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Pull-Up Bands: Why You Need Them

There are certain fitness movements that make you feel SO STRONG and SO POWERFUL when you master them. I can remember the moment when I went from not being able to do a pull-up to being able to do an unassisted pull-up. I was so embarrassingly excited. I actually did a fist pump and victory dance… in my room… by myself. The transition from not being able to complete a full unassisted pull-up to being able to complete one did not happen overnight and certainly did not happen without assistance along the way. That assistance came in the form of pull-up bands.

For anyone that is unfamiliar, pull-up bands are bands that are typically made of latex or synthetic rubber that can be attached to a pull-up bar. They come in a variety of resistance levels in order to provide you with more or less assistance on your pull-up. For the most part, the thicker the band, the greater the level of assistance it will provide. To attach your pull-up band to your pull-up bar, simply loop it around the center of your pull-up bar forming a knot. From there, place either your knee or your foot (depending on the length of the band) inside the hanging loop. Next, grab hold of the bar overhead to begin your pull-up!

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Types of Pull-Ups:


There are many different grips that you can use when performing a pull-up exercise. Each grip targets a different combination of muscles and works your upper body in different ways. Two of my personal favorites are the reverse grip pull-up and the wide grip pull-up.


Reverse Grip Pull-Up:


The reverse grip pull-up primarily targets your biceps, teres major, and latissimus dorsi. This style of pull-up is significant because of the heavy emphasis put on the biceps as opposed to having the emphasis be predominantly on your back muscles. To perform a reverse grip pull-up, grip the bar with your palms facing you and hands approximately shoulder width apart. Allow your body to hang from the bar in this position. Begin the movement by pulling your body upwards until your chin is above the bar. Hold this position for one second before slowly lowering yourself down to the starting position. The number of repetitions of this exercise that you perform will depend on your training goals.


Wide Grip Pull-Up:


The wide grip pull-up places a much higher emphasis on the back muscles than the reverse grip pull-up detailed above. Specifically, this exercise relies primarily on the recruitment of the latissimus dorsi, the largest muscle of the back. In addition to the latissimus dorsi, wide grip pull-ups also work your trapezius, rhomboids, infraspinatus, and teres minor. To perform this exercise, reach up and grab the bar with your palms facing away from you and your hands taking a wide grip on the bar. Your arms and body will be forming a Y shape in this position. To initiate the movement, pull your body upwards toward the bar. Once your chin is above the bar, pause for a second before slowly lowering yourself down to the starting position. As with the reverse grip pull-up, the number of repetitions of this exercise that you perform will depend on your training goals.

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When using bands to assist you in mastering either of these movements, you should start with a band that allows you to perform your desired number of repetitions in a way that your final 2 or 3 give you a bit of challenge. Once you are easily able to perform all of your desired number of repetitions, you can switch to a band that offers less assistance and repeat this process. With time, your ultra thick assistance band will be swapped out for a thinner band, and eventually you will be performing a pull-up with no assistance at all (and maybe even doing an embarrassing victory dance of your own!)


The bands that I use are made by WODFitters and can be found here. The door-hanging pull-up bar is from The Iron Gym and can be found here.


If you would like assistance incorporating pull-ups into a fitness plan aimed at helping you reach your own personal fitness goals, give me a call or shoot me an email, I would love to help!


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