What’s up Gronk Fitness!
Today, we’re going to take a closer look to one of the most important – if not the most important – upper body exercises an athlete can do to build functional muscle and strength. Now, this blog is not simply geared towards beginners. Whether you can currently do ZERO pull-ups and you want to get to TWENTY or you can already do 15 and you want to boost that number, we’ll let you in on a few GRONK secrets!
Why Not Pull-Downs?
Before we get started, let’s just make sure that everyone is on the same page. Pull-downs are NOT a substitute for pull-ups and whatever gains you make on the pull-down machine are not necessarily going to carry over to pull-ups or functional sports performance.
That’s because the lat pull-down machine is still a machine whereas the pull-up is a bodyweight movement which is far more functional and takes your body throughout a more complete range of motion. In fact, the main difference lies in the way your nervous system is stimulated during those two movements. With the lat pull-down, the only thing that’s moving is your arms in relation to your body. On the other hand, the pull-up demands that you move your entire body across space, which is why it’s far more difficult to perform.
Can You Increase Your Pull-Ups AT HOME?
Absolutely. You don’t need any fancy gym equipment or a gym subscription for that matter. The only thing you need is a sturdy home Pull-Up Bar and the right mindset to keep getting stronger.
Now, whether you train at home or at the gym (or even at the local park), the principle is the same. Mastering the Pull-Up CAN be done within a few weeks and here’s how you can go from ZERO to TWENTY pull-ups in just 8 WEEKS.
Mastering The Pull-Up: Part ONE
The first part of this strategy includes a necessary component of muscle and strength building; progressive overload.
Simply put, you need to give your back slightly MORE than it can currently handle.
So, let’s say you can currently do ZERO pull-ups. All you have to do is start by performing NEGATIVES only. This can easily be done by either jumping towards the bar and then controlling your descend OR by using a chair or a bench to get in position and then let yourself down slowly.
Believe it or not, the negative (or eccentric) part of every movement is mainly responsible for muscle and strength gains, so by training this way, you will eventually be able to perform ONE repetition all the way up and all the way down.
Now, let’s say you can currently do 8 pull-ups but you can’t seem to go any higher than that. Again, all you have to do is give your body slightly more than it can handle. Simply strap some weight on your back (10 – 15lbs) and perform as many reps as possible. Chances are you’re only going to complete 5 or 6 reps. However, next time you try Bodyweight Pull-ups, chances are you’ll be able to do at least 9 repetitions.
Mastering The Pull-Up: Part TWO
Ok, this is good. You are using progressive overload and FORCING your back into becoming bigger and stronger…but your body is smart. It’s not going to keep growing indefinitely. It will eventually adapt and that’s when you will have to start using Concurrent Periodization.
Concurrent Periodization is simply a fancy way of saying alternate your lifts. You don’t have to make DRASTIC changes here. Just a single angle or grip adjustment is enough to be considered a different lift. For example, try these:
- Overhand Pull-Ups
- Neutral Pull-Ups
- Underhand Pull-Ups (Chin-Ups)
- One Hand Over-One Hand Under
- Wide Grip Pull-Ups
- Close Grip Pull-Ups
- Ultra Slow Pull-Ups
- Ultra Fast Pull-Ups
- Dead-Hang Pull-Ups
Now, all these are different variations of the Pull-Up but they are enough to keep your body guessing, adapting and growing and also prevent your body from getting overuse injuries.
Mastering The Pull-Up: Part THREE
Well, there is no part three. As long as you keep using this formula (LIFT-RINSE-REPEAT), your back will keep on growing indefinitely or until you reach your natural potential.
Remember that this technique can be applied virtually to EVERY lift and it is also a fun way to spice up your workouts. In fact, your workouts will be much more interesting if you are always rotating between low and high volume, faster and slower tempos, different variations and techniques. Keep the CORE of your training the same, only make a few tiny adjustments that will inspire your body to keep changing and adapting.
And above all else…Get Your Mind Right.