The benefits of the pull-up and how to incorporate it into your workout routine
Credit: fotomircea/123RF.comThe pull-up is a compound upper body movement that is phenomenally effective at building the muscles and increasing the strength of the upper body. It is easy to understand and can be performed almost anywhere. It is simple to incorporate into a workout program and does not require loads of time.
Benefits of Pull-ups
1. Builds strength quickly
The pull-up involves pulling a person’s entire bodyweight. This requires maximum recruitment of muscle fibers. Most beginners can only do a few repetitions, and many people cannot do one repetition. However, the body responds very well to this movement. Consistent training with proper form will result in dramatic improvements in as little as six weeks.
2. Builds muscle size
Along with increases in strength, increases in muscular size and definition can be expected. The back and biceps will be the primary beneficiaries. Curls are not the only way to build bigger arms! Other areas that benefit include the shoulders, core/abdominals, triceps and forearms.
3. Improves athleticism
The ability to do pull-ups translates to many other activities and real-word applications. From scaling walls and obstacles (in the Warrior Dash or Spartan) to climbing ladders; pull-ups will help you “do stuff!”
4. Easy to execute
Although pull-ups require a significant amount of strength, they are relatively easy to understand and perform:
- Grip a horizontal bar with a grip that is slightly wider than shoulder width with palms facing away from you.
- Squeeze the shoulder blades together and initiate the movement with the lats (back) rather than the biceps.
- Visualize driving the elbows to the floor while pulling your chest to the bar.
- Pull up until your chin clears the bar.
- Slowly lower the body to the starting position.
There are many other variations to the basic movement, but this will suffice until a reasonable amount of proficiency (ability to do more than 20 reps) is acquired.
If you are unable to do one repetition, start with movements such as the assisted pull-up (machine, spotter or with bands) and lat pull-down machine. One of the most effective methods is the power hold, which involves starting at the top of the movement with your chin over the bar and holding at that position for progressively longer periods of time.
5. Easy to add to an existing workout routine
Pull-ups will only take 10-20 minutes to execute and can be done three times a week, to as little as once a week. An example would be 5 sets of 4-6 repetitions, with 1-2 minutes of rest between sets. As your strength and proficiency improves the amount of repetitions will increase. When 20 or more repetitions are reached, weighted pull-ups can be utilized. Variations such as chin-ups, wide-grip pull-ups and towel-grip pull-ups can also be put in the mix.
Pulling it all together
Pull-ups are easy to execute, simple to incorporate and extremely effective. No other compound, bodyweight exercise will build the strength and musculature of the upper body as quickly. They should be a part of everyone’s workout regimen, from casual gym-goer to professional athlete. Pull your body up to the next level!