With recent articles coming out proclaiming why a certain sex (women) were less likely to be able to do a pull-up, I’ve gotten a lot of questions about pull-ups and how to train to do one. Over a year ago I worked on an article with Greatist.com team member Laura Schwecherl where I developed a program to help her do just that. Our plan worked and Laura increased her pull-up reps from 3 to 7 in just a few short weeks.
The first thing that came to my mind as the critical exercise in any “pull-up specific program” is you guessed it, the pull-up! You can work your lats, your biceps and your core all separately but at the end of the day you need to be able to put it all together. So how the hell do you do a pull-up if you can’t do a pull-up? There are a few ways. The first way is to use the assisted pull-up machine that you see in most gyms (see pic). This machine (sometimes being hogged up by people doing dips) is great but has several flaws. A better training method is to do a band assisted pull-up. With this method you would take a heavy or light band and wrap it around whatever device you’re using to do your pull-up (make sure it’s safely secured). You would then either place your foot or knee into the band.
Why is the band assisted pull-up superior? There are two big reasons:
- A pull-up is a big time core stabilization exercise. In a machine assisted pull-up, it’s almost impossible to swing therefore stability is added in for you. With a band assisted pull-up you have to stabilize on your own as you have more freedom to swing and thus have to control more to keep your body from swinging.
- With a machine assisted pull-up the magnitude of assistance is constant throughout the entire movement. I’m not saying that is a bad thing. With the band assisted pull-up, however, the assistance is greatest at the bottom of the movement, at your “sticking point” where you need it most. As the band shortens when you begin your pull-up, the assistance becomes less and less and you do more of the work. This is the inherent nature of how bands work. (look up accommodative resistance for more details)
So if you’re trying to add reps to your pull-ups and looking for a way to mix things up, I highly suggest giving band assisted pull-ups a try. I’m sure you’ll see quicker results.
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