energy that we have at a workout; five weeks in a row.

There always have, and always will be a lot of "unknowns" regarding the Open workouts, but there are a few things that I can guarantee. For one, there will be double-unders (I know, I’m kind of going out on a limb here, but it’s a safe bet). If you don’t have them down by now, it is time to practice. You never know when those babies are going to click, so keep on trying!

Secondly, I promise you there will be pull-ups. Unfortunately, unlike double-unders, pull-ups aren’t a skill that can be acquired with some practice. There is definitely a great deal of skill involved in performing large, unbroken, and efficient sets of butterfly pull-ups, but there is also a requisite amount of pulling strength that must be developed before you should even begin to dream about it.

So for today's blog post, I've come up with the "Top 3 exercises for Developing Pull-up Strength."

1. Bent-over Barbell Row:
If there is an exercise that is better at developing pull-ups than pull-ups themselves, this is it. Stand tall with the barbell, unlock your knees, and hinge forward at the waist while pushing your hips back. In this position, you should feel your hamstring tighten up, much like a good morning. Allow your shoulders to roll forwards before initiating the pull. When you initiate the pull, the first motion is to pull the shoulders back and then think about pulling your elbows behind you. Doing it this way ensures that you engage your back muscles optimally, and recruit less of your biceps. Row that barbell all the way up into your torso and control the barbell all the way down.

The 3 biggest mistakes that I see people make when doing this exercise is:
1. Initiating the pull with the biceps
2. Not controlling the weight on the way down
3. GOING TOO HEAVY (pick a moderate weight that allows you to perform the sets with good form).

Doing 3-5 sets of 8-12 reps will certainly improve your pulling strength and compliment your pull-up capacity. You can also perform variations by changing grip width, using straps, and reversing your grip.

2. Dumbbell Rows:
The technique learned in the Bent-over Barbell Row is very similar to the technique used in dumbbell rows. The major difference is that this is a unilateral exercise, so you do one side at a time. It is important to incorporate unilateral exercises so that one side does not become more developed than the other. To do these, post your opposite knee and free hand up on a bench to stabilize yourself. When you perform the dumbbell row, you want to think about keeping your forearm perpendicular to the floor throughout the entire range of motion, and your elbow tight to your ribcage at the top.

To accomplish this, think about rowing the dumbbell slightly back towards your hips (do not row straight up). Again, 3-5 sets of 8-12 reps is the best place to start.

3. Weighted Pull-ups:
This last piece is for those that already have the ability to perform pull-ups (5-8 strict reps). There is nothing magical about this, other than changing the stimulus. Throw a dip belt around your hips with some weight and start pulling. Be sure to hold yourself accountable at the top of the range of motion.

Because of the added weight, you will want to do more sets, but fewer reps.
5-8 sets of 3-5 reps will break you through your plateau and get your pull-ups to the next level.

-Coach Tony