Whether you are at the gym, the park or the playground, you might see someone attempt a pull-up. Some will struggle (roughly 85% of the population cannot complete a proper pull-up), others will find success with arguably the toughest bodyweight exercise created. Even for the most physically fit individual, completing a full set of pull-ups may have been a challenge at one point. Focusing on your arms, shoulders, back and core, pull-ups are a very simple exercise in theory, but ultimately will test the strength of your upper body.
As a compound exercise, pull-ups as mentioned work more than just one set of muscles. The muscles groups and joints used during a pull-up can be reflected by movements that we use in daily activities such as pulling items off of the top shelf or rebounding during a basketball game or even playing on the monkey bars with our kids. Not only are pull-ups a great exercise for improving strength, but they also have an impact on our posture. By having correct form, pull-ups help individuals who may have back and shoulder rounding issues.
For those who struggle to execute a proper pull-up or have mastered the basic version and want to add modifications or progressions, there is a variety of equipment available to assist with your workout. As an alternative to pull-ups, exercises such as rows, planks, lat pulls and dumbbell Y-T-I raises offer a way to help strengthen many of the same muscle groups that pull-ups use.
While the most basic pull-up can be challenging for most, there are a number of accessories that can help in modifications or progression of your pull-up workout.
Imagine turning yourself into a human version of a slingshot. Fun thought, right? While bands won’t exactly make pull-ups more fun, they will certainly make them easier for beginners to get the hang of the exercise. Making sure you have the correct resistance of band is important, as heavier resistance will make the pull-up easier and then progressing to a lighter band is almost the final step before you are executing an assistance free pull-up. Band assisted pull-ups allow you to understand the correct form and execution of the pull-up without having to worry about lifting your entire body weight. One of the advantages of band assisted pull-ups is the challenge of balancing your knee or foot on the band, which helps engage the core muscles.
One of the benefits or challenges of using gym rings for pull-ups is the freedom of movement that your hands and arms are given as opposed to using a bar. Due to the instability of the straps, maintaining balance and stability with the rings is an added challenge that will require both mental and physical focus. In order to keep the straps and yourself from swaying, engagement of your abs, quads, hip flexors and back are key. Grip strength is also at a premium with gym rings as hands, wrists and forearms are engaged to help steady the body from swinging. While gym rings do offer a challenge, they also provide a healthy alternative as the rings allow for a larger range of motion, which help with lessening the stress and strain on shoulders and elbows.
Ab Straps as pull-up equipment
As an alternative to using your hands, Ab Straps allow you to use your upper arms to support your weight when doing abdominal focused exercises on a pull-up bar. Instead of holding the bar, by placing your upper arms in the straps and then grabbing onto the bar or top of the strap, the ability to execute core workouts such as knee tucks or leg raises that focus on abdominals and oblique muscle groups becomes slightly easier. One of the major benefits of using ab strap assisted exercises is that by hanging it takes pressure off of the small of the back, something that causes a large number of people to avoid abdominal exercises. The one obvious disadvantage to owning a pair of ab straps is the fact that you need something to hang them from, be it a home pull-up bar or monkey bars at the park, but then that just gives you a reason to add another exercise to your workout.
Whether you are engaging in a calisthenics workout, a Crossfit program or just a regular gym session, having a solid grip on your equipment is key to getting a proper lift, pull or push. In order to battle sweaty, slippery or callous filled hands, adding a pair of grip pads could help change your workout. Perfect to use when doing weighted movements such as kettlebell swings or Crossfit style pull-ups. Designed to protect the palm and support the wrist, Grip Pads often come in a variety of two or three finger hole options that allow your digits the flexibility and freedom to engage in the grip.
Liquid Chalk as pull-up equipment
Remember watching the old Saturday afternoon World’s Strongest Man competitions and seeing these giant men engulf their hands in buckets of powdered chalk? While the buckets can still be found in some gyms, most now use and prefer clients to use liquid chalk for a variety of reasons. First and foremost from a dust allergy and cleanliness liquid chalk is much more acceptable. Secondly from a cost standpoint, liquid chalk is more likely to last longer, usually needing only one application. Whether you choose to use grip pads or go barehanded, adding liquid chalk to your gym bag full of accessories is a key component to helping prevent sweaty hands
Most of our daily activities require some sort of use of our hands, whether it is typing on a keyboard, driving a car, gripping a piece of sports equipment or carrying a bag of groceries. Hand grippers help to increase muscles in your fingers, hands, wrists and forearms, all of which are important for the majority of upper body weight exercises. If your wanting to make a strong initial impression at your next job interview or with the future in-laws, having a firm handshake is the first step. There are a variety of styles and sizes on the market ranging from aluminum coil to spring loaded ones that vary in resistance from 15lbs to 100lbs.
If you have watched any of the Ninja Warrior series, chances are you have seen contestants climb across or pull themselves up on a long beam with just a sliver of space to hold onto with their finger tips. Mostly used by rock climbers, the hangboard or pull-up board comes in a variety of designs that challenge your finger, hand, wrist strength as well as all of the major muscles in your upper body.
As with hand grippers, there are a number of different grip balls on the market that serve a variety of purposes. Whether you use them for strengthening, relieving joint discomfort, increasing flexibility or as a stress reliever, grip balls are a simple piece of equipment that you can use any time, any place. Simple exercises like squeezing the ball or pinching it between your fingers or using it to roll out your hand on a flat surface, grip balls are a simple and easy exercise tool that many people avoid or forget about using.
Rotating Handle Set
A great accessory to compliment your pull-up or chin-up workout, rotating handles like the angles90 allow you to change the angle of your grip to challenge different muscles in your lower and upper arms, shoulders and upper back. The ability to rotate the handles will allow users to move and align your hands, wrists and arms more naturally during your workout.
Weighted Vest / Belt
If you are looking for an added resistance challenge for your pull-ups, throwing on a weight vest or belt is certainly one way to go. While both will add weight to your exercise each comes with pros and cons. More often than not a vest has limited ability for adding more weight, whereas a belt allows as much as you can fit on the chain. Some people may find that a vest is more restricting, while others prefer the weight to be more evenly distributed. Neither option is better or worse, however the belt, with the ability to add significantly more weight and the challenge of stability is the more challenging option.
Gloves / Foam Grips
Depending on where you workout may it impact your preference between using gloves or foam grips. If you use a public gym, the overuse and shared sweat of a pair of foam grips may be discouraging. Depending on the texture and thickness of the foam grip, it may add a challenge to your pull-up. On the negative side, foam grips tend to wear and tear quickly. For those that are looking for a more tactile feel to their grip support a pair of gym gloves is a better option. There are a variety of glove designs to choose from, including the choice of having full or partial fingers. While gloves can still get sweaty in the inside, most are easily washable. Although they may be one of the best options, the use of gloves in the gym is often socially frowned upon as a calloused hands are a time honored tradition and are seen as a sign of toughness and resilience.
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