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Pull-Up Scaling Options – Work the Vertical Pull

Hey everybody, I want to talk about pull ups and ways to work up to pull ups. I see a lot of people who, either have never been able to do a pull up – and that’s one of their goals, or they can do pull ups, but they’re having pain in their shoulders right now with pull ups, or they’re just having shoulder pain in general, and doing pull ups would be a really beneficial thing to load the tissue to try to stimulate that recovery process. Regardless, pull ups are a great exercise, but just a regular old pull up is a lot to ask.

Some common ways that people scale pull ups are to a) use a band on the bar. You stand on the band to kind of help yourself up. That’s a fine way to make it a little bit easier. I find that sometimes it’s hard to graduate from that though. A lot of people will also do a rowing motion on the rings or a TRX straps, which is also a great exercise, but you’re really getting this horizontal pull, and that’s different than the vertical pull of pull up. I’m going to show you a couple of ways that I really like to do to progress towards pull ups, while maintaining that vertical pull.

You’ll need a lower bar, so if you’re at a gym, you can put a barbell on the rig, or you can just find a playground with some lower bars for the kids to play on. Either way you need something a little bit lower. You can also use rings or TRX straps – just make sure you’re pulling vertically. One thing I really like to do is use your feet to assist you but keep that vertical pull. You hang on to the bar, feet are in front of you, and you’re not just standing up with your feet, but they are there to help you if you want and then focus on pulling with your back first. Use your feet as little as possible, focusing on going straight up and down and not out to the back.

Another thing you can do is grab a box and put your feet up on the box doing the same thing: keep that vertical pull. Feet go on the box and then you’re not coming back – that’s that horizontal position – stay straight up and down and pull up.

I find that eventually you can get to the regular pull up a little more quickly because that carryover is more direct when you’re practicing the vertical pull versus the ring rows when you’re really pulling horizontal. This is something to try if pull ups are on your list of goals and you’re on your way there.

Here at Peak Endurance Performance & Physical Therapy we help active adults in the Madison Area get back to the activities they love without pain or limitations. We see people of all ages, ability levels, and individuals trying to get back to a multitude of movements including: getting back into running, women postpartum, CrossFit athletes, climbers, gymnasts, wrestlers, overhead athletes, and your recreational weekend warrior. If you’re looking to get back to the activities that give you meaning, relieve stress, and make you feel like you again, feel free to reach out below and we’ll see if we’re the right fit for you.