What is the pull-up?
While the precise origins of this exercise remain unknown, the first mention of the “pull-up” was somewhere between the years of 1850 and 1855. The pull-up is one of the staple movements across different organizations, including the US Marine Corps. It is also one of the classics in calisthenics. It is a closed chain compound pulling movement. A brief explanation of these terms follows. “Closed chain” means that the extremity used is fixated and is not free to switch position during the movement. A compound exercise is that which engages multiple joints and muscle groups to perform the movement. In pulling exercises, the aim is to work the musculature of the back.
How to do it:
Firstly, grip with both of your hands onto a fixated a bar which is placed above your head. Use a pronated grip. Curl your legs behind you so that you no longer contact the floor. Using your upper back, bring yourself up, with the face being vertically over the bar by the end of the repetition. Do this without utilizing momentum gained by swinging your body. Lower your body into full extension of the elbows, with your feet still in the air. Repeat.
Here is a list of what not to do: look up or push your head upwards, create momentum, use a false grip (thumbless), come up only halfway.
The fundamental objective of this exercise is to train the upper back. Primarily, the latissimus dorsi. This exercise uses two of this muscle’s primary functions: shoulder adduction and extension. This means that the pull-up results in a great activation of the latissimus dorsi. The pull-ups also engage many other back muscles, including: the rotator cuff (teres major, teres minor, pectoralis minor and infraspinatus), posterior deltoids, rhomboids, levator scapulae and the trapezius. Besides the back muscles, two others are used: the brachioradialis and the biceps brachialis. All of these are only synergists in this movement. The high amount of muscles used means that this exercise has a considerable loading potential, making it exceptional for purposes of both strength and hypertrophy.
Although virtually no equipment is required to perform this exercise, many new variations could be created by the use of it. The variations will be separated into two groups, where one of them requires additional equipment, and the other doesn’t. Every variation of these can be done with weights attached.
No equipment required:
- The Classic Pull-Up.
The Grip-Modified Pull-Up: This includes every kind of pull-up where the only change in regards to the classic is the type of grip used. These include:
- Narrow grip
- Wide grip
- Neutral grip
- Chin-up (supinated grip)
- Narrow/wide grip)
- Mixed grip (one hand is supinated and the other pronated)
- Finger grip (chin-ups too)
- Commando (With a mixed grip, stand directly underneath the bar and pull yourself up to one side of the bar. Alternate sides with either each repetition or set.)
- Negatives (only performing the eccentric portion).
The Grip-Modified Pull-Up:
- Fat grips
- Roman rings
- Banded (for added resistance)
- Chained (for added resistance)
- Reverse-banded (for added assistance)
- Partial (E.g. putting a box underneath you so that the movement is shorter. To be performed with full-stops at each repetition.)
Many elements of these variations can be combined to create a new variation of the pull-up. Most of the variations that do not require equipment can be performed with it. It is important to mention that not every variation will work with every individual. For instance, behind-the-back pull-up may cause a painful sensation in some people. If this happens to your, cease to perform the exercise immediately.