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Mastering The
Pull-Up

Mastering the pull-up is a demonstration of pure upper-body pulling strength. For upper body work, I tend to gravitate towards body weight movements for myself and my clients. Body weight movements are more functional and require multiple muscle groups to fire simultaneously. When completing a pull-up, your body works like a fine-tuned orchestra with the right muscles activating at the right time. The pull-up challenges and engages your grip strength, forearms, biceps, lats, shoulders and core.

  • Phase 1
  • Phase 2
  • Phase 3
  • Phase 4

Phase 1: foundations

In week 1 we tackle the pull-up, one of our favorite foundational movements. Ten Thousand ambassador Mike Aidala (@mike.aidala) starts you on the path to mastery below.

I teach my clients to start off by building hand strength, working on dead-hangs from the bar. These hangs should include various grips, single arm hangs, shoulder and scapular retractions and elevations. Once an individual has developed enough grip strength, they’ll turn their focus to developing their pulling strength through a full range of motion. This can include jumping and holding at the top of a pull-up or slowing lowering themselves down through an eccentric contraction - or negative pull-up. It can also include some horizontal pulling motions like an inverted row using TRX straps or Olympic rings.

Scapular push-ups
-
10 REPS

EQUIPMENT: PULL-UP BAR

Protract and retract shoulder blades while keeping arms extended.

SCAPULAR PULL-UPS
-
10 REPS

EQUIPMENT: PULL-UP BAR

Depress shoulder girdle and raise yourself a few inches without bending elbows.

Shoulder External rotation banded
-
10 REPS

EQUIPMENT: BAND

Pull band away from rack rotating your forearm outward.

Passive Hang
-
10 REPS

EQUIPMENT: PULL-UP BAR

Hang with relaxed back and shoulder muscles, focusing on grip strength.

Inverted Rows
-
10 REPS

EQUIPMENT: BARBELL

Pull your chest towards the bar, pinching your shoulder blades together.

Jumping Pull-up
-
10 REPS

EQUIPMENT: PULL-UP BAR

Stand on a box and jump up towards the bar as you pull yourself up through the full range of motion.

Negative Pull-up
-
10 REPS

EQUIPMENT: PULL-UP BAR

Perform the “downward half” of the pull-up, lower yourself away from the bar as slow and controlled as possible.

Banded pull-up
-
10 REPS

EQUIPMENT: BAND, PULL-UP BAR

Perform the full range of motion, using a band to assist you on the way up.

Pull-up - 1 to 10 reps

EQUIPMENT: PULL-UP BAR

Engage your grip strength, forearms, biceps, lats, shoulders and core. Flex your elbox and pull your chest to the bar.

phase 2: next steps

Last week, we shared some insight on why and how you should integrate the pull-up into your foundational workout routine. In week two, Mike prescribes your next steps on your path to mastery. Layer this workout on top of the foundational movements we shared last week, and check back next week for the next phase in your pull-up progression.

NEGATIVE PULL-UP
-
5 REPS

EQUIPMENT: PULL-UP BAR

Start at the top of a pull-up with your elbows bent and hold this position for 5 seconds. Then, slowly lower down for the duration of 10 seconds. This will help build the muscular and connective tissue strength required to keep your body safe and strong. Stretch out your lats after each set.

Inverted Ring Rows
-
10 REPS

EQUIPMENT: PULL-UP BAR

Progress through a full range of motion starting with straight arms and finishing with your chest touching the rings. Inverted rows require you to demonstrate coordination and muscular control as you move your body weight. Additionally the movement works the overall back and arm muscles as well as trains your grip strength.

TOES TO BAR
-
10 REPS

EQUIPMENT: PULL-UP BAR

Toes to bar can be modified to knees to chest if the movement proves to be too advanced. Both options help you develop the core strength and musculature of the shoulder girdle that is necessary for proper pull-ups.

Ring PUSH-UPS
-
10 REPS

EQUIPMENT: PULL-UP BAR

The ring pushups take your common push-ups to the next level by increasing the balance and muscular coordination required to move through the full range of motion.

phase 3: progression

This week, Mike Aidala shares a simple yet effective workout in which you'll complete multiple sets of pull-ups. Building on the skills developed over the past two weeks, you can continue to layer this workout, adding in any of the aforementioned techniques from weeks prior.

Pull-upS
-
8-12 reps

EQUIPMENT: PULL-UP BAR

The meat and potatoes of this workout is the pull-up itself. Grasp the bar, palms down, with a grip slightly wider than shoulder width. Think of pulling your elbows towards the floor, maintaining constant tension through your shoulder girdle muscles. Think of pulling your shoulder blades down and back as you engage your lats, pulling your chin up and over the bar.

Single Arm ring row
-
8 - 12 REPS ea.

EQUIPMENT: RINGS

Grip the ring with one hand, palm facing in, and lean back until your arm is straight. The more parallel your body is to the floor, the more challenging the exercise will be. Keep your body as straight as possible and maintain tension through your shoulder girdle muscles. Engage your lats, and pull your chest towards the ring. Slowly lower your body back to the start position.

Ring PUSH-UPS
-
max effort

EQUIPMENT: RINGS

A variation on the traditional pushup, adding the rings creates an unstable base. This forces you to engage your glutes, core, and shoulder girdle muscles even more, strengthening your smaller stabilizer muscles which must be activated when moving through a properly executed pull-up.

phase 4: set your pr

We've reached the end. Throughout this month, personal trainer Mike Aidala has shared tips and movements to help you build to your pull-up PR. Now, it's time to put that progress to the test. This week, Mike and the Ten Thousand team have built a truly intense pull-up workout for all of you to try. Get after it, share your progress with Ten Thousand (@tenthousand.cc on Instagram) and keep repping your commitment to putting in the work every damn day.

Typewriter pull-ups
-
8-12

EQUIPMENT: PULL-UP BAR

With your hands wider than shoulder width, perform a standard pullup, bringing your chest to the bar. Then, move your torso laterally towards one hand, shifting your weight from one arm to the other and extending the opposite arm.

L-SIT PULL-UP
-
8-12 REPS

EQUIPMENT: PULL-UP BAR

From a dead hang position with your hands slightly wider than shoulder width, lift your legs into an L-sit hold. Then, perform a standard pullup, bringing your chest to the bar. Your core will thank you later.

towel PULL-UP
-
8-12 REPS

EQUIPMENT: PULL-UP BAR, TOWEL

Take a small face towel and wrap it around the pullup bar. Grasp the towel with one hand, and the bar with the other, hands wider than shoulders. The varying grips and greater force required from the arm that is in direct contact with the bar will help prepare you for single arm pullups.

CLAPPING PULL-UP - 8-12 REPS

EQUIPMENT: PULL-UP BAR

With your hands slightly wider than shoulder width, begin to pull your chest towards the bar. As your chin clears the bar, release your hands, clap them together, and catch yourself back on the bar. Brace your core for the negative rep and control yourself on the way down.

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