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Your Pull Up Strength Solution

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Have you been training for a year or longer yet the ability to do a pull-up still stumps you? I know most of you want to the hacks to achieving party tricks like butterfly pull ups and muscle ups, but here’s the truth: you need to the ability to perform an unassisted, strict, dead-hang pull-up that starts with your arms fully extended and finishes with your chin clearly over the bar first.

There are so many benefits to pull-ups that they should be a major staple in any training program. Not only are strict pull ups a prerequisite for more advanced gymnastic movements; it also helps with your rowing, kettlebell swings, and Olympic Weightlifting too. It might literally save your life if you are ever hanging from a cliff and, if you get good enough at them, you may even be able to save someone else’s life, too!

Done correctly, the strict pull up is excellent for developing upper body and core strength. Here are some common issues I see and how to solve them:

Your Strength to Bodyweight Ratio Needs Improvement

You can’t out train a poor diet. If your goals are to improve in bodyweight exercises then you need an increase in relative strength. This means finding an ideal body composition and strength level. It is harder to master pull ups if you’re carrying excess weight. Take a look at your nutrition and make sure that your food intake aligns with your goals.

Strength Progressions for Strength Gains

It is critical that you understand that doing jumping pull ups or banded pull ups during a met-con is not going to be the most effective way to develop your strength. Following a periodised progression of compound lifts and accessory exercises is necessary to get you from hanging to busting out pull ups like a boss.

Whilst we program these progressions semi-regularly, I have found the most effective method for achieving pull up strength is to have a personalised program focussed on your major weaknesses that can be used a few times a week. There are no short cuts here: you have to follow the progressions. Here are just a few examples of what you may receive in such a program:

  • Isometric Holds (top of chin up and hanging tuck)
  • Incline Bench Y-Raises and DB Reverse Fly 3 x 12-15 @ 3111
  • KB Batwings and DB Row 3 x 8-10 @ 2111

Injured or in Need of Movement Pattern Correction

Skipping past strength development and jumping straight into learning kipping and butterfly pull-ups is likely to be a short cut to injury. These advanced dynamic movements ask more of the athlete to stabilise the shoulders through large range of motion.

Of course, prevention is the best medicine. At GW Performance we spend time during every workout completing physical prep and activation. However, if you want truly stable, safe and strong shoulders then you should speak with your coach about completing extra work.

It is common that poor posture and muscle imbalances lead to issues like overuse of upper traps when performing pull ups or progressions. This is where the coaches and our in-house sports med team work together on developing custom accessory programming to get you stronger in the right ways.

If you are suffering from a lot of pain, a shoulder impingement, joint issues, or any other type of upper extremity injury, the solution should be obvious. Seek out the care of a sports medical professional such as a physiotherapist

If you want to implement these tips and optimise your progress then book a time with a coach to go through our “Pull Up Assessment” . Also, make sure you watch my follow up video with the details of the program that has added massive amounts of strength to my gymnastics game!