Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
11 Apr

The Importance of Pull-up Bar Training

DSC 0424This is a guest post from Al Kavadlo of AlKavadlo.com.

If you’re like me, part of the appeal of Primal living is the simplicity of it all. Modern society has a funny way of making things more complicated than they need to be. In studying the intricacies of healthy eating and proper exercise, we often get lost in the details and miss the big picture. You don’t need to know about antioxidants in order to know that blueberries are good for you. Likewise, you don’t need a degree in anatomy or kinesiology in order to implement a safe and effective fitness program. Unfortunately, much of the fitness industry is designed to make you feel like being healthy is a complicated and difficult objective. Modern gyms are equipped with lots of expensive, high-tech machinery in order to give the illusion that complicated exercise contraptions are more effective than timeless bodyweight movements requiring only minimal equipment. The irony is that many of these facilities, in spite of having three different types of elliptical trainers, dozens of different selectorized strength training stations and (my favorite in terms of the dollars-to-dumbness ratio) the vibrating power plate, lack the one piece of fitness equipment that I actually deem essential: the humble pull-up bar.

Pull-ups work your entire upper body, especially the muscles of your back, as well as your abs and your biceps. Thanks to pull-ups, I haven’t felt the need for crunches or bicep curls in years and I don’t expect to ever again. In spite of this, my abs and biceps are strong and well developed. Pull-up bar training is essential for the simple reason that gravity only works in one direction. If all you do for your upper body is push-ups and other floor work, you may develop a muscular imbalance, which can lead to poor posture, shoulder pain or worse. You need to pull against resistance as well to avoid these pitfalls.

Whether or not you are strong enough to do a pull-up, a pull-up bar is still the best piece of fitness equipment you could ever own. If you aren’t ready for pull-ups yet, there are three primary exercises that you can do on an overhead bar to help you get there: flex hangs, negative pull-ups and dead hangs.

Flex Hangs

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A flex hang involves holding yourself at the top of a pull-up with your chin over the bar. It is best to start by using an underhand (chin-up) grip. Use a bench or a partner to help you get in position and then simply try to stay up. Think about squeezing every muscle in your entire body. If you can hold this position for even a second on your initial attempt, you are off to a good start.

Negative Pull-ups

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Once you can hold the flex hang for several seconds, you’re ready to start working on negative pull-ups, which just means lowering yourself down slowly from the top position. In the beginning, it might be very difficult to perform a controlled negative, but with time you will be able to make your negative last for ten seconds or longer. Once you can do this, a full pull-up will be within reach.

Dead Hangs

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If you are not strong enough to do a flex hang or a negative yet, your first objective is simply to get a feel for hanging from the bar. This will build grip strength and work your muscles isometrically. With some practice, you should be able to work to a flex hang fairly quickly. Even once you can perform flex hangs and controlled negatives, it is still helpful to practice dead hangs at the end of your training session when your arms have gotten too fatigued to do more negatives. When performing a dead hang, think about keeping your chest up and pulling your shoulder blades down in order to fully engage your back muscles.

Australian Pull-ups

The Australian pull-up (also known as a horizontal pull-up or bodyweight row) is another great exercise for anyone who is working their way up to a standard pull-up. The Australian involves getting “down under” a bar that is a little above waist height, with your feet resting on the ground. Keep a straight line from your heels to the back of your head as you squeeze your shoulder blades together and pull your chest to the bar. Novices may choose to bend their knees and push gently with their heels in order to give their arms assistance if needed. When you get a little more comfortable with this exercise you can angle your heels to the floor with your feet pointed up and your legs straight. Just like the dead hang, be sure that you are not shrugging your shoulders up when performing Australians. You want to pull your shoulder blades down and back – never up. This is the case for all pull-ups. Start getting in the habit of doing this right away – it’s the most common error I see people make when performing these moves.

Pull-ups and Beyond

When you’re ready to go for the full Monty, it’s generally best to start with an underhand (chin-up) grip. Chin-ups put more emphasis on your biceps, while an overhand grip will recruit your back musculature to a greater degree. Though the muscles of your back can potentially become bigger, stronger muscles than the biceps, deconditioned individuals are more likely to have some bicep strength from everyday activities, while their back muscles will be nowhere near their full potential. With practice and patience, the disparity in difficulty between different hand positions should begin to even out. It can also be worthwhile to practice a neutral grip pull-up, which involves gripping two parallel bars with your palms facing each other. This can be a nice intermediate step between the underhand and overhand grips. The neutral grip may also be less stressful on the shoulder joints of people who’ve had injuries to that area.

Once you get the hang of full overhand pull-ups, there are still many challenges ahead, including the muscle-up, which involves pulling (and then pushing) your entire upper body up and over the bar, as well as the elusive one arm pull-up. In fact, there is much more that can be done a pull-up bar than just pull-ups. The bar can be used for dips, hanging leg raises and countless other variations on these moves.

For more information, pick up a copy of my new book, Raising The Bar: The Definitive Guide to Pull-up Bar Training.

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. I love pull-ups.

    Onge wrote on April 11th, 2012
  2. I love watching your videos Al. Thank you for the pull-up info.

    DO

    Donovan Owens wrote on April 11th, 2012
    • Same here. Al’s videos and their being pull-up bars everywhere in Rio (was there for a month) inspired me to buy his book on the subject. Just bought a pull-up/dip contraption for my apartment and I LOVE not having to go to the gym for every workout now. Gym is still needed for dead lifts, squats and bench, but I can do all of those lifts at the gym in one day, once a week.

      TokyoJarrett wrote on April 12th, 2012
  3. Nice post! Good to see there’s no mention of the dorky ‘kipping’ pull-ups.
    I would like to mention that using rings for pull-ups is easier on the shoulders and elbows since rings will naturally track your joint alignment.

    Kishore wrote on April 11th, 2012
    • It might not be in the article, but Kipping pull ups have there place too if done correctly. A Kipping pull up is more of a core workout than a a bicep and back workout, but it will still give you tired last when done. The largest difference is that Kipping will add in an aspect of cardio that you won’t get with dead hang pull ups. I personally am a huge proponent of both and they are my main source of exercise.

      JQ

      Joe wrote on April 11th, 2012
    • C’mon, man! Not all of us can do dead hang pull-ups quite yet. The less upper-body strength inclined just need to use a bit more momentum and coordination.

      Turbochaser wrote on April 12th, 2012
    • Kipping pull-ups are a great way to get injured, not to mention they don’t build strength as well as a strict pull/chin up. Great advice on the rings Kishore.

      I’d like to add that the Australian pull-up is probably the single best exercise you can do to give you strong stable shoulders, and prevent shoulder injury.

      Maybe even combine it with rings?

      Matthew Caton wrote on April 12th, 2012
  4. My gym doesn’t have a pull-up bar either, what’s up with that?

    Doug wrote on April 11th, 2012
    • We just bought a great pull-up bar for $25. You don’t even need to screw it in. It fits in any 36 inch doorway over the molding. Works great for me at 110 pounds or my husband at 215 pounds.

      Norma wrote on April 11th, 2012
    • find a new gym….

      Dr. John wrote on April 11th, 2012
    • This is the only thing I use the Smith machine for at my gym. Put it up to the highest level, bend your knees and start pulling. :)

      Eric Harrison wrote on April 12th, 2012
  5. many variations of pull-ups. strict (or “tactical”) gymnastic kips, butterfly kips, weighted, “L-Sit” + more. Here’s a good Pull-Up work-out- do 10 rounds of this: 3 weighted, 5 strict, and 7 kipping pull-ups. I’ve learned all of this from Crossfit. If you are still working on getting pull-ups, here are some movements: ring rows, jumping pull-ups, rubber-band pull-ups, & of course, the bar hangs and negatives descents. KEEP ON PULLING! IT WORKS!

    Bill Berry wrote on April 11th, 2012
  6. Somebody please help me out – I cannot find a pull up bar anywhere (not even the local play grounds)! Is there anyway I can use a TRx system to start with? Keep in mind I am at the very basic starting point as in, if I managed one real pull up I would die of happiness. Any help appreciated.

    Jill wrote on April 11th, 2012
    • The Australian pull-up Mark mentions is perfectly suited to the TRX–I think they call it a “body row”.

      I have not regretted the 19.95 I spent on my over the door pull-up bar.

      Joy Beer wrote on April 11th, 2012
      • Amen!

        Christos wrote on April 11th, 2012
      • I want to correct myself. I credited Mark Sisson, but guest columnist Al Kavadlo deserves the props for a very clear and helpful column! I’m going to try the flex hangs and dead hangs although I’m now succeeding at pull-ups.

        Joy Beer wrote on April 11th, 2012
    • beachbody.com has a great pull up bar for your home. I think it’s about $50.

      piefrog wrote on April 11th, 2012
    • my hubs brought home an “iron gym” a few years ago (complete with the “as seen on TV” logo)- it’s a pull-up bar that fits in most doorways that have a door jamb. I’m not sure where he found it, but I’m glad he did! Good luck Jill!

      yoolieboolie wrote on April 11th, 2012
      • I found mine at Wal-Mart but I’ve seen them all over the place….Target, REI, even CVS.

        Cathi wrote on April 11th, 2012
    • I found a nice one for under $20 at Aldi’s and then saw them at either Target or WalMart (forget which).

      Sandra wrote on April 11th, 2012
    • Ebay

      Norma wrote on April 11th, 2012
    • Google “chin up bar”

      There are hundreds of commercially manufactured chin up bars on the market that install in a doorway in your home.

      Some don’t even require hardware installation. You simply wedge it in place. Tool-less installation.

      You should have no problem finding something suitable for your situation.

      Bevin wrote on April 11th, 2012
    • you can get a good pull-up bar at Dick’s
      sporting goods. It’s the kind that doesn’t need brackets, just a good strong doorway.

      Incidentally, I am one of those who cannot (yet) do a pull-up to save my soul.

      Mariana wrote on July 6th, 2012
  7. Mark thank you for this wonderful web site and all the useful info that you provide.

    I would just like to say that although I can follow the primal lifestyle and have managed to shed 16 kilos in weight since my stents were put in, I am unable to follow all of your fitness program.

    Like most oldies my body is falling apart and I am unable to do pull ups as I have a full tear in the supraspinatus and a partial tear of the subsscapularis on my right rotor cuff. I am not in pain so surgeon won’t operate and if he did he would not allow me to do pull ups. Squats are also out of the question due to chondral fissuring at the back of both patellas.

    Can you please think about alternative fitness ideas for those of us whose bodies are not up to the rigors of your current fitness program.

    Primal Heart Attack wrote on April 11th, 2012
    • First, get a second medical opinion. If suregey is not an option than get physical therapy.

      Only after that would I consider pullups but with assistance. Try pullups with assistant bands, like the ones from Rubberbanditz. Different bands provide different weight supports.

      liberty1776 wrote on April 11th, 2012
      • Thanks for the recommendation of the rubberbandz, I have bilateral torn rotator cuffs and cannot do more than 3-5 pullups.

        MadMav wrote on April 11th, 2012
    • I agree with the recommendation for a second opinion and /or a physical therapist. I’m a 59 y o female with a history of joint injuries as well as multiple abdominal surgeries. I consulted with a PT, who was also a Stotts Pilates teacher, to develop a safe way to get back into shape. I have mastered the basic mat program that we developed and am ready for more. I feel better now about being aware of how to exercise safely but I am also prepared to make the occasional visit to the PT as I go along.

      rarebird wrote on April 11th, 2012
    • I agree on the second opinion. I have seen a study done on the effectiveness of rehab vs. surgery in your situation and rehab showed better results.

      You should see Mark’s article on slow sets. Slow sets can be very effective and safe training for the elder population.

      Matthew Caton wrote on April 12th, 2012
  8. So true! I feel the greatest indicator in the importance of the pull-up as a tool for overall strength is how many of the machine and chronic-gym users cant even perform one chin-up, much less a pull-up. It’s kind of astonishing!

    Clay wrote on April 11th, 2012
  9. Thank you for this post. I’m a complete novice, but decided to try a few pull-ups when I took my kids to the park the other day. I was so excited to discover that I was strong enough to do three and a few neutral grip pull-ups after that. Now that you’ve explained a good progression of exercises, I’m ready to try a few more when we visit the park this afternoon.

    Decaf Debi wrote on April 11th, 2012
  10. Meh, 120 pound 5 foot tall whippersnapper, if you wanted to inspire shoulda used this guy —> http://goo.gl/wZJlr

    cancerclasses wrote on April 11th, 2012
  11. This post was awesome for me. I have very little upper body strength and we bought a pull-up bar for our doorway. It was inexpensive and needed a bit of elbow grease but despite my trepidations that it would bring the house down (literally ;-)) it has turned out to be the best thing.

    My kids can now do pull-ups, my husband is getting there but what I liked most about this post was the bit about in the beginning hanging from the bar and strengthening the grip. I haven’t seen that expressed as a starting point before and I sorely needed to hear that because that’s the point I am at. Thank you!

    Alison Golden - PaleoNonPaleo wrote on April 11th, 2012
  12. I have a serious aversion to swallowing pills or capsules. Is there an alternative method for ingesting the contents of your supplement capsules? What about emptying them into water,juice or a smoothie of some sort?

    Bonnie Hills wrote on April 11th, 2012
  13. awesome, didn’t know there were so many variations. I’ve been working on mine, still trying for the kipping ones, but can do a few strict ones.

    katie wrote on April 11th, 2012
  14. I was once told to do 3 sets of 10 wide grip and close grip alternating (10 wide, 10 close, 10 wide, 10 close, 10 wide). Do it unassisted. Of course, I couldn’t do more than 5 of the first set. Still I was told, do it every other day. In one month, I could do all 60. Best work out.

    zack wrote on April 11th, 2012
  15. Fascinating, but I’d love to see more tips on pullups geared specifically to women. Like are there variations that work better for us? What are good ways for us to ease into it?

    cTo wrote on April 11th, 2012
    • I have a pull up bar that fits in the doorframe, a style some folks have already mentioned. What I do is (what I believe is called) assisted pull-ups. I have a stool which I put under the bar. Hanging onto the bar, the stool is at the perfect height for a deep squat. Then I pull up with the arms/back/core, and pretend that I am not also assisting with legs – but, the legs assist. I still cannot do any kind of pull-up or hang (except the dead hang, which I do) without the chair/stool to assist.

      I thought the video was fantastic, but agree that more information for women, and especially women like me with much less upper body strength would be useful.

      Violet wrote on April 11th, 2012
    • Yes, thank you for saying this. I was going to post the same thing.

      AnnieC wrote on April 11th, 2012
      • A woman’s body contains all the same muscles a man’s does. Just because you are starting out weak (relatively) does not mean you need different exercises than a man would. Follow the tip in the video – particularly the advice about the Australian Pullups and work you tails off, you’ll get there sooner or later.

        Chris wrote on April 11th, 2012
        • I’d have to agree. I’m a physically fit 22 y o female, and my mother is a 44 y o female, and I know many females older than that around where I live that are physically fit. There is NO reason for there to be female specific workouts unless you are wanting a routine to shape your body into a good, feminine shape, and those workouts are mostly toning of the butt area. Everyone, male or female, can start with an assisted workout, but the whole point is to force yourself to work past that, which can be done by following this “guide” that we are all replying on. :D It’s not as hard as it seems to be at first, you just have to want to do it! Keep it up guys!

          Jo wrote on April 13th, 2012
    • I agree!

      Teri Ensslin wrote on April 11th, 2012
  16. Thanks so much for the great article! I have been apprehensive to start using our pull-up bar because I didn’t know where to start and didn’t want to injure myself right out of the gate. Such helpful information!

    yoolieboolie wrote on April 11th, 2012
  17. I loved doing pull ups and chin ups and I was getting good at them, eventually buying a belt with some weights. Unfortunately I don’t know if I can continue because of terrible pain in my bladder area and testicles. This happens after every session now. The pain disappears after a day or two. For some reason, the muscles down there just don’t agree with it. I even tried taking a month off and using no weight. No dice. Anybody else have this problem?

    zach wrote on April 11th, 2012
    • Is it a hernia? The ab work from pull ups might agitate it

      zack wrote on April 11th, 2012
    • See your doctor. Sounds like a hernia to me, too.

      I had inguinal hernia on both sides, and got them both patched at the age of 37-38 (two ops a year apart). The surgery is routine and takes a few months to recover fully from, if you are fit. Now I’m 40 and I hardly ever even think about it.

      Better to fix it sooner than later!

      Jacob wrote on April 12th, 2012
    • Zach;

      When you do ‘chins’ with a weighted belt the issue is that you have to ‘cross the legs very tightly’ to maintain the hang weight in a static position as you move against gravity.

      If you start to ‘kip’ the bar ; then what happens is that you are rolling one testicle up and over the other one. This causes blood flow issues and a type of ‘strangulation’. You can also do damage to the soft tissue around the testicles.

      Can i suggest you allow the weight to hang from a vest or chest harness so the dead weight sits nicely against the fleshy part of the stomach. This will let your groin area maintain its normal symmetry.

      Cheers mate;

      Zeph.

      zef wrote on August 27th, 2012
  18. Pullups – I love them and hate them at the same time! My current favorite variation is the Lever – doing 7-10 of those beastly moves wipes me out every time.

    Stoney wrote on April 11th, 2012
  19. Thanks Al for your informative pull-up info. I am truly pathetic and can only do the Australian pull-up. I can’t even begin to do the flex or dead hang. I need to get on this with more intention. This was a very nice reminder to get at it.

    Sharon wrote on April 11th, 2012
  20. Al rocks. He’s the most enthusiastic trainer ever, without being totally obnoxious ^_^

    Nionvox wrote on April 11th, 2012
  21. I know this goes against the “no machine” concept of this post, but for all the ladies out there who really want to work up to full blown pull-ups, I had excellent success by starting with lat pull downs. I gradually worked up the weights, until I was repping a weight that was about 80% of my body weight. Then I was able to move to full pull-ups with ease (could do 1 or 2 at that point). In two months, I went from only being able to do 1/2 a pull-up to 12! I tried acheiving this with assisted pull-ups prior, and got nowhere – the lat pull-downs are what really worked for me, so I thought I would share.

    Alisa wrote on April 11th, 2012
    • I totally agree that the lat pull-down machine can be an excellent rehab, pursuant to the negatives referenced in the article.

      Jeffrey of Troy wrote on April 11th, 2012
    • Our lat pulldown machine has a variety of attachable bars available, and I have been using grips that are closer together. I have worked up to being able to pull down half my body weight several sets of 10 reps.

      I have been experimenting with various grips. I am going to have to look for a pull up bar that will work at home. The Australians seem like something that I could do.

      Philmont Scott wrote on April 12th, 2012
  22. For those of you hoping to get built up enough to do a pull-up in 2012, click the link on my name to check out this forum thread:
    ★ ★ ★ Challenge Yourself: Do a Pull-Up in 2012 ★ ★ ★

    Jenny wrote on April 11th, 2012
    • Thanks Jenny and I like your new avatar.

      Sharon wrote on April 11th, 2012
  23. I have to admit I’ve grown to love the pull-up. Well…the chin-up. I’m working towards pull-ups. When I first started I couldn’t do two good ones. Now, seven sweet chin-ups followed by one half-assed chin-up and holding with elbows at 90 degrees for ten seconds before slowly lowering.

    Hey…wanna do a post on squats some time?

    Mike wrote on April 11th, 2012
  24. well how many sets and reps should you do to get good at doing pull ups??

    Gerrit Taylor wrote on April 11th, 2012
  25. Started Primal during the 2012 challenge & have lost right at 50 pounds & I am only about a 1/3 of the way to my goal…BUT my one big goal aside from weight loss is to DO A PULLUP. I have wanted to do one since I was in elementary school & couldn’t do it for the Presidents Fitness award and have never been able to. I am currently looking at shoulder surgert for a torn roto cuff, but I refuse to give up on this Primal goal..I so much appreciate your on going info to help with reaching this goal. I believe the “Australian” I will be able to do once I recoup from surgery…thx for all U do!

    Milliann Johnson wrote on April 11th, 2012
  26. I love this post! And better yet – pullups!

    Petter R wrote on April 11th, 2012
    • To all above: When you hang from an overhead bar, you are engaging the new joint in the human body, the “acromiohumeral joint.” Whe you hang, you are stretching the CA arch, the arch of ligament (CAL) and bending the acromion. This stretching of the CA arch makes more room for your rotator cuff that should be strengthened by simple arm elevations with light dumbbell weight. All of this information is in my book “Shoulder Pain? The Solution and Prevention, Third Edition.”

      The pull-up exercise is optional for those that want to build muscle, but is not necessary for the health of the shoulder. Please do not do chin-ups: they are destructive exercises that punish the tendon of the long head of the biceps brachialis muscle and do not hang in the chin-up position.

      I just published and presented an E-Poster at the 1st Combined Australian/American meeting of the American Association for Surgery of the Hand in Kauai HI. The E-poster is available online at the ASSH site. The study that I presented showed that of 92 subjects with impingement, rotator cuff tears,frozen shoulder and glenohumeral osteoarthritis, 90 of the subjects were restored to comfortable activities of daily living by simply hanging from an overhead bar and lifting the light dumbbell weights. That’s about 98% success with no other therapies or surgery. And, importantly, there were no complications. The only two failures were those two that did not like hanging.

      Best to all,

      John M. Kirsch MD
      Director, Kirsch Institute for Shoulder Research

      John M. Kirsch MD FAAOS, FAANA wrote on April 12th, 2012
      • I can attest to that problem with chin-ups. They bothered my elbow way too much. I switched over to neutral grip pullups and there is no pain or irritation. Just feels more natural. Cheers to all the pull-up fans!

        Jim

        Jim wrote on April 12th, 2012
      • Convict Conditioning advises to “keep your shoulders tight” at the bottom, i.e. never to allow the pullup to act as though its pulling your shoulders out of their sockets.

        Dead hangs can be problematical for novices who think they’re supposed to be as released as possible.

        williamc wrote on April 19th, 2012
        • CC does things one way – Others do it another. If you want strength in the dead hang position, start from a dead hang. Working over the full ROM is never a bad idea :)

          AmericanTransplant wrote on May 22nd, 2012
  27. I’ve used the Iron Gym at home in the past and it works great. Now I do Crossfit… plenty of pullup bars there! A good crossfit gym will have bands too in case you need assistance getting up there.

    Chris wrote on April 11th, 2012
  28. Mark, a tip for more advanced pull-uppers: put the bar out of reach (mine is at 8.5′) and incorporate a jump into the process to workout the legs as well.

    Dan wrote on April 11th, 2012
  29. Super article. I am currently on track to do 25,000 pull ups in 1 year. Starting 9/11/11 I am at 15,250. With other body weight, balance and irregular weight pieces, my work outs are building a “smart” neuromuscular system. We don’t need machines or crunches.

    Monty wrote on April 11th, 2012
  30. I just started doing flex hangs every day to work my way up to pull-ups. My upper body has always been weak — here’s hoping some consistent effort will pay off sooner than later!

    Christine wrote on April 11th, 2012
  31. I have been doing the chair assist pullups since Oct. 2011. I am frustrated by my lack of progress. I am definitely stronger now, but a true pull up is still in the future. Thank goodness for my stubborn nature!

    Teresa wrote on April 11th, 2012
    • post-w/o, your protein needs are much higher temporarily; take advantage of that window of opportunity by eating a high pro diet for 4-24 hours after lifting. Reduce pro significantly outside the recovery window.

      more at my blog: how to sync diet & exercise (and keep coming back to MDA, of course!)

      Jeffrey of Troy wrote on April 11th, 2012
    • Hi: Check the site of Zuska Light http://www.youasamachine.com (she was before in http://www.bodyrock.tv)
      She has a nice article:
      http://youasamachine.com/2012/04/06/chin-ups/

      WildGrok wrote on April 11th, 2012
      • Thanks for liking my article, but I just wanted to point out that I am NOT Zuzka Light formerly from BodyRockTV.

        You As A Machine wrote on April 15th, 2012
  32. 40 bucks for an E-book on pullups? I don’t think so.

    Dano442 wrote on April 11th, 2012
  33. Sisson once advertised a free standing pull up bard that breaks down by Trapezee Rigging.

    I do not have the luxury of having a park nearby, suitable low hanging tree limbs, or a home to mount a permanent bar. The door frame pullup bar was not working out either.

    So I purchased one. Yes, the cost was a lot for me but the quality is fantastic. I love that the free standing bar is portable. Sometimes I use it outside and I take it on road trips with me.

    Then I started thinking about the cost relative to other goods and services I consume. My cable/internet bill is over a hundred dollars. My pullup bar is worth way more to me than one month of dining out. Plus when I think about how my health is positively compounding the more I use my pull up bar, I am more able to generate more wealth and the pull up bar gets cheaper the more I use it.

    liberty1776 wrote on April 11th, 2012
    • I totally agree about how fantastic the Elite XL Pullup/Hanging Bar is by TrapezeRigging.com. Worth every penny. It is a beautiful piece of equipment and every time I use it (about 3 times a day), I feel like I had a great massage. I follow the bar hanging protocol advocated in the book, Shoulder Pain? by Dr. John Kirsch, M.D.

      Roleigh Martin wrote on April 11th, 2012
    • Yes, Trevor Boswell Productions “Pull-up” bar is not only exquisitely beautiful but by far the best $ deal anywhere if you want an easily portable free-standing bar. But, and I will repeat this information once again for all who are enthused with bar exercises:
      the only exercise you need to restore and MAINTAIN the health of your shoulders is to simply hang (dead hang) from the bar and do light-weight dumbbell full arm elevations on a regular basis. Doing the full dead hang with the palms forward for 30 seconds x3 daily & the weights is all you need. Chin-ups are an unnatural and destructive exercise. The chin-up will over time cause destructive changes in the biceps tendon that must past over the humeral head in its groove as it inserts onto the glenoid tubercle. Hanging with the palms forward allows the tendon a straight line to its insertion. Same with palms forward pull-ups. But chin-ups force that poor tendon to take an angular course to it’s insertion like a rope over the edge of the cliff.

      The dead hang does this: it puts the humerus in position to lean against the acromion, stretches the coracoacromial ligament and thus restores the compliance of the CA arch allowing more room for the rotator cuff tendons to function without destructive pressure from the CA arch.
      This is all explained thoroughly and singularly in the book I wrote for the public: “Shoulder Pain? The Solution and Prevention.” I wrote the book for the public to EMPOWER everyone to restore and MAINTAIN the health of their own shoulders. No one needs to indulge in other useless therapies & seldom is surgery on the shoulder required; and NEVER for the subacromial impingement syndrome. Never. The dead hang solves the impingement problem, period. You may all write to me free for more free info at kirschinstitute@gmail.com

      Best Regards to every one possessing a shoulder,

      John M. Kirsch MD, Director, Kirsch Institute for Shouler Research

      John M. Kirsch MD FAAOS, FAANA wrote on April 22nd, 2012
  34. Pull-ups are by far my favorite exercise, though I admit I prefer using a neutral grip (with palms facing each other), which makes them a bit easier than using a forward grip.

    Al’s suggestions are great. Six months ago I couldn’t do one pull-up. I’ve worked on them, though, and I now crank out sets of 20 while holding a ten-pound medicine ball between my legs. If you work on them, you’ll get stronger.

    Felix wrote on April 11th, 2012
    • Did it make any difference in terms of the size of your arms? I can gain strength the same as anybody I guess but my arms are always the same size.

      Greg wrote on April 11th, 2012
      • you may want to consider adding bent-over and/or seated cable rows, if not already doing. squeeze while holding the last rep per set..

        Jeffrey of Troy wrote on April 11th, 2012
  35. Best ever advice- even for “She-Groks”…:)

    elke wrote on April 11th, 2012
  36. If this is the first time you’ve come across Al Kavadlo, you might be interested in knowing that he’s got a ton of material out there. Be sure to check out his youtube channel. Just go to YouTube and search his name.

    Also, I’d like to recommend the Iron Gym to anyone looking for a good indoor pull up bar. You won’t be able to do muscle ups on it, but beyond that it’s idea.

    Keep up the Great Work Al!

    NWPrimate wrote on April 11th, 2012
  37. “…dozens of different selectorized strength training stations and (my favorite in terms of the dollars-to-dumbness ratio) the vibrating power plate…”

    I actually got one of the vibrating machines for my handicapped mother, since she can barely walk due to Sjorgrens’ Syndrome. I spent $1000 for it, but I believe it was money worth spent. I actually use it on occasion as part of my exercise routine, and it does have some serious benefits. Obviously for someone like me, and you, and most everyone else here, it’s an unnecessary contraption. But for people who have limited mobility it’s awesome.

    Yuzo Yamada wrote on April 11th, 2012
  38. I did my first technically correct pull-up a month(ish) ago. It was a proud moment! I finally conquered chin-ups last year with my first body-weight repetition, and now can do around 6 or 7 on a good day. These lifts have been huge struggles for me, but well worth the effort. Doing some resistance band work to activate muscles before the training session has helped me with muscle recruitment–also, smacking the lats before each set will help “wake them up.”

    Daniel Wallen wrote on April 11th, 2012
  39. Thanks for the post! This is exactly what I was looking for. I’ve been trying to do pullups since January, only to completely stress out my back. I started doing flexed arm hangs instead. I feel like a wuss, but your post gives me hope that it’s a progression. Thanks!

    Heather Longoria wrote on April 11th, 2012
    • Hang in there!

      zef wrote on August 30th, 2012
  40. Bookmarked this page! Thank you so much for the pull-up info, especially the variations for beginners. I’ve been thinking I will never be able to do a pull-up but now I feel there is hope, and soon! I am going to head upstairs to our pull-up bar in the door and try a flex hang, otherwise I will just do the dead hang. Feeling motivated!!

    kris C wrote on April 11th, 2012

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