Pulling the Truth Out About Pull-Ups

How are everyone’s New Years Resolutions fairing thus far? The year is twenty days old and, according to some headline I saw recently, 95% of all people that made new years res’es have already let them lapse. We want to practice what we preached in our post about the topic. Specifically point number 3: Share And Be Accountable about your goals for the year. My personal goal for 2015 is to get in better shape and my specific goal in one area to achieve this is to be able to perform 25 pull-up in succession. There, I said. Seems rather daunting.

Why Pull-Ups

8300571385_5a16d61aa5_oGlad you asked. There are a number of reasons I choose this exercise in particular as a benchmark for my overall fitness.

  1. To accomplish my goal I need to both lose weight and gain muscle. As with all body weight exercises gravity is what you’re working against. And the extent to which you’re working against it directly proportional to how much you weigh. I’m sure that I could do more pull-ups now – without putting on any muscle – if I had to drag 10 kilos less up to the bar each time.
  2. They’re intimidating. As part of our yearly fitness evaluations in grade school we all had to line up in the gym and perform the dreaded ‘dead hang’. Which meant getting up in front of the whole class, getting up on a chair and see how long we could hang from a bar with out chins above it. I always managed to find a way to miss that day of class and was both intimidated and slightly awed by the kids who could blithely hold themselves up above the bar for what seemed like hours on end when I could barely maintain 5 seconds. And to this day I’m amazed by the blokes at my gym who can just jump up, grab the bar and bounce up and down as if it were nothing.

    My least Favourite Day in School

    My least Favourite Day in School

  3. It’s Damn Efficient – I’ve been going to gyms for years. Most of that time has been wasted. That may be a little harsh, but I’m realizing that there are much, much more efficient ways to add muscle and tone my physique than the traditional weight lifting routines. What I’d do in the past is a few curls, maybe some lat pull-downs, barbell presses and some leg extensions if I was feeling really ambitious. These aren’t bad things to do per se, but when you only have a couple of hours each week to spend in the gym, they’re not the best way to really tear up your muscle fibers and instigate real change in one’s body. Pull-ups – and other body weight exercises – are. We’ll get into why below.

An (almost) Total Body Workout

To pull one’s entire mass above one’s arms and over a bar multiple times requires the coordinated firing of myriad muscle groups throughout the upper body and even the core. The biggest muscle is the Latissimus Dorsi or the lats. These are huge muscles (second only in size on the human body to the glutes) that stretch all the way from your hips, up your back and under your arms. These are the muscles most responsible for that classic ‘V’ shaped physique that women adore and men strive for.

If it was just the lats getting a go, the pull-up would be a great exercise. But there are so many more muscles in involved. Not least of which are your biceps (guns, yo), shoulder muscles like the Rhomboids and trapezius, forearm muscles and even your pectorals major.

Doesn’t working all of those big muscle groups in one motion seem much more efficient than going after them one at a time with lat pull-downs, curls, shoulder raises, etc.? I think so which is why I’m striving for 25 pull-ups in 2015. Right now I’m at… well, 0. But my gym has a great machine called the assisted pull-up machine that let’s you do a pull up but with assistance from below – so you can get used to the motion even if you’re not up to the strength level for an unassisted pull-up.

One more thing about pull-ups: there are literally dozens if not hundreds of variations of the exercise as demonstrated by this puny guy:

That’s inspiring. If you enjoyed this post stay tuned for our series on the most efficient exercises to kick-start your metabolism, lose weight and put on muscle fast. Here’s a quick preview of what’s to come:

Image courtesy of Mass Fusion

Image courtesy of  Mass Fusion