The Pull Up

Written by Tanner Batten

With the New Year rolling around, people begin to look inward and ask themselves what they want to accomplish over the next 365 days.  Some of these goals are work related, some are family related, and others are training related.  One of the most common training goals I hear from athletes is the desire to improve their pull-up ability.  Whether they are working towards their first bodyweight pull-up or trying to hit 20 in a row, they will need a specific plan to get there! 

Although the Bench Press is often touted as the “king of upper body exercises” I would argue that, for an athlete, their ability to do a pull-up is even more important. This exercise provides the ultimate test of relative upper body strength. Sure, a big bench press is a great bragging point, but any athlete who has mastered the strict pull-up has far more functional and impressive upper body strength.  

The Pull-up should be a staple in any athlete’s training program. Aside from being a great upper back and arm builder, it doubles as an amazing core exercise. It also aids in strengthening muscles crucial for posture and shoulder health.  A pull-up will also motivate you to keep your body composition in check.  Those Holiday goodies will quickly inhibit your ability to do a pull-up if you gain 10lbs. 

Regardless of an athlete’s main goal (fat loss, muscle gain, improved sports performance) pull-ups should be a part of their training program.  That is why we have made them a central category in the Leaderboard Standards.  We believe high-level athletes should be able to crush pull-ups, and lots of them!

So what if you can’t yet do a pull-up? You can dedicate your next training year to doing just that! The Leaderboard Standard progressions are made to start with the basics and help you work your way to the top! I start all athletes with a TRX Suspension Trainer.  This equipment allows you to do both a TRX Row and TRX Pull-up. These exercises strengthen many of the muscles used in a pull-up and allow the athlete to easily progress or regress by adjusting body angle.  

This is why the Novice Level on the Leaderboard Testing Standards starts with 10 TRX Rows. Once an athlete has mastered this exercise and can do 10 with their body parallel to the ground, she will progress to a band-assisted pull-up.  The band will simply give the extra assistance needed to lift your chin all the way over the bar.  This has the greatest carryover to a pull-up and helps athletes perfect their form; working towards crushing that first unassisted pull-up. Once an athlete can execute 10 pull-ups with a band they have reached the Intermediate Level. From here we can work towards a higher number of unassisted pull-ups. What if you can already do 10 perfect Pull-ups? Then, let’s start adding some weight to help you reach the Elite level.   

All in all, the Pull-up is a fantastic movement that every athlete should be doing.  It can be very humbling at times, but there is place to start no matter where you are at today! Feel like you’ve been stuck on your pull-ups for a long time? Try one of our personal training sessions.  Each training day is Leaderboard focused (that means pull-ups!) and individualized to exactly the progression you need.  With great coaching and intelligent programming we can help you improve in the areas you need the most!

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