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Beginner Pull-Up Progression

Generally, when a beginner cannot complete a single pull-up, the advice advanced lifters dispense is to ‘do what you can’ (i.e. do negatives, hangs, partials, etc.). I’m not saying this advice doesn’t work, but…

Why are the principles of progression different for pull-ups than they are for any other exercise? If this is truly the best way to progress towards doing full sets of pull-ups, why do beginners not use a similar progression for lifts such as the bench press? They could pick an arbitrary heavy weight that they cannot complete for one rep and use similar progression techniques (negatives, static holds, partials). Obviously, this is not the best way to progress in the bench press. But my question is why not, if the pull-up progresses using these techniques?

There are two possible explanations I can see:

Closed chain vs Open chain: Closed chain exercises generally use at least bodyweight, so they have a minimum load. But there are open chain versions of closed chain exercises that can substitute while the beginner is building strength (e.g. lat pulldown -> pull-up, bench press -> push-up, barbell row -> inverted row, leg press -> squat).

or

The total load of the movement is low enough that these progression techniques are more effective than traditional full ROM reps. But if this is the case, would the same not be true for lifters who have exceedingly weak movements in other areas (e.g. a lifter who benches less than the bar would do negatives, static holds, and partials)? For almost any other movement, the solution for exceedingly weak individuals is machines with very low load capabilities and not these more advanced techniques.

Thoughts?

[quote]Maglavar wrote:
Generally, when a beginner cannot complete a single pull-up, the advice advanced lifters dispense is to ‘do what you can’ (i.e. do negatives, hangs, partials, etc.). I’m not saying this advice doesn’t work, but…

Why are the principles of progression different for pull-ups than they are for any other exercise? If this is truly the best way to progress towards doing full sets of pull-ups, why do beginners not use a similar progression for lifts such as the bench press? They could pick an arbitrary heavy weight that they cannot complete for one rep and use similar progression techniques (negatives, static holds, partials). Obviously, this is not the best way to progress in the bench press. But my question is why not, if the pull-up progresses using these techniques?

There are two possible explanations I can see:

Closed chain vs Open chain: Closed chain exercises generally use at least bodyweight, so they have a minimum load. But there are open chain versions of closed chain exercises that can substitute while the beginner is building strength (e.g. lat pulldown -> pull-up, bench press -> push-up, barbell row -> inverted row, leg press -> squat).

or

The total load of the movement is low enough that these progression techniques are more effective than traditional full ROM reps. But if this is the case, would the same not be true for lifters who have exceedingly weak movements in other areas (e.g. a lifter who benches less than the bar would do negatives, static holds, and partials)? For almost any other movement, the solution for exceedingly weak individuals is machines with very low load capabilities and not these more advanced techniques.

Thoughts?[/quote]

Beginner principals are basically the same. JUST LIFT. Which is basically the same as do what you can do. If you do this for bench, curl or squat and you are a beginner regardless of what you do if you do it with intensity you will get stronger. The primary difference is push ups and pullups have a fixed starting resistance if you don’t use special tools like bands. or a $1000 assistance machine.

Other than that you can use a pull down machine but figuring out proper rep and set number will take much longer than letting your body adjust to the weight from the beginning.

Um. Because with a bench press, you can start with a much lower weight… 15lbs if you’re trying to bench something like an ezcurl bar, or 45 with an oly bar. Most people don’t start lifting with a bodyweight bench. But with pullups, your starting point is being able to lift your bodyweight. You have to find some way to work up to that.

One purely bodyweight-based pullup progression is described in the book Convict Conditioning. You start with horizontal pulls… lay on the ground, hands on a parallel bar/rake/broom, pull yourself up to the bar, feet still on the ground. If that’s too much, start with the bar higher and less horizontal, or bend your knees. Once you master that, you move up to a different variation, until eventually you’re doing one-arm pullups for reps.

Basically you’re still using progressive overload to train your back, using different percentages of bodyweight. Or, as you mentioned, you can use pulldowns in the same way.

Probably the biggest reason you don’t hear about people mentioning pulldowns to work on pullups is because a lot of people talking about pullups are bodyweight-only functional-strength guys. They don’t want to consider the option of actually using a machine to help them work up to a pullup since it feels like “cheating”.

Unreal.

This was originally posted in beginners. Not sure why it ended up here.

Because you can’t scale it down. I’m not repping body weight for bench yet, but that isn’t a barrier to benching, so I don’t have to sub stuff in.

For chins and pull ups I do (right now, negatives and inverted rows). Simply because I can’t take off 50 lbs of body weight by magic. You could deload the pull up by using assistance bands (and I’ve thought about it) but that’s expensive and involves even more equipment.

[quote]paulwhite959 wrote:
Because you can’t scale it down. I’m not repping body weight for bench yet, but that isn’t a barrier to benching, so I don’t have to sub stuff in.

For chins and pull ups I do (right now, negatives and inverted rows). Simply because I can’t take off 50 lbs of body weight by magic. You could deload the pull up by using assistance bands (and I’ve thought about it) but that’s expensive and involves even more equipment.[/quote]

Have you tried doing pullups with your legs straight and feet propped up on a stool or something? Basically an L-sit but with something holding your feet up. It’s one of the better ways I’ve found to deload for pullups.

Just because you’re under the impression from how most people give advice on getting better at pullups, work with what you can, do negatives etc. does not mean that those are the only ways to get results. Sure they work, but most things work if you put enough effort into it.

You can start with body weight negatives if you are initially strong enough to perform a negative in the first place, and it is a good way to “catch up” to doing full pullups, however if someone cannot even perform a negative then you can use methods such as described in convict conditioning where you start very easy and master each step. In my own opinion the biggest thing most beginners need to focus on is not just lifting weight, but lifting it well and obtaining mastery before moving onto more advanced movements.

When I was too heavy and not strong enough (read fat and weak) I used a combination of: machine-assisted pull ups; had someone spot by lifting my feet; did lat pull downs; and did negatives or only did one partial rep at a time. I also dieted down down and lost fat. I don’t agree for a second that you shouldn’t do any of these, because they will all help make you stronger until you are strong enough to use your body weight and then eventually add weight on top of that. I call bullshit on don’t use assistance or lat pulldowns, I know for a fact they made me stronger.

LoRez-I don’t have anything to really do that with, and my squat cage doesn’t have bars running side t side for me to use as a brace. If I can figure something out I’ll give it a go, sounds useful. A 240 bodyweight makes pullups hard.

I picked up a band from Amazon for like 20 bucks, the 75lb green one. Definitely worth the money in my opinion. Went from doing 0 un-assisted chinups to being able to do a solid 2 un-assisted chinups in about 2 weeks. It’s definitely nice being able to get the full range of motion, prior to that I would jump a little and that seemed to work to some extent but lightens up the initial part of the concentric pull WAY too much. Assisting with my legs like with a chair or a lower bar just felt weird. The band is nice because you just feel lighter.

Obviously, I realize that you cannot (easily) scale down the load of a pull-up. I stated that pretty clearly in the first post. You don’t get any cool guy bro points for trying to jump on someone asking a legit question.

But there are viable open chain options to substitute for pull-ups when the lifter’s strength is not up to par. These options are almost never recommended, however. My question is why open chain options are regularly substituted for closed chain exercises such as squats (leg press–even Rippetoe uses these for people who cannot complete a bodyweight squat) and push-up (bench press) but not for pull-ups.

Is there something different about the musculature that makes beginner progression techniques (statics, negatives, partials) especially effective for the lats and lower/mid traps?

Speaking for myself, it’s an equipment thing. I work out at home. I have a squat cage, a bench, and weights. I don’t have a lat pull down machine or cable machines. I am doing dumbbell rows (Kroc style) which I’ve heard can help (and even if they don’t they’re a good lift anyway).

[quote]Maglavar wrote:
Obviously, I realize that you cannot (easily) scale down the load of a pull-up. I stated that pretty clearly in the first post. You don’t get any cool guy bro points for trying to jump on someone asking a legit question.

But there are viable open chain options to substitute for pull-ups when the lifter’s strength is not up to par. These options are almost never recommended, however. My question is why open chain options are regularly substituted for closed chain exercises such as squats (leg press–even Rippetoe uses these for people who cannot complete a bodyweight squat) and push-up (bench press) but not for pull-ups.

Is there something different about the musculature that makes beginner progression techniques (statics, negatives, partials) especially effective for the lats and lower/mid traps?[/quote]

[quote]paulwhite959 wrote:
LoRez-I don’t have anything to really do that with, and my squat cage doesn’t have bars running side t side for me to use as a brace. If I can figure something out I’ll give it a go, sounds useful. A 240 bodyweight makes pullups hard.[/quote]

Yeah, I can see that. I’ve always been at the other end of the bodyweight spectrum. Not going to say that pullups have always been easy for me, but they definitely improved after spending time at a rock climbing gym once a week for a few months.

Here’s those jackknife pulls. Maybe you can throw a board across the safety bars or something?

Get a band, they are cheap. Do them assisted for a while. Body weight negatives are also an option.

Now that I can do! Hell, I have a chunk 4x4 left over from rebuilding my back fence that’ll work fine.

For other lifts: I can’t make barbell rows work right. I tried for 3 weeks or so. I feel them in my lower back, shoulders and biceps not my lats. I experimented with several grips, pronated and supinated, varying weidths, etc. Just couldn’t get them to target. I know I’m not the only one with that problem as I found lots of articles online (and tried most of their suggestions) so maybe it’s just that other lifts are more difficult to make hit the target muscle?