OBSTACLE COURSE PULL-UPS STRENGTH WORK & PROGRESSION If you are thinking of taking on this Earned Runs summertime activity you should note that the plan by Pete Williams includes pull-ups. Or you may already have been discouraged by them if you’ve started the 6-week program, as I did 3 weeks ago.
In addition to a palm blister, I quickly gained respect for the amount of strength required to master this monster of a body-weight exercise. Last year, prior to attempting this obstacle course training regimen, I had researched the topic of how to learn to perform a pull-up. It seemed like a ‘crusher’ move that would be cool to do. None of the articles helped very much, and I gave up on this vanity quest.
However, once the obstacle course training plan was logged on my calendar, every exercise needed to be performed as indicated, or swapped out or adapted to a manageable version.
The problem was that there really weren’t alternative moves offered in the strength training references I checked, which would build strength in quite the same way and lead to sufficient power to eventually enable my performance of pull-ups. There were progression suggestions, consisting mostly of versions that ‘assist’ performance. However, I felt that jumping to a progression might not be safe if I lacked strength in necessary muscle groups.
Since I started the SUMMER CHALLENGE VI, someone walking by the park in the early mornings would have seen me just hanging, straight-armed, from the bar when the program called for pull-ups. I absolutely was able to do the move ‘to failure’, but without a single success! Thus, to be true to the training program I would need more guidance, and the online search was resumed. This time I hit on the right query, and found a totally terrific set of exercises that would help train me without significant risk of injury.
“The Best Upper Body Exercises When You Can’t Do a Pull-up (Yet!)” by Amy Schlinger for Greatist, October 15, 2015 is perfect for a novice pull-up performer. Schlinger provides 12 total exercises for beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels, and a 5-phase progression sequence.
Respecting her intellectual property, Earned Runs lists the individual exercises and the duration of holds and repeats, but directs readers back to her article for all information on performance. The instruction and demonstrations are brief and adequately descriptive. It’s a wonderful resource and will be listed on the Earned Runs RESOURCES page!
1. Dumbbell holds: (30 seconds, rest 60 seconds, repeat 3 times)
2. Timed Hangs: ground (10 seconds; repeat 5 times)
3. Scap-ups: press; hold for 1 count; repeat 15 times)
4. Prone Bat-wings (acquire position, hold 10 seconds, repeat 5 times)
5. Planks (hold 60 seconds, repeat 3 times)
6. Hollow Hold Bananas (acquire position, hold 15 seconds, repeat 5 times)
7. Supine Cable Pull Down (perform move, repeat 15 times)
8. Plate Pinch (hold between thumb & index finger 30 seconds, rest 60 seconds, repeat 3 times
9. Kettlebell Bottom–up Press (perform move, repeat 15 times, switch sides)
10. Inverted rows (acquire position, no indication of # repeats)
11. Stability Ball Roll-outs (15 times)
12. Empty-bar lifts (perform move 100 times as fast as possible without losing form)
Pull-up Progression: Start with phase 1; with mastery, move to next phase
Phase 1: Isometric Holds (“Goal: hold chin above bar for 60 seconds”)
Phase 2. Negative (“Goal: 3 sets of lowering in 15 seconds”)
Phase 3: Leg Assisted pull-up (“Goal: perform 3 sets of 8 reps with the lightest band possible”)
Perform first using two legs, then one leg.
Phase 4: Partner Pull-ups (“Goal: perform a pull-up without band”)
Phase 5 Pull-ups (“Goal: perform an assisted pull-up”)
Sclinger suggests how her guide might be used and reminds us that performing any of these exercises, with or without the goal of mastering the pull-up, can benefit fitness. Her piece contains a link to another Greatist.com article that describes, “How to Do the Perfect Pull-up” by Joe Vennare, posted July 10, 2014.
Hopefully I, and some of you, will be able to report pull-up progress by the end of the plan.
RUN & MOVE HAPPY!
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Running, walking, and fitness activities enable us to experience our physical selves in a world mostly accessed through use of fingers on a mobile device.
EARNED RUNS is edited and authored by me, runner and founder. I began participating in road races before 5Ks were common. I've been a dietitian, practiced and taught clinical pathology, and been involved with research that utilized pathology. I am fascinated with understanding the origins of disease as well as health.
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