Conquer the Pullup-4 Exercises to Get You There


The body weight pull-up is an essential movement pattern used to access overall upper body strength. The ability to lift one’s own body weight against gravity is quite a feat, so why would you consider adding this exercise into your resistance training program? This movement strengthens the major muscle groups of the upper body and also calls upon  the stabilizer muscles of the torso. Having a strong upper body means you are better equipped to move more effectively and efficiently in daily life. The upper back muscles (lats and rhomboids) and abdominals support the spine which help keep you upright so posture can be improved with a strong and stable back. In addition, the shoulders and biceps will be strengthened, as they assist in the action of pulling your weight upward.

Melissa and I include the Assisted Pull-up  (as demonstrated above) in many of our clients programs. By placing an accessory strap or Super Band under the knees, our clients can accomplish the pull-up by lifting a percentage of their body weight. As they become stronger we will use a lighter band or use less assistance from the weight stack on the machine. Many women will have difficulty lifting their entire body weight so this is a great exercise to progress with.

Another great exercise is the Straight Arm Pull-down shown in image on the left. Use a straight bar attachment on a cable machine and grab bar from above. Bend slightly forward from the hips and pull bar straight down toward upper legs, pulling shoulder blades together while contracting back muscles. Slowly let the bar return to top position.

TRX Straps are a great way to improve functional strength by lifting your body against gravity. Face the anchor point and place hands in straps (adjusted to mid shin or knee high) Straighten your arms and make sure your body forms a straight line from head to ankle. Contract glutes and brace abdominal muscles. Bend elbows and pull yourself up toward the handles, bringing your shoulder blades closer together and contract upper and mid back muscles. Lower slowly and repeat.

I love the Lebert Equalizer Bars! The image to the far right demonstrates how to do an inverted pull up. Once you master the straight leg TRX pull up give the Equalizer Bars a try. The angle of your body is what makes the exercise more challenging as well as the instability of the two parallel bars placed alongside your body. Lie on the ground with the bars placed at equal distance apart. Grab the bars at chest level, engage your glutes and contract abdominal muscles while lifting your entire torso off the floor. You can accomplish this exercise with either knees bent and feet on floor or as shown above, with straight legs.

Whatever your goals may be you will  benefit by incorporating some form of body weight training into your current fitness regime. Contact us at for more information on functiional fitness.

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