Unfortunately, targeting only the arms, abs and chest muscles can lead to structural imbalances and potential injuries down the road. A much smarter, safer and more effective approach is to include movements that target the entire body: upper, lower, front and back. Not only will this aid in injury prevention, it will give you an overall healthier looking physique as well.
Pull-ups are one of the most effective ways to target the upper body in a holistic way. The six variations below range from beginner to advanced.
Why the Pull-Up?1 of 8
When it comes to upper body movements, the pull-up should be at the top of your list. Unfortunately, for most of us, traditional pull-ups are extremely difficult.
The variations in the next six slides include two regressions from the traditional pull-up—in other words, beginner pull-ups. Work on these frequently until you are able to move on to the traditional version.
Once you've mastered the traditional version, you can then give a couple of the more advanced variations a try.
Eccentric-Only Pull-ups (Regression)2 of 8
Jump up and resist gravity on the way down. Make the pulling up part the easy part of the movement by using your legs as much as you need. But on the way down, try to "fight gravity" for a three- to five-second count.
Make sure your arms are straight at the bottom while maintaining integrity in the shoulder joint (i.e. don't get sloppy with form).
Band-Assisted Pull-ups (Regression)3 of 8
Not all fitness experts like band-assisted pull-ups, however, as long they are part of a progression and used as a tool to help get you to a traditional pull-up, then they can be of great benefit to building your strength.
Like the variation on the previous slide, make sure to descend slowly with every rep.
Hand Release Pull-ups4 of 8
Perform a traditional pull-up explosively enough that you can let go of the bar at the top of the movement and then quickly grab it again as you begin your descent. Try to control the eccentric portion of this exercise (deceleration) to really engage your lats.
Grip Challenging Pull-ups5 of 8
Add a variety of grip-intense tools to really challenge the fingers, hands, forearms and overall grip strength. A few examples include a towel, a rope and Fat Gripz.
Weighted Pull-ups6 of 8
If strength is your goal, and you can complete 10 to 12 pull-ups with great form, then incorporate weighted variations that allow you to complete 5 to 8 repetitions.
You can add external load with kettlebells, dumbbells, plates, bands, med balls and weighted vests.
Traveling Pull-ups7 of 8
This is an advanced variation that will really test your back strength and grip endurance. These commonly require access to some unique equipment that is more commonly found at parks and playgrounds than traditional gym settings.
Swing sets and monkey bars are great examples.