In article five of our supplemental and accessory exercise series we discuss the pull. While the other articles thus far in this series have focused on particular exercises to improve a specific movement pattern, this article will talk more about strategies to implore in order to perfect the pull-up. With my experience it is fairly easy to master rowing movements (both unilateral and bilateral i.e. dumbbell and barbell rowing), but not many people are aware of how to take someone who can do zero pull-ups, and build them into being able to do a pull-up with perfect form. So, the remainder of this article will discuss several ways to manipulate the movement in order to become stronger throughout the range of motion, and then I will give you my favorite exercise to use as a precursor to “graduating” to pull-ups.
The Magic That Is Eccentrics and Isometrics
To start, I will clear up what both eccentrics and isometrics are to any first time readers. In extremely basic terms, the eccentric portion of the range of motion is the “negative,” or lowering of the movement, and isometric refers to any hold or pause throughout the range of motion. Essentially, we are strongest eccentrically, which is why performing movements eccentrically that we are not strong enough for to perform a full range of motion with is a great way to build muscle and control with a movement. Isometrics are also a great way to improve dynamic motor control (stability throughout a full range of motion) and increase time under tension (time the muscle is contracted), which can lead to muscle growth.
Inverted Bodyweight Rows
Now that we have covered eccentrics and isometrics I want to discuss my favorite exercise to use before you progress to working on the pull-up bar. The inverted bodyweight row is a pull-up done from the barbell, which is suspended on the squat rack pins in the bench press position. You hang from the bar and perform a pull-up up to the bar. Not only can you implement eccentric and isometric work with this movement but also you can raise and lower the bar to place you at a higher angle (easier) or a lower angle (more challenging). I love starting beginners at a high angle with these and progressing through the movement and slowly lowering the angle while introducing longer eccentric and isometric holds. Once you show proficiency in this movement you can proceed to working from the pull-up bar.
Gerry DeFilippo: ISSA CPT- CPPS, AAPS. Founder/Owner: Challenger Strength.