Movement #2 in the 6 foundational movement series is the Pull Up.
Either from poor guidance or poor practice, the common problems I see in a pull up are a forward head movement and shrugging of the shoulders. Other than creating poor movement patterns, this can also lead to upper back and neck discomfort over time.
In this blog I will outline and demonstrate the 4 steps to improve form, coordination, and endurance in your pull up
First, lets do a quick overview on the basics of a pull up movement.
Starting with your hands over head as if you were holding on to a bar, you want to initiate with your shoulder blades, lead with your elbows, and keep good alignment from head to heel.
Now that you have a better understanding of the pull up basics lets look at optimizing the full movement. A great way to work on the pattern is with the help of a power band.
Anchoring the band to the pull up bar or a high point like a doorway, you can work on the movement pattern without having the weight for your entire body. This gives you the opportunity to focus on technique , range of motion, and control.
Depending on how much help you need determines which weight or resistance of the band you use. The heavier the band the easier the movement, the lighter the band the more challenging the movement.
Here are the 4 steps to building a stronger Pull-Up:
1. The Grip:
Place your hands about shoulder-width apart and You can either use the thumb over OR thumb under grip.
I like to teach the thumb under grip because this is the grip you will often use to hold and carry most things and I find that this grip incorporates more muscles to stabilize the wrist and forearm.
But, feel free to use whatever grip is most comfortable.
2. Using a Scapular Pull to Elbow Pull
For the pull up, its important to think of it in two parts. First, a scapular pull and then an elbow pull.
Too often I see most people try to use their shoulders to help pull their body up and they end up shrugging their shoulders. Instead, initiate the pull up by pulling the scapula down and then focus on pulling elbows down to the side of your torso. This will maximize shoulder positioning making it more comfortable, while increasing pulling efficiency from the lats and posterior chain muscles.
3. Using the “Look over the Fence “ cue :
Poking your chin over the bar teaches a poor movement habit. Instead, I like to teach “Looking over the fence”.
You want to focus on pull your elbows down so you can look over the bar (like your looking over a wooden fence) and not focus on bringing your chin over the bar. This works to keep your body in good alignment from head to heel, and keep you focus on on the pull.
Depending on your level of training you may not reach all the way to the top just yet, but with time and practice you will get there.
4. Breathing: Inhale at the bottom and Exhale at the top
Similar to how we explained breathing with the push up…
It's important not only for fluid movement and control, but breathing helps to ensure oxygen exchange during your training which improves overall endurance.
With most movements, exhalation occurs during the concentric phase , in this case it will be on the way up of the pull up. Therefore, I like to teach to inhale at the bottom and exhale at the top.
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