Be The Master of Your Domain: The Pull-Up

As they call him up here in Beantown: Mahhky Mahhhhhhk!!

As they call him up here in Beantown: Mahhky Mahhhhhhk!!

Fact: "Good Vibrations" by Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch is one of my top 3 songs of all time.  Call me a nerd (seriously, you can), but there's something about that song that just jacks me up!

Maybe it's the fact that I secretly wish I had enough body control to dance like Marky Mark back in the day, or the fact that he's jacked out of his face in the video and performing curls and presses with cinder blocks.  Like a boss.   

Suffice to say, I think getting stronger and bigger arms has been one of my goals since I can remember.  Now, despite having that goal, you'll rarely see me do any traditional bicep curls.  Instead, you'll see me do plenty of pull ups/chin ups.  Why?  Because the pull up is a squat for your upper body. 

(Plus, there's something to be said about being able to pull yourself up over a bar, like all that is man...and woman!) 

Why am I so high on pull ups?  I mean, they can't be that necessary right?  Wrong.  A properly executed pull up will work the following:  pec major, lats, teres, posterior deltoid, rhomboids, middle and lower traps (and if you're doing a chin up, the biceps and elbow flexors).  Talk about bang for your buck!

Now, there are plenty of posts out there that can tell you how to do a pull up.  You can use a band to assist you, you can practice isolation holds at the top, and you can focus on the eccentric (lowering only) portion of the movement.  All will help you get there!   Just sweat, work on it whenever you can, and focus on being just a tad bit better than yesterday.

For those that already can do a few, how do you progress?  Just like any other lift, we want to  progress by adding more and more weight.   How do you do that?  Well, by adding weight to you!  


Before you take this post as permission to eat anything you want (remember: eat like a grown up), adding weight to your pull-up takes the form of adding a dumbbell or plate to you.

Another option is to take a dumbbell and just put it between your legs (minus the belt), but that can get a bit tricky as it gets heavier. 

Once you've taken that bold step of adding weight to your pulls, you need to have a plan and cycle them to continue to make progress.  Start with 3 reps of 5 for a few weeks, then decrease it down to reps of 4 after that.  You could even go so low as to do single reps with heavy weight.  By doing it this way, not only will you be building muscle and becoming a certified bad ass, your body and brain will be learning how to lift heavier weights. 

If you focus on lifting heavier weights and embrace the grind it takes to improve, then that's really all that matters.  Plus, as an added side effect, you may even start to resemble this guy: