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19.08.2015 16:42
Day 51. Pull-ups (revisited)

Our ADVANCED block begins with the analysis of all the exercises used in this program. This time we will be looking at them from a slightly different angle. Now our focus will be on the muscles work and different variations of an exercise and how to engage different muscle groups.

Actually there are only two things you need to know which were missing from the previous post on pull-ups during the BASIC block.

Different GRIPS

Firstly, there are different grips and everyone should know that to get maximum results from trainin you need to alternate your grips.

Let's look into grips and what makes them different. Imagine your spine. The narrower your grip (that is the closer your hands are to each other) the more you stress the muscles along the spine. The wider the grip the more you stress the muscles further from the spine. Practically, with changing grips you can shift load from one muscle to another, stressing the whole back.

It is also worth mentioning that the largest back muscle (latissimus dorsi) is wide, large and always work as one in comparison to chest muscles which are three-part or the arm flexor (bicep), which is two-part. That means that different grips cannot work out different parts of the back muscle but they can move stress from the latissimus dorsi to other muscles.

There are funny pieces on the Internet stating that vertical pulls help to widen the back muscles while horizontal pulls, like australian pull-ups or back row pull-ups, target the thickness of the back muscles. I have already mentioned that in the post about strength training myths that a muscle either increases in size or decreases and it does it evenly. You cannot make a muscle grow in one specific direction.

A good remark from ogrudko: I would say that grips and work in different planes is more important for shoulder joints. In a horizontal pull it is natural to use pronated grip, while with a vertical pull it is natural to use neutral grip. It is also worth to grips from time to time for the benefit of secondary muscle groups. While the main group remains the same, the stress on secondary groups can be shifted from one group to another. You should never employ uncomfortable grips. If a grip causes discomfort or even pain it should certainly be avoided.

Another remark from mtbrDot on the diameter of the bar. The thicker the bar the more stress is on the grip (and less on blisters!) thus hitting the arms more. It can be either positive or negative thing for you. It is positive because thicker bars would work out your arms and grip better but it is also negative because thicker bars would tire arms first thus reducing stress and training effect for the back and shoulders.

Pull-ups Variations

Secondly, pull-ups come in all sorts and colours thus you have to decide on your goals.

If you want to increase the number of pull-ups then you have to train in one way. If you want to gain muscle size then you have to use another way. If you want to be most effective you need to learn to feel how the muscle works. During every exercise, during every set, every repetition you have to feel how the muscle works. If you do not feel it then it either is not completely stressed or does not work at all!

In addition it is worth saying that the negative phase is more effective than the positive. Why is it so? All muscles are programmed to work in a positive way, to contract. They are more used to contraction and when you load them they are not used to it improves the effect of your training session.

The pace or speed is equally important and has to concur with your goals. The negative phase should be 2-3 times longer than the positive one. The slow negative phase can be used both with the fast positive phase and the slow positive phase. It depends on where you gain most (personally, the first one works for me). In any case the training sessions should be intensive! That is you cannot rest more than 60 seconds between sets (I prefer to rest for 45 seconds). If you rest longer than that your muscles will have enough time to recover and this will reduce the effeciency of the training.

That is it for today. Should any questions arise feel free to post them below.

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