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Monday, September 8, 2014

3 Ways to Modify Pull-Ups

It seems like now-a-days more and more women are including pull-ups (or a version of them) into their workouts.  I can't blame them, pull-ups are a great exercise for many reasons.  Pull-ups are a compound exercise which means you can work multiple groups of muscles at one time, they help to increase strength in your back and core, improve grip strength, they can be done multiple places and let's be real, most likely repping out a few sets of pull-ups will earn you massive respect from your gym peers.

Sounds great right?  Just go do some pull-ups.

But what if you can't do even one pull-up, let alone sets of them?  You're not alone.  If I had a dollar for every time I heard a woman say, "My goal is to do one pull-up",  I'd be rich.  It's a great goal that many women have but hanging out on the assisted pull-up machine probably isn't going to get you there as the machine doesn't allow you to recruit and stability muscle like the traditional pull-up.

If your goal is to eventually be able to pull yourself up off a cliff or you'll fall 10,000 to your death do a pull-up try incorporating one of these pull-up modifications into your workouts. They can be performed in any hand position you prefer (palms facing away, neutral/palms facing each other or palms facing you) but I'd suggest you spend time training each of them.  If you're just beginning to work on pull-up strength, even just one set of 3-5 reps might be enough to tire you out.  Listen to your body and work up to whats challenge to you.

I can already tell what some of you are going to do….you're going to head to the gym with the best intentions of doing these but once you're there you're going to be too embarrassed, nervous, scared, self- conscious to try it.  Let me remind you that I currently can not do a traditional pull-up with a pronated grip (chin-ups and neutral grip sure).  I spend time at least once a week training them utilizing one of these modified versions to improve.  There is no shame in regressing/modifying an exercise.  If you're unsure of your ability try your hand at the assisted bench pull-ups first and progress from there.  

Assisted bench pull-ups:  Place a tall step/bench underneath the pull-up bar.  It should be high enough that when you're standing on top your chin is just over the top of the bar.  Place one leg on the bench and perform a pull-up using your legs only as much as you need.  The key here is to focus on using your arms to pull and slowly lower back down.  Your legs are just to fill in the weak spots.   I prefer these to using bands because I'm able to help myself more where I need it and less where I don't.  

Rack chins:  Place a barbell (or use the smith machine) high enough so your butt is not on the ground when your arms are fully extended.  Place your heels on a bench.  Perform a pull-up, relying on your lower half only as much as you need it.  The more weight you place on the bench the easier the pull up becomes.  
Negative pull-ups:  Jump up to the top of the bar and hold yourself in position as long as you can.  As slow as possible, lower yourself down to the ground.  This is the most difficult of the three options listed here.  As a general rule of thumb, if you can hang for five or more seconds you might be ready to complete a full pull-up.

Your turn:  What's your favorite way to modify pull-ups?  Have you ever tried any of these versions before?

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