No. I’m not a big fan of any vertical pull. I spend most of my pulling volume on horizontal pull.
This is from an article on my personal website…
Quoting John Rusin: “If you aren’t rowing two or three times as much as you are pulling up you are leaving your shoulder health to chance.”
And from the same article:
Back training tip no 6: Rowing heavy (horizontal pull) is more important than doing vertical pulling heavy
Nobody says it best than my good friend and all-around training genius Dr. John Rusin (used with permission):
“While the pull up and its many hand setup variations place a stretch on the lats and train in an overhead position, we often forget that this pattern places the shoulder into internal rotation under loading. While this is not inherently bad, this position, the volume placed upon it and the load should be monitored.
On the opposite side of pulling is the row pattern that allows the shoulder to stay in a more neutral position throughout a full range of motion while improving a synergistic lat and upper back targeted activation for better transferable training effects. This movement pattern also has the ability to extend the t-spine and shoulder posturing while being able to be programmed with heavy loads and higher volumes in a more pain-free way.”
Back training tip no 7: With vertical pulling, “mind muscle connection” is more important than the load used
To echo the preceding point by Dr.Rusin, I find it much smarter to think “mind-muscle connection” when it comes to vertical pulling (pull up variations, lat pulldown variations). I think that pretty much every strong coach will agree that a proper pull up is a great exercise. However, I don’t make it the foundation of mine or my clients’ workouts.
I only use the pull up and its variations if:
A. If the individual can feel the lats doing most of the work.
B. If the individual can do at least 8 dead hang pull ups with a 2 second hold at the top of the movement.
C. The individual has to have a need to become better at pull ups (army, law enforcement or fireman tests, Crossfit competitor)
Most people can’t feel their lats working properly when they do a pull up, mostly because they initiate the pull with the arms (remember the principle of first tension) instead of the lats.
Here is what starting with your lats looks like:
That is an active hang, but you should start your pull ups like that and as soon as the lats are engaged you start to pull with your arms. It is one fluid motion but the lats have to fire first.
If you don’t get a lat pump from doing pull ups, you need to work on improving your mind muscle connection before pursuing them.
When I program vertical pulling, I prefer to use lighter weights, a slower tempo and a squeeze at the peak contraction to really focus on having the lats do the work. I find that you can get a great back training effect that way while also preserving the shoulders.
As you will see in the next point I also really like to use pre-fatigue when training vertical pulling