Pull ups can be seen as a true test of one's upper body strength, endurance, and power. Lats, biceps, shoulders, rotator cuff, pecs, forearms, upper back, glutes, trunk, abs... it's a movement that requires input from a majority of the big players in the upper half of the body. There is no wonder why the pull up can be seen as one of the more difficult body weight exercises to perform. Throw in the facts that we traditionally do not hang from objects, sit long periods of time manipulating objects in front of us, and tend to not pull things down from over head...this movement can be extremely foreign (especially when the object you are pulling is a 150 lbs + of dead weight). So what are the first steps to overcome this vertical challenge? This month we will explore some exercises to get you on the path to pull up success. The first step is to learn how to hang.
Start by grabbing on to a pull up bar. Let yourself sink passively to perform a dead hang. Get a feel on how it is to hang vertically. Squeeze the bar hard to feel your grip and the muscles of your forearm engage. This will allow you to build grip endurance, that is required to perform a pull up. Once you are able to hold for 60 seconds, progress to an active hang.
The active hang involves locking down the shoulder blades. From the dead hang position, tighten your abs and glutes to create a stable base to anchor your lats from. Next, draw your shoulder blades down and back to create tension in your upper back, as well as your lats. Eventually, this will be the starting position of a pull up. Build this up to 60s.
The next installment, we will look at control of the pull up through the range of motion.