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Perfect Pull-Ups Using Resistance Bands

What is it about pull-ups?  They are tough, yet awesome.  People that can do them, and do them well, just seem to project complete awesomeness.  It’s like they know some super incredible secret and will never share it.  Jerks.  Why must they simply be so badass???  Ever watched someone bust out ten, fifteen, or even twenty flawless and smooth pull-ups?  When done, he or she (yes, I just said she) is often the envy of everyone who just witnessed the display.  Being good at pull-ups has been scientificaly proven to induce admiration, love, feelings of invincibility, and much, much more.  Well, I may be exagerating a bit there but they are probably one of the best displays of upper-body strength and all-around exercises for anyone and everyone.

Now, ladies, don’t go getting all defensive and say, “Women can’t do pull-ups”.  Wrong.  Women can, and in fact should, do pull-ups and I know some that can do them very well.  So, please leave those sexist arguments at the door since I don’t buy them.  Men AND women should be doing pull-ups.  Not just because of the aura of amazing it will give you but because they are part of all great workouts.  Ever notice those same people doing pull-up after pull-up?  They tend to be leaner yet more muscular than your typical gym attendees.  They are trim, strong people and let’s face it, usually look pretty good.  Ummm, aren’t you in the gym to look good… uh, I mean, get healthy???  Right, me too!  But, in all seriousness, why are they built like that?  Is it magic?  genetics?  Pull-up Enhancing Drugs????  No, being good at pull-ups means having a certain body ratio: low body weight combined with and compared to a high muscle to fat ratio.  Get it?  Lean AND strong.

Let’s face it though, doing a pull-up is not easy, especially for those that may be starting in a less-than-ideal level of fitness.  Not to worry though, if you merely have a door, a wash cloth, and a resistance band, you too can begin simulating a pull-up until you are ready for the real thing.  So, watch the video to see actual form and alignment and read along to get the summary.  If you follow these tips, you too will be attracting the eyes (and envy) of many next time you crush a set of pull-ups at the gym!

P90X Assisted Pull-UpsRules I follow:

1.  Keep your spine in line with the tension of the bands: You want the direction of the resistance to be the same as your spine.  This ensures lots of things but one of the big ones is that you are exercising the correct muscle group.  If your spine/back is on a different line than the tension of the bands, you are almost certainly working muscles groups other than those you want to be working (e.g., latissimus dorsi, etc.)

2.  Have equal tension on each side of the bands you are using: Let’s pretend your band is 100 inches in length.  If you have 55 inches on one side, then you have only 45 inches on the other.  I am no Einstein here, but I’m pretty sure that would give you an uneven workout.  So, take a Sharpie or other permanent pen and mark (a) the mid-point of your band and (b) one-foot increments until you reach the handles.  This should ensure an equal length of band on each arm.

3.  Use a band of appropriate resistance: If you can easily do 20 repetitions, you need a new band of greater tension.  Determine where you want to hit failure and get a band that’s thick enough to make that happen.  (Thickness of the band determines the tension of the band; the thicker, the more tense and more difficult to stretch.)  Understand, this will take some trial and error but keep in mind that something is always better than nothing!

4.  Please, O PLEASE, be safe and aware of what you are doing: Once, while doing a tricep extension with bands, the band slipped out from under my back foot.  Now, this band was small, maybe 0.5 inches thick of pliable rubber.  It hit the back of my head.  Did it feel like a feather?  No.  A racquet ball?  No.  A basketball???  Nope.  It felt like I had been hit by a brick.  I saw stars, my eyes watered, and my ears were ringing.  Let my lesson be yours and make certain the band is (a) secure and (b) in good shape (i.e., no cuts, nicks, or anything that might allow it to snap).  Trust me, you do NOT want a resistance band breaking in the middle of a set.  Ouch.

That’s all there is.  I hope this was helpful and educational.  Remember, if you do pull-ups, you will be cool and probably win the lottery.  And, I don’t mean some puny scratcher cards, I mean the Big One.  Ok, I am kidding about that but, in all candor, pull-ups are phenomenal exercises that everyone should do.  If you are unable to do one, start using bands and work you way up to them.  Once you are able to master about 5 assisted pull-ups, try to do just one next time you are at the gym.  I think you will be amazed (and, potentially, awesome!)

Thanks for reading!  If you have any comments and/or questions, please leave them below.  I very much appreciate comments and questions, so please don’t be shy!  Likewise, if you found this helpful, please share it.

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