Do you want to pull yourself up?

PULL UPS – one of the most basic movements, which does not require expensive equipment or a massive area at all.

But the thought of pulling your own body weight up, seems like an insurmountable task.

It was not until my own pull up bar was installed last week that I found it necessary to share my thoughts and views on this great home addition. It is well known that my training philosophy includes my strong belief in functional training, designed for individual use. Train for what you need.

This very “simple” bar on a wall is one piece of equipment, which everyone should have and master. Why, you would ask? Is it not a fundamental human skill to be able to lift yourself up? Isn’t that what independence is all about?

My previous bar could hook indoors on the doorframe, but most new houses have no more space to do this. It is therefore necessary to obtain a bar and secure it on a wall where you feel comfortable using it regularly.

How do we do a pull up ?

To do this move properly with good form, grab the bar with an overhand grip – slightly beyond shoulder width. Hang with straight arms and ankles crossed behind you. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and pull yourself up – chest stays close to the bar. Pause on top and then lower yourself back to the hanging position. Avoid any swinging or upward propelling of the body. This is a good start to see how strong you are and how much training has to be done for getting more repetitions done.

Why is this movement so difficult?

You are dealing with your own body weight and cannot quickly change the weight for a lighter one – you HAVE to use your own weight. Pull ups can sometimes be a bit more challenging for females due to the lower centers of gravity and higher body fat percentages. Men possess higher numbers of fast-twitch muscle fiber and testosterone which assist them in the task. But at one rep a time, females will catch up and sometimes overtake.

Which muscles are we using while doing a Pull Up?

The beautiful muscles on the side of the back, latissimus dorsi or “lats”, the trapezius or “traps” (mid back muscles) and the biceps – all known as “pulling” muscles. Also the core musculature and shoulder stabilizers are involved in this movement. You can thus assist the process of doing pull ups, by working on these muscles as cross training for the strength you need.

Developing strength and power to pull you up, is the destination. The result is not only independence and a product of strength, but it is that beautiful toned back in a low cut dress or the awesome beach body that catches the eye from front and back. Being able to do a Pull Up is also an indication of good overall fitness. It is proof of how strong you are for your size – relative strength.

How can you get better at Pull Ups?

  • Negative repetitions – use a chair or bench or jump up to get to the holding position of chin above the bar. Take as long as you can to lower your body to the straight hanging position and then release the bar. Try and repeat at least three times.

  • Isometric hanging position – Get into the starting position of the pull up and just let the body hang. Hold this position for as long as you can or for at least 60 minutes and repeat at least three times.

  • Assisted Pull Ups – Attach a power band to the bar and put one foot into the loop at the bottom. Use the assistance the band offers to pull your body to the top. Adjust the length or the number of bands, to provide you with a level of assistance that challenges you to complete at least 12 repetitions.

Tips for the seasoned Pull Up fundis

  • Side to Side Pull Ups – from pull up top position, move chin to left and then to right hand

  • Knee Raise

Pull Ups – from pull up top position, lift knees to chest and down

  • Knee Raise oblique Pull Ups – from pull up top position, lift knees to left and then to right shoulder and down

  • Straight Leg Raise Pull Ups – advanced movement where bent knees simply get replaced with straight legs.

  • Straight Leg Oblique Pull Ups – Advanced movement where bent knees oblique lifts get replaced with straight legs

  • Straight Leg Circle Pull Ups – Advanced movement where you circle legs first to left side and then to right side in a full circle while holding the top part of the Pull Up position.

Benefits of Pull Ups

  • Functional Strength – dynamic compound exercise that strengthens better interaction between nervous and muscular systems. This assists daily activities humans engage in.

  • Posture and Body Alignment enhancement – the pull up movement involves the core musculature and this leads to strength, straightness and elongation of overall appearance

  • Injury prevention – using the bar as cross training for sport or everyday activities, ensures that your body has a base foundation that assists in high performance effort.

  • Back Discomfort/Pain release – counter bad habits caused by everyday activities. Hanging on the bars assists in realignment and movements on the bars lead to preventative strength and length.

  • Cosmetic properties – both male and female benefit from the body changes that take place during the use of the Pull Up Bar

When palms face you and grip is just outside your shoulders, we call the movement (same execution as the pull up) a CHIN UP.

Use this holiday period to build your body for the New Year whilst you are at home with the family. This way you can enter yet another year with a strong body, fast metabolism and functional freedom.