The Secret to Defying Gravity

6 min read

The Secret to Defying Gravity

A lot of people, especially women but lots of men too, find the chin up or pull up elusive in training.

Vik shares how the AIM Method simplifies the process and makes it in reach...

Being able to pull up or chin up your own body weight is considered a standard benchmark of upper body strength. It shows you are strong and able to handle your own body above the bar or rings. You look and feel powerful when you get up there, who wouldn’t want to defy gravity!? 😊 Pull ups are used in training to build a strong and sexy back however the benefits they have on your health and quality of life outside of the gym are far greater (and in my opinion more important) than having great looking shoulders and back!

A lot of people, especially females struggle with this movement because of lack of strength, mobility, poor functioning + de-conditioned shoulders, lack of grip strength and/or poor connective tissue (tendons/ligaments/muscle) health.

Now there are a lot of Tom, Dick and Harrys out there who’ve graduated from ‘YouTube University’ who claim to know various secrets or have the latest short cuts to getting you stronger! We at AIM don’t have any secrets or magic sauce… just the knowledge and experience to break it down to simple progressions and help everyday people hit their chin and pull up goals.

We get clients over the bar not only for the first time but building up to reps and sets.

Once you attain that first chin or pull up, we progress to higher-level work like the archers pull up or muscle up.

With that in mind, I’d like to introduce Gail in the video below, her goal has been to defy gravity!

Gail started her journey by simply developing grip strength; her connective tissues and the overall health + function of the shoulders improved leaps and bounds because of this. Laying solid foundation takes time but pays huge dividends as it has been easier to build strength and the result within 9 months she got her first chin up. This feat didn’t happen overnight and is still a work in progress. Below in the vid is where is now + one of the phases from her strength training sessions last year.

I want to share 6 key components of building a chin up we’ve used with her (and with all of our clients) in the hope it gives you the inspiration to start your journey to defy gravity, build/maintain a healthy shoulder, or for it to be helpful to get over any plateaus you may be going through with you quest to get that first chin up 😊.

6 key components to build to a chin-up

1. Hang out

One of the first steps to your first pull/chin-up is getting comfortable just hanging from a bar/rings. Not only is this great for shoulder health and to decompress your spine, but it will build up your grip and forearm strength. Ensure the shoulders are fully relaxed with the chin resting on the top of the chest (a passive hang). Initially, this may be really uncomfortable for people with really tight shoulders.

Target: Build to 3-5 comfortable sets of 30-60 seconds of passive hangs at least 3 or up to 5 days/week

2. Active/passive

Once you have moved past the pulling prep phase (hanging) of training then we want to start building strength in the active position. From a hang, pull your shoulders straight down, pausing 2-3 seconds at the top, then drop back down to a controlled release back to the passive position, then repeat in further repetitions (reps). This is actually the first phase of a pull/chin-up!

Target: 2-5 comfortable sets of 10-15 reps of passive into active hangs x3-4/week

3. Ring/body rows

Start pulling!! This step can be done in parallel with Step 4 and ongoing. There is a direct correlation between your row strength and your pull-up ability. In other words, if you can’t do strict rows utilizing almost your whole body weight, then you probably won’t achieve your first pull-up. The scapula retractors, rear deltoids, and external rotators (fancy words to describe your upper back and shoulders 😊) are usually the weakest links for most people so start working on your weakness.

Target: You need to be able to row your body while being directly under the rings or a low bar for 10 strict reps. In either case, your chest should touch the bar on each rep with a slight pause at the top. Train this 2-3/week.

3. Ring/body rows

Start pulling!! This step can be done in parallel with Step 4 and ongoing. There is a direct correlation between your row strength and your pull-up ability. In other words, if you can’t do strict rows utilizing almost your whole body weight, then you probably won’t achieve your first pull-up. The scapula retractors, rear deltoids, and external rotators (fancy words to describe your upper back and shoulders 😊) are usually the weakest links for most people so start working on your weakness.

Target: You need to be able to row your body while being directly under the rings or a low bar for 10 strict reps. In either case, your chest should touch the bar on each rep with a slight pause at the top. Train this 2-3/week.

4. Isometric holds

The isometric (holding still) hang is the next step in your pulling prep. Hold your chin over the bar/rings in the top position of a pull-up – looks easy but is very humbling! Try to keep your elbows tucked into your side and squeeze your shoulder blades together and bring your chest forward.

Target: 3-5 sets of 5-20 second holds. Once you can hold this for 3 rounds of 30 seconds, then you are ready to move to the next progression. Aim to repeat x2-3/week

5. Negative/eccentric loading

Negatives or eccentrics are where you are going to get strong! Negatives involve resisting the descent of the pull up, extending the time it takes to come back to a dead hang. These begin with a hold in the isometric position at the top for a certain time followed by a very slow and strict descent. Pay special attention to the lower half or bottom position of the pull up, where it is the toughest. This area is the most challenging and is often the weakest link. Look to get strong there by controlling the action all the way down. Be careful with these, as they are hard on the body and the joints. Eccentrics will make you really sore, so be diligent in your recovery.

Target: Work up to super strict 5-second holds and negatives, for 3-5 sets of 3-5 reps with a 2-3-minute rest between, as a benchmark before moving on to the next step. This is tough so be patient with the journey and take pleasure in the fact that you progress with being able to work up, week to week. In other words, enjoy the journey!

6. Get a friend!

The next level up is assisted reps, which are to be performed through the full range of motion of a pull-up. Include a 5-second negative and a proper lock-off (flexed arm hang) at the top. Assistance is best provided by a partner who will spot under the lats aka your wings 😊. This is so you can focus on using the correct way to initiate and engage the pull.

As before, focus on the weakest parts of the pull-up, which for most people will be the bottom half. As your pull-ups get stronger, less and less assistance can be used. Work in the 3-5 rep, and 3-5 set range again with a few minutes of rest in between sets. Finish each session with some rows, active hang pulls, and isometric hangs.

Target: Once you can do 5 assisted pull-ups with a 5-second negative, and with little assistance, then you can progress to trying your first full pull-up.

Check out the video of Gail below demonstrating 4 of the 6 movements above.

Take home

If you’ve been using bands, assisted machines, or lat pulldowns for the best part of a year but still can’t pull yourself up on a bar or rings then ask yourself; why?! You’re likely not putting the right stress (via load and movement patterns) on your body. Follow our proven methods and you will defy gravity.

There you have it – no secret here! Just implementing smart work to build healthy and strong shoulders.

If you’d like any help with your pull/chin-up journey, get in touch.

Vik.

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