Monday, March 2, 2009

A little more Variety Please?

I might have mentioned it before but all of my interests have one common link: if I'm interested in it, I buy magazines about that topic. Exercise is no different. Unfortunately, I can't honestly say that there is a good strength training or fitness magazine out there. There are some that have their months but generally speaking, they are often thinly-disguised supplement catalogs or full of fluff articles. I know that when it comes to finding good information in muscle magazines, I'm going to do a lot of cherry-picking.

Especially annoying is (of course) the lack of calisthenics that they show for strength training in any magazine. I that BW is an anathema for weight-based strength trainers for a number of monetary reasons but it still doesn't stop galling me. One particularly annoying situation is how little pull-ups get covered. I know that they show up somewhat regularly but you usually only see the same pull-up and chin-up that everyone knows.

Pull-ups and Chin-ups are as much a family of exercises as they are just two isolated movements. The gym rats that put together these fitness rags must know this too. Most of their pull-up stations have at least 4 different grip handles to change the angle of the exercise (or maybe they think that those are just elaborate towel holders)! You may not have such an elaborate set-up at your disposal but then again, you really don't need one. Here are a couple of pulls and chins that are a bit off the beaten path that work great.

1. Commando Pull-ups This pull-up has you starting out with your body perpendicular to the bar rather than parallel to it. Grip the bar with your hands together and pull your left shoulder up to the bar, lower yourself, then bring your right shoulder up to the bar. It was pointed out that this motion is similar to clinch work in MMA training. Plus, you get to work your biceps in a "hammer grip" style.

2. Sternum Pull-ups Same position as the commando grip pull-ups but instead of going side to side, you're going to bring your sternum up to the bar. This one does wonders for your back. It's also great to throw in the middle of a commando pull-up set.

3. Behind-the-neck Pull-ups. Now, we'll go back to the normal pull-up position with a shoulder width or slightly wider (your choice). Instead of bringing your chin over the bar, bring your head in front of the bar. It's a very humbling pull-up.

It's been said before and its absolutely true: Strong men do pull-ups. Men who want to get stronger must do pull-ups. Sure, the lat pull-down station is easier on the ego but pale in comparison to the power created by this family of exercise.


Barna said...

The sternum pullup is new for me. I´ll have to try that one soon!

Anonymous said...

wow great variation.
Btw do you think that behind the neck pull ups damage the shoulders?
-Workout Warrior

Justin_PS said...

I've read about the possibility that doing behind-the neck pull-ups might damage the shoulders. I admit that I don't do them as much now on that bar because it's thick (2 1/4" diameter) and it's difficult to bring my head behind it (I did it for the sake of the photo).

I do these when I have a thinner bar available. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that if you go too far forward, then you could hurt your shoulders over the long term.

Andrew said...

Hey Justin, I just found your blog and it looks great. I was wondering if you know of any substitutes for pull ups. I've lost about 60 pounds over the past few months through diet and cardio, and have just begun incorporating some bodyweight training into my routine. I've never in my life been able to do a pull-up and doing one is really a big goal of mine. Do you know of any bodyweight exercises that would help me build up my strength to where I can do pull ups?

Also, do you have any old posts about how to start a bodyweight training regimen from scratch?