Over the past few weeks I have met with a number of women who all had the same goal in mind for their personal feat of strength: they desire the tactical pull up. Nothing works the lats, abs, shoulders, and not to mention your grip strength quite like the pull up. In my humble and honest opinion, I believe it is the pull up that is the epicenter of the calisthenic training world. Master the pull up and you’ll master some serious strength. Period!
Now, getting back to my lady friends ;). There seems to be some strange, overarching belief that women can’t do pull-ups. I don’t know where this sort of blasphemy stemmed from, but having worked with a number of MEN who struggled to get their first pull up, I can tell you lovely ladies that this isn’t some gender specific issue. In fact, one of my MALE clients made a statement the other day in our small group training session that really hits the nail on the head when it comes to female strength training in general, especially with regards to the pull up. To quote the words of one of my client, Coleton Baggett directly. . .
“A woman can do anything a man can do because women have been designed to do harder things that men could never do.”
By the way Coleton, if you’re reading this, I would like to formally announce that you have officially won the “Man of the Year” award for such an incredible statement. THANK YOU! 😀
Now that we have this nonsense that women can’t do pull ups out of our minds, let’s talk about how we can work towards the tactical pull-up strategically when the tactical pull up is still not fully dialed in yet. In order to train the lats, abs, and shoulders in a fashion that won’t cause injury out of the gate, I would like to introduce you all to the Australian Pull-Up, also known as the Inverted Row.
But first, a confession.
I’m really not a fan of banded/ assisted pull up training (not opposed to it, just not a fan). I have found in my past that training pull ups with bands tends to detract from the proper lat and ab engagement you need for a solid and strict pull up. As an example, in my Powerful Pressing Program (soon to be release so SIT TIGHT), I had our original group of participants train with either chin ups or flexed arm hangs if they were still struggling with normal tactical pull ups. We did this to be pretty darn sure that everything from the shoulders to the glutes was tight enough to sustain the pull itself. The inverted row is a reversion from the above mentioned pull variants that is designed to lay the foundation of pull up related strength.
The Inverted Row is a pull-up variant where you start below the bar in the horizontal plane. You will pull yourself upward to the bar to get your chest in line with the bar. Once your chest reaches the bar, you will descend back to your starting position.
A few things to note on this pull variant. Make sure you don’t hyper-extend your back so your stomach hits the bar, and be sure to engage your abs enough so you don’t allow your butt to sag towards the floor. You want to keep your shoulder packed and keep your abs tight as you move up and down for reach rep of your pull. To give you better visual cuing on this training tid bit, please watch the video posted below.
Training the inverted row will help you gain enough lat and core strength over time to progress to more demanding pull styles such as the chin up, or the tactical pull up itself. The reason for that is that the inverted row, when done properly, forces you to engage your lats and abs in a near identical fashion to the tactical pull up itself. The difference here is obviously related to the grip on the bar, as you will have a slight angle when you perform the row. However, despite the difference, you can be sure that you’re working your grip on the bar quite well and over time, your grip strength will carry over to other pull up variations. For further discussion and cues on this little tid bit, watch the next video.
Regular Pull UP Grip vs Inverted Pull UP grip photo and cross over effect video.
Back in December of 2014, I had the honor and privilege of hanging out with Al Kavadlo, Master PCC and calisthenic aficionado of Alkavadlo.com. He has some really awesome tips for the Inverted Row himself, plus some fun variants you can try when you’re ready to get more advanced. Check out his video on the inverted row below.
If you’re looking to master your pull up strength but need a solid program to start you out right, we here at Primal Fitness Pittsburgh are ready to help! We are the only gym in Pittsburgh that teaches Progressive Calisthenics and will be more than happy to get your way on to pull-up master with bar training done right! Please feel free to send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to inquire about your calisthenic and pull-up train needs!
That’s it for today folks! Until next time. .
Master your instincts!