Would you believe that a 40-something woman can rock out more pull-ups than me and probably you too? Not likely. Here we are together at a conference:
I’m seriously impressed with her, so I asked her for a few tips for you to improve the quality and quantity of your pull-ups and push ups.
Take a look at these pull-ups:
Take it away Shawna:
The pull-up is a thing of beauty. It shapes your back, whittles your waist, gives you beautiful arms…. more importantly, it’s a kick a$$ impressive move that anyone who calls them self ‘hard core’, should be able to do.
Surprisingly, the pull-up engages the core a great deal, even though the prime mover for the pull-up is the latissimus dorsi. The secondary movers and stabilizers for the pull-up include the trapezius, rhomboids, biceps, serratus anterior, transverse abdominus and the obliques.
All this mumbo jumbo simply means the pull-up is bad ass.
In the efforts to increase your pull-up power, I have a sneaky pull up trick for you.
While I’m a strong believer in training with strict form (admittedly my form fell apart in the video where I did 30+ pull-ups), the pull-up is one of those exercises that you can ‘cheat’ a little and still benefit from.
Note that I said ‘a little’.
This small cheat is like doing a ‘forced rep,’ or it’s sort of like getting a spot. If you can get more positive reps, it means you can do more negative or eccentric reps (lowering down from the pull-up bar). It’s the eccentric movement that will increase strength dramatically.
What ‘cheat’ am I talking about? I’m talking about adding a ‘controlled kip’ into your pull up.
Take a look:
You’re mistaken if you don’t believe that you can use power from the lower body to aid in the completion of a pull-up.
By using a bit of momentum and power with the lower body, you can add to your pull-up best. You do this by flexing at the hip and driving the knees upward, thereby transferring momentum through the hips and on up to the upper body.
A mistake that many make is that they try to lift the chin OVER the bar, rather than bringing the chest UNDER the bar. This often causes inward rotation of the shoulder, and it’s difficult to engage the strong muscles of the back from this position.
Changing the body position and adding the controlled kip will increase your pull-up power instantly. You’ll be able to go from zero pull-ups to a partial, and if you’re already knocking out a few pull-ups, you’ll add a few more.
A Word About Eccentric Training
The eccentric, or lengthening portion of any movement is the strengthening phase. This is opposite to what most think. With the pull-up, the eccentric phase is the portion of the movement when you lower yourself down from the bar. There are a variety of ways that you can work the eccentric contraction when doing a pull-up. You can do assisted pull-ups, jump pull-ups, suspended pull-ups, inverted rows, weighted pull-ups (all of these are discussed in my program by the way).
Train with caution when doing eccentric or negative reps. It’s the lengthening phase of the movement that causes the most muscle soreness. You’ll cause more delayed onset muscle soreness and with fatigue and there’s a greater incident of injury.
While pull-ups are impressive, it’s hard to train by doing pull-ups when you can’t do one. There are a ton of other exercises that will help strengthen your back so that you’ll finally be able to do a pull-up to improve and get more pull ups.
My favorite exercises to increase your pull up power include the inverted row. DB rows, TRX rows and even hanging leg raises.
Hanging Leg Raises
Don’t expect pull-up results right away, but with intense training, they will come. Rest is an important component. (I tend to be better at dispensing this advice than taking it myself.) Listen to your body. If you have an ache or pain, don’t continue to train and seek medical attention if it lasts more than a few days. I do a lot of myofacial release with foam rolling, and this is a great help to aid recovery. Play hard, rest hard, especially if you have a few years on you, like me.
The pull-up is clearly one of the most impressive bodyweight movements that can be done. With proper training and a few tricks, you’ll be successful sooner than you think.
For more tips and tricks and a kick a$$ done for you pull-up program, check out my “Challenge Workouts” program and see if it’s right for you.
Shawna Kaminski is a retired schoolteacher of 20 years who’s found her passion in the fitness industry. She’s been a competitive athlete all her life and has competed nationally in three sports. She’s parleyed her ability to teach and her love of training into programs that you can directly benefit from. Shawna is in her late forties, is a mother of two teenagers, and understands how busy life can be. Her workouts are short and intense and often can be done anywhere. She’s always up for a challenge and shares her fitness challenges with you. Currently she runs her own fitness boot camps and coaches clients in person and online with her amazing programs.
Check out Shawna’s Site at => www.ChallengeWorkouts.com