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High Performance Training to Read: 10/31/2014

It’s been a while since I’ve posted “Stuff you should read,” so lets plunge into it. Besides, you’ve got important stuff to do like dressing up for Halloween an eating gobs of sugar-loaded num-nums.

Got that Right. Photocredit: quickmeme.com
Got that Right.
Photocredit: quickmeme.com

First, I want to say Thank you to everyone who shared, liked, and downloaded my brand new Kindle E-Book Eight Weeks to an Explosive Deadlift. I hit two best-sellers list, including the best Health and Fitness ebook. If you haven’t taken a peek yet head to Amazon and get a copy today—not only will you learn how to pick up heavy stuff, you’ll understand why training for speed and power is explosive in building maximal strength.

Eight Weeks to an Explosive Deadlift_Kindle cover-2

I’ve been on a reading-writing lately so I’m chalk-full of awesome ideas. Still, if you have any particular exercises, topics, or randomness you want covered please drop me a message here.

The big “three” are great exercises, but bench presses, squats, and deadlifts are not an end all be all. Anatomical considerations and weak points must always be taken into account when analyzing the risk reward of an exercise. If you bottom out your squat and lose lumbar integrity under huge loads your opening the door for a panodoras box of issues. The Four Most Debilitating Exercises on T-Nation by John Rusin was a refreshing view on exercise considerations with your training. I had the ability to talk to John when this article came out and was very impressed by his knowledge of anatomy and biomechanics. I highly recommend checking out John Rusin’s site here.

Besides having a first-name fit for a king 🙂 Eric Cressey is one of the best coahes around. Like most great coaches, Eric is a huge proponent of maximizing effiency in the weight room. Yea, there might be a perfect strategy to get stronger, build muscle, or more athletic, but it won’t work if you only have two hours per week to train or an eight-week off-season. Here are Eric’s 7 Ways to Make your Strength Training Programs more Efficient.

This past week, I hit a huge milestone and had my first article on CNN and Huffington post. I’ve been writing for DailyBurn and they were kind enough to recommend the article to CNN and voila… I was on CNN and Momma Bach was proud. Check out the Seven Best Exercises You’re Not Doing. If you’re struggling with your muscle building workouts or performance in the gym add these to jump-start your training.

Authority Nutrition is chalk full of awesome research based nutrition advice. In 8 Ridiculous Nutrition Myths Debunked some of the most imcompetent nutritional advice is taken to the grave.

 

That’s a wrap for this week. Enjoy your Halloween, as I plan to hand out Epic Bars and dress up like a slice of bacon. Dressing up like a slice of bacon means willing Halloween…right?

Photo on 10-17-14 at 2.48 PM

 

Discover the Fat Loss Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

Fat Loss Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

Over the past week, I’ve received a number of inquiries regarding intermittent fasting. It was due to my recent blog “My Training Principals” that got a few people interested. Read that here.

I figured it was appropriate to delve more into the world of intermittent fasting and enlighten you guys on what it all entails. I wanted to go a bit deeper on this one…

 

Intermittent Fasting isn’t a diet. You aren’t counting points. You don’t cut food groups from your diet and you don’t need to reference any era (i.e. Paleolithic, or the mythical era during the reign of Morador and Gondor). In the most  simple explanation all you’re doing is eating during a specific time frame throughout the day/week and choosing not to eat during the remaining time.

There are a couple of ways to do this.

The first would be considered the Lean Gains approach (16 hour fast, 8 hour feast) which was pioneered by Martin Berkhan. Simply put, all you do is eat during a specific time period of the day . For example you start eating at noon and finish eating at 8.  That is an 8 hour feastingwindow. The remainder would be a 16 hour fasting window.

Just so we are on the same page you technically already do this, just in reverse. Here’s an example

  • 6:00 am: You wake up
  • EAT ALL DAY
  • 10:00 pm: You go to bed

You were in a feasting window for 16 hours. You fasted (slept) for 8.

(It’s also acceptable to have a 6 hour or even a 4 hour feasting window.)

The second would be the Eat Stop Eat approach by Brad Pilon. He simply suggests that you take 1-2 24 hour periods off from eating throughout the week.

The 24 hour period doesn’t mean you will miss a whole day of eating. If you finish eating at 7 pm on Monday you can eat again on 7 pm Tuesday. This method will give you the benefits of fasting without the need to stop eating for an entire day.

Brad provides you with in-depth research about metabolism and overall general health in his book. I highly recommend you read it.

 

How does Intermittent Fasting Work?

Think of it this way. When you eat food your body spends the next couple of hours processing that food. Due to the fact that it’s immediately available in your blood stream (sugar) your body uses that as energy rather than your fat stores.

If you’re fasting your body doesn’t have any “food” or energy to use so it pulls it from your fat stores rather from the glucose in your blood stream or the glycogen from your muscles and liver.

Here’s a great write up from Steve over at NERD Fitness 

Why does this work?  Our bodies react to energy consumption (eating food) with insulin production.  Essentially, the more sensitive your body is to insulin, the more likely you’ll be to use the food you consume efficiently, which can help lead to weight loss and muscle creation.

Along with that, your body is most sensitive to insulin following a period of fasting

Your glycogen (a starch stored in your muscles and liver that your body can burn as fuel when necessary) is depleted during sleep (fasting), and will be depleted even further during training, which can further increase insulin sensitivity. This means that a meal immediately following your workout will be stored most efficiently: mostly as glycogen for muscle stores, burned as energy immediately to help with the recovery process, with minimal amounts stored as fat. 

Compare this to a regular day (no intermittent fasting).  With insulin sensitivity at normal levels, the carbs and foods consumed will see full glycogen stores, enough glucose in the blood stream, and thus be more likely to get stored as fat.

Not only that, but growth hormone is increased during fasted states (both during sleep and after a period of fasting).  Combine this increased growth hormone secretion, the decrease in insulin production (and thus increase in insulin sensitivity), and you’re essentially priming your body for muscle growth and fat loss with intermittent fasting.

This in a nutshell is why you would IF.

 

Why were we told to eat 5-6 meals a day?

You, your parents, me, Tim Tebow, and even the guys from The Hangover were all told that you must eat 5-6 meals a day or eat every 2-3 hours.

Here are some of the main reasons why we were taught this:

  1. It will keep the body’s metabolism up, thus increasing thermogenesis (fat burning), resulting in weight loss.
  2. Eating 6 small healthy meals a day you will decrease your appetite and hunger. This may help some dieters control hunger and calorie intake.
  3. It helps balance your blood sugar.

Sooo, these all seem to be pretty valid points. Right?

Not so fast my friend

lee-corso1

Let’s Tackle These One by One

#1. Supposedly eating 5-6 meals a day will rev up your body’s metabolism thus creating a fat burning furnace allowing you to lose weight.

Sounds good in theory and I believed this for a very long time. As more time has gone by and more studies have been done it just doesn’t have much validity.

Here’s one study that states that it’s not true and here’s another study that shows no evidence that eating 6 meals a day increases metabolism, thermogenesis or weight loss.

This last study further proves the point.

Simply put, if eating 6 meals a day were to put you in a fat burning zone it would be so minuscule that it really wouldn’t make a difference.

#2.  Eating 6 small meals a day will decrease your appetite and hunger.

Once again it sounds great. From my understanding: If you frequently eat you’ll be fuller throughout the day so the next time you eat you won’t eat as much because you just ate and now you feel full? Is that right?

Here’s a study that shows no hunger suppressing affect.

Hopefully more research is done in regards to hunger and appetite as it’s pretty scarce.

#3. We have been told that it can help balance your blood sugar levels. Now this, my friend, would probably be the biggest, most important one of them all.

The theory is your blood sugar levels spike so eating quality foods frequently will keep them level throughout the day. This in turn would help keep you lean and functioning properly.

Here’s a study discussing your blood glucose during a run after a fed state and a fasted state. And another interesting study showing that blood sugar is maintained during a 48 hour fast.

This study shows that it takes roughly 84 hours of fasting before our glucose levels are adversely affected.

Disclaimer: This doesn’t mean people can’t be lean, look good and feel healthy if they eat 6 meals a day. It’s just stating what you’ve been taught or told might not really be true or there are easier ways in which you don’t have to obsess over packing your meals or spending every 2-3 hours eating.

Why Intermittent Fast?

Well, here are a couple of reasons why you should take a look a this approach

1. It’s easy. You don’t have to worry so much about always eating. You can still pack food and prepare like you normally would but you won’t have to stress about eating every 2-3 hours.

2. There is a high probability that you will lose weight and body fat. These approaches have provided phenomenal results for thousands of people looking to get rid of body fat.

3. All of these reasons from my previous blog and read this:

  • It increases growth hormone production. Studies have shown it raises growth hormone levels in both men and women.
  • It normalizes your insulin and leptin sensitivity. Insulin and Leptin are hormones that play a crucial role in energy production and fat storage. If both of these are normalized it can regulate your blood sugar levels, which can prevent type two diabetes and potential weight gain.
  • It reduces inflammation. Chronic inflammation has been linked to cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Inflammation is your body’s natural response to threats from germs, harmful toxins, environmental pollutants, injury, stress, and other things.
  • It helps with appetite control. Ghrelin is an enzyme produced by stomach lining cells that stimulates your appetite. By fasting ghrelin becomes more stable helping you keep your hunger in check.
  • It can possibly improve gut bacteria. A healthy gut is one of the most important things you can do to improve your immune system so you won’t get sick, or get coughs, colds and flus. You will sleep better, have more energy, have increased mental clarity and concentrate better. A healthy gut can also help you get lean.

Intermittent Fasting Guidelines

  • Do the best you can to avoid calories during a fast. Drink coffee, green tea or water and avoid calorie filled drinks i.e. gatorade, soda, juice during the fasting period
  • BCAA’s can be beneficial during your fasting periods to help with muscle growth and repair.
  • Try and keep your feeding period consistent. If you eat from 12-8 do your best to keep that regular.
  • Be active, don’t sit and think about food. You shouldn’t do this anyways but while fasted keep busy.
  • Cycle your macronutrients. For example, some days you might go higher carbs other days you might go lower carbs. Base it off of your activity during that particular day (more activity more carbs)
  • Don’t binge. When your feasting window is open this doesn’t give you the green light to shove anything and everything down your throat. Eat quality food and eat until you are full.

Where to Start?

This is the million dollar question.

Figure out which works best for you. Some people like the Lean Gain approach because it fit’s there overall lifestyle while others love the simplicity of Eat Stop Eat. Either way figure out a feasting window that will give you an opportunity to eat a few meals. Once you have the schedule set start by making small changes.

Slowly work your feasting window down to an eight hour window and see how your body feels. Everyone is different as some people have a difficult time initially. Others, jump right into it without much of a problem.

Remember this is a lifestyle and something that you can do the rest of your life. You still need to eat clean, exercise often and most importantly get plenty of sleep. If you don’t do these three things then intermittent fasting won’t be effective.

Give it a shot and let me know how it goes!

About the Author:

Dave Dreas is a certified personal trainer in Phoenix, AZ. He is the creator of ModestlyRefined.com and co-owner of Arizona Training Lab. As a former All American College basketball player, he spent years in the strength and conditioning world working with collegiate and professional strength coaches. He is currently a MuscleTech Sponsored Athlete and Reebok Ambassador. For more information he can be found at modestlyrefined.com.

AN IMPORTANT NOTE

People who have issues with blood sugar regulation, suffer from hypoglycemia, or have diabetes should speak to a doctor before Intermittent Fasting. Other categories of people that should avoid Intermittent Fasting include those living with chronic stress and those with cortisol dysregulation. If you fit into these categories I highly recommend you check with your doctor or dietitian before adjusting your eating schedule.

Have done IF? If so, I’d love to hear about your experiences. Drop by Facebook and tell us about it!

Seven Laws of Building Athletic Muscle

I almost quit.

Twice.

I failed as an athlete trying to build athletic muscle and as a college meathead trying to re-establish some semblance of athleticism. I wasn’t’ happy with my porous results and I wouldn’t be happy unless I had the best of both worlds—being athletic and muscular. Not one, not the other, but both. What’s the point in being a muscle bound sluggish Ogre or lacking confidence?

There’s more to building athletic muscle than deadlifts and lifting weights. Instead of being ripe with dysfunction and scrawny you must ditch the old school “body-part splits,” “insanity workouts,” and “ the Westside or Die” mentality. There’s no perfect recipe.

Forget these tools, they’re only a method of training. What’s needed are sound principles to make real change and get things done. Your body should exude confidence in your abilities and perform in the world, not just the platform. These seven things will build explosiveness, lean muscle, shred body fat, and boost your confidence.

sprints, building athletic muscle
Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/rethwill/8752384617/

1.)  Movement is a Must

The most common tip to become a better athlete is “get stronger.” This is important, but sports are more about movement than being strong. An over-emphasis on building strength is as dangerous as minimizing it. Without a base of movement it doesn’t matter how strong you are, inefficiencies in movement will hold back your high performance training. Sports occur with jumps, throws, sprints, cuts, hops, and reactive movement, not barbells and dumbbells.

Besides, sprints keep your fast twitch muscles firing on all cylinders and maintain explosiveness as you age. Perform jumps and throws before workouts. Sprint and do change of direction drills two or three times per week to keep you athletic and lean.

2.) Build a base of strength

There are multiple types of strength, but we’re focusing on absolute and relative strength.

Relative Strength is the amount of strength relative to body size. This reflects a person’s ability to control or move their body through space. All else being equal, smaller individuals have higher relative strength.

Absolute Strength is the maximum amount of force exerted regardless of muscle or body size. Greater amounts of absolute strength favor those with higher bodyweight and in general, larger individuals.

Building a base of strength improves relative strength (when size is in check) and improves your ability to generate force.

building athletic muscle
Building Athletic muscle require heavy lifting

Why this matters:

You want a body that performs as well as it looks. Both absolute strength and relative strength are needed for high-performance gains. Greater relative strength can be driven up by greater absolute strength and tested through activities that require moving the body through space—jumps, chin-ups, sprints, and bodyweight movements in sport.

Plus, you’ll increase nervous system activation, leading too:

1.  Increases muscle fiber recruitment: the number of muscle fibers being recruited.

2.  Increases speed of rate coding: the speed at which the body sends electrical signals to the muscles.

These both lead to greater adaptation and improvements in workout performance and help you build lean muscle. Build your strength base, it improves your ability to build lean muscle, strength, boosts your endurance, and shreds body fat.

3.) Progressive overload

I hate to break it to you, but squats, cleans, presses, pulls and lunges are still the best for building lean muscle and strength. Too maximize these exercises you must progressively overload the body. That means add weight, decrease rest, and increase training volume. Push your body beyond its abilities or you won’t grow. Get comfortable being uncomfortable or get left behind.

4.) Keep Isolation Isolated

By isolation exercises I’m referring to the typical bodybuilder exercises: lateral raises, biceps curls, and the like. Except for a few exercises at the end of your workouts these isolation exercises are inefficient and a waste of time. They’re a piece of the puzzle for building muscle, but everything has its place. With a limited amount of time to train you’re better off building strength and explosiveness. Get strong, and then worry about isolation, as it’s needed. For others use isolation as it’s needed to prevent injury and improve movement. Here I’m referring to your rotator cuff exercises, activation exercises in your hips and trunk and the like. Make them a piece of the puzzle, but not the main focus of your workouts.

5.) Pride, Passion, and Perseverance.

“Pride, passion, and perseverance.”

“Pride, passion, and perseverance.”

I remember my High-School Football coach preaching these terms over, and over, and over again. I used to think he was full of shit, but he’s right. These three terms are vital to your success on and off the field.

Pride to put your best foot forward and pursue your goals no matter the circumstances. Passion to be relentless and put in the time when no-one is working. Perseverance to push through plateaus and struggles that will occur. Attacking training with pride, passion, and perseverance is imperative to building athletic muscle.

“Knowing” what to do is great, but it won’t get you results. Put in the work!

6.) Exercise Risk/Reward

Everything is a tool and requires a risk-reward analysis.

building athletic muscle
Sorry, this won’t help you unless you’re training for the circus

The behind-the-neck overhead press is a great muscle builder, but creates shoulder impingement and dysfunction in lots of individuals. Is the trade-off worth it?

No. Each exercise is a tool, not the end-all-be-all. There are dozens of exercises to train the same muscles, pick a better option.

7.) De-loading Exercise

Train all you want, but without an emphasis on recovery you’ll end up beat up, weak, and un-athletic.

Training hard is rarely the missing piece for progress. That title goes to recovery, the vital component that most athletes neglect. Intense exercise causes tons of stress: joint & ligament stress, muscular damage, neural fatigue, and hormone disruption are all factors that must be taken into account and is highly individualized to each athlete. Beginners may be able to go for months without backing down; however, advancing athletes require individually specialized programs to maximize training gains. De-load, do recovery workouts, use soft-tissue therapies and contrast showers for better recovery.

Building Athletic Muscle Wrap Up

There’s more to building muscle and being athletic than your strength numbers. Get off the platform and into the world. You have to move, move well, and move often in a variety of ways. You have a finite amount of resources for training; pick exercises wisely, train hard, and be persistent. There you have it. These principles are key for building athletic muscle without turning you into a bloated ball of fail.

 

About:Eric Bach, CSCS, PN1 is a strength coach at Steadman Hawkins Sports Performance in Denver, Colorado. As an author Eric has been featured in publications such as T-Nation, eliteFTS, and the PTDC. He is the owner of Bach Performance where he coaches clients to take control of their lives, helping them become stronger, shredded, and more athletic. Get your Free Ebook 101 Tips to Jacked and Shredded Here.Athletic Muscle Building

FACEBOOK: www.facebook.com/bachperformance/
TWITTER: twitter.com/Eric_Bach

P.S.

If you want all of this programmed into a workout to finally build the body you desire join Bach Performance Online Coaching today. I’ve got a ton of projects coming an awesome things for you coming up, so stay tuned and join the Bach Performance community for exclusive offers and updates.

Join us now at Bach Performance.com 

Have a tip to add? Drop the Comment Here, I’d love to see it!

 

photo credit: oscarandtara via photopin cc

Complex Pair Training: PAP Explained

I’m officially half of a Complex Pair– married, tan, and still awful at Spanish…which didn’t work out well with the taxi drivers in Mexico. All in all I was in Mexico and Minneapolis for the better part of two weeks getting married and honeymooning. Everything was great as I used the time to enjoy time with my wife, refresh my mind, and rest my body with cheese-cake, push-ups, and cervezas.

Note: (As a result, I felt like a ball of fail and was kindly greeted by double leg cramps during squats today.)

complex pair, pap, Complex Pair training

Fitness is an industry…

filled with trends and troughs. Some fancy-pants method pops into the limelight and becomes THE magical way to rapid results and then magically disappears overnight. Only the time-tried and best methods last long-term.

Case in point, Complex pair training.

Also known as Post Activation Potentiation (P.A.P.), complex pair training is an advanced method that utilizes a light, explosive movement (i.e. speed: Jumping) paired with a heavy movement ( heavy squat, >80% 1-RM) to increase nervous system activation, strength, and total power.

Sounds pretty badass, right? It is, but it’s also very advanced; requiring planning and some beastmode skills to maximize it.

post-activation potentiation, PAP, complex pairs, Complex Pair training
Still some power in those hops!

Today I’m sharing my own spectacular iteration on complex pair training on Elitefts. For advanced athletes complex training provides a great recipe to shatter plateaus in athletic, strength, and muscular development. Plus, there’s a bomb-diggity complex pair workout program included.

Complex Pair Training: What you need to know:

  1. Post-Activation Potentiation is the driving force behind the benefits of complex pair training.
  2. Complex-pair training can improve power and rate of force development (RFD).
  3. Complex training works best in trained, advanced level athletes. Unless you can move a decent amount of weight, this isn’t for you. If this is you, then stop watching Miley Cyrus twerkin’ it, go pick up heavy stuff, and raid the fridge.
  4. Adding five pounds to the bar each workout might work when you’re a rookie, but not once you’ve advanced as a trainee.

Long-term gains aren’t achieved solely by linear workouts. Soon, your linear periodization and small to medium T-shirts no longer get the job done.

You’ve hit the dreaded plateau…

Luckily, there are numerous strategies to bust through your current levels of strength, power, and muscular development. The time has come to add strategically designed training to stimulate new gains.

Enter complex-pair training—an advanced training strategy to add spring to your static training, produce new slabs of muscle, and develop a powerful physique.

This advanced strategy combines a high-intensity strength training exercise followed by an explosive exercise that mimics the biomechanics of the strength training exercise, such as a deadlift and a broad jump. The driving force behind complex training is a phenomenon known as post-activation potentiation.

 

What Is Post-Activation Potentiation? Click me and Find out 🙂

Master Pull-Ups: Eight Tips To Pulling Prowess

Most everyone craves an athletic, cut physique but they fail to master the basic, multi-joint exercises that work best.

Case in point—Pull-ups. “But wait, all you have to do is grab the bar and pull your body, and chin to the bar…right?”

Not so fast.

Many dudes do “pull-ups”, but few master pull-ups, neglecting to do them properly or enough to build significant strength, muscle, or upper-body training balance despite the popularity of imaginary lat syndrome (medical abbreviation: ILS). The dichotomy between real results and and over-inflated I.L.S. strutting egos is terrifying. No upper body exercise is a better measure of relative physical strength than the pull-up, and it is grossly neglected. If you can’t do a proper pull-up you’re looking at an obvious mish-mash of issues that need fixing: you need to improve your strength, improve the push-pull balance in your training, and lose some fat. Therefore, the goal of this article is to review pull-up variations, execution and share he best tips to master pull-ups.

Whether you’ve mastered pull-ups with additional weight or have yet to do your first pull-up you owe it to yourself and your collection pre-shrunk t-shirts to expand your pull-up repertoire and become a vertical pulling beast. The benefits are huge. You’ll build a bigger and healthier upper body. You’ll add slabs of muscle to your lats, traps, forearms, and bicep.  Plus,  “I heard” knocking out pull-ups like a champ improves awesomeness %1,000 and makes Meg Griffin Mila Kunis swoon over you.

 Convinced yet? I thought so.

Master Pull-Ups with these Pull-Up Variations:

The pull-up is performed with the palms pronated, or facing away from you. The pull-up places a greater emphasis on the rhomboids, traps and lats as well as the brachialis and brachioradialis muscles. Chin-ups are performed with your palms facing you, known as supinated. This grip is typically easier than a pull-up and emphasizes the biceps more. Still great for training the lats, this is one of the best exercises for building big arms. Parallel grip pull-ups, known as the neutral grip, are performed with the palms facing each other. Neutral grip pull-ups are the easiest and safest of the three grip variations. The neutral grip is easiest on the wrist, shoulder, and elbow joints and is the most common pull-up among Bach Performance clients.

How to perform Pull-Ups

Most pull-ups are executed with half-extended arms and a full body seizure in effort to get the chest to the bar. Don’t be the idiot who only cares about rep quantity. Instead, master the quality. An exercise is only as effective as it’s execution. Start by grabbing the bar with your arms extended and shoulders retracted. Keep tension in the bottom position, avoiding  the relaxed, dead hang position. The dead hang position is best avoided as it places additional stress on the shoulders and elbows. It won’t bother you immediately, but long-term pulling from the dead-hang is problematic for consistent, long-term training. To master pull-ups squeeze the glutes to avoid over-arching the lower back while pulling the elbows down, bringing the chest to the bar and actively depressing your scapulae, finishing with your chin to the bar. Lower yourself under control, maintaining tension during the eccentric before repeating for desired reps. Can’t do Pull-Ups? Read “How to Do Pull-Ups” below: Part 1 Part 2

Breakdown:

1.)  Select grip and width

2.)  Hold the bar with tension maintained in the lats and shoulders while squeezing glutes.

3.)  Drive the elbows down, pulling the elbows to neutral. 

4.)  Depress your scapulae and pull your chin over the bar.

5.)  Lower your body under control, fully extending the arms.

6.)  Maintain tension and repeat for prescribed reps.

7.) Here’s  a Fantastic video by Eric Cressey to help clean up your chin-up. Prepare to have your mind-blown. ===> Clean up your Chin Up

Eight Tips to Master Pull-Ups

1.) Drive the elbows down

You’ve seen it, a few “bros” barely extending the arms for sets of herky-jerky quarter-rep pull-ups. It’s as ineffective as it is stupid looking. Without extending the arms most tension is kept in the forearms and to a lesser extent, the biceps. Unfortunately, this limited range of motion fails to fully incorporate the lats. Pull with the elbows to build some serious wings and a well-developed back.

2.) Stop Spastic Reps

Yes, I mean swinging and kipping, the sacred cow of Crossfit. This isn’t a pull-up. Kipping is a difficult, technical lift to rapidly accelerate the body to the bar and back down. Unfortunately, this rapid swing and subsequent rapid deceleration places tons of stress on the shoulders and elbows. It’s a technical skill that requires practice, but unless you’re competing in Crossfit competitions you’re better off mastering pull-ups, real pull-ups. Oh, and don’t do this either:

3.) Challenge Your Grip

Get strong from all positions and use various grips and tools—Fat Gripz, off-set grips, rings, towels, baseballs, wide, narrow, supinated, neutral, and pronated grips. You have no reason to be weak–Get strong pulling from various angles and modalities to minimize weak-points.

4.) Resisted Sets

Chin-Ups are best programmed like any other compound lift, with progressive overload and eventually external resistance. Keep in mind heavy, near maximal sets are extremely taxing on your nervous system, so intelligent programming and appropriate rest periods are a must. Train for strength with weighted sets between 2-6 reps, shooting to equal your chin up max (bodyweight+ external resistance) with your bench press max–Very difficult to do, but those who get close are jacked, athletic, and weight-room bad-asses.

5.) High Rep Sets

If you’re looking to build muscle, increase local muscular endurance for a sport like climbing, or “shock” your system into massive hypertrophy then high-rep pull-ups belong in your repertoire. If you do fewer than 5 pull-ups use a thick band for band-assisted pull-ups and to get the necessary training volume. If you’re a pull-up boss, able to knock out 10+ at a time with great form then try this drop-set:

  1. Pull-Ups (wider than shoulders, pronated grip) for 3-5 reps. Rest 15 seconds
  2. Neutral Grip Pull-Ups (shoulder width, neutral grip) for 3-5 reps. Rest 15 seconds
  3. Chin Ups (shoulder width, supinated grip) for 3-5 reps. Rest 90 seconds

Repeat this for two to four work sets, avoiding muscular failure until chin-ups at the end.

6.) Ditch the Dead-hang

Relaxing the shoulders and arms at the bottom of pull-ups removes muscular tension and places all the stress on the ligaments and tendons of the elbows and shoulders—recipe for future dysfunction and injury. Long-term vertical pulling is great for upper body strength and stability, when done correctly. I’ve found clients that stick with the “dead-hang” position are more prone to shoulder and elbow issues than those who stay slightly retracted. pull up positioning, deadhang pull-up, master pull-ups

Dead-hang position (left) versus slightly retracted (right)

7.) Lose Fat

Unless you need the additional bulk for sport or improving your powerlifting total, dropping  body fat will improve health, performance, and your chances with the Mila Kunis (maybe).  Few exercises test and build relative strength like the pull-up, dropping a few pounds will instantly boost your numbers, improve your ability to train with high volume, and help you master pull-ups.

8.) High Frequency Training

Think back to when you first started riding a bike: When you took off your training wheels you struggled right away and probably took a digger, and scrapped your knee. It wasn’t until you practiced over, and over again that you become proficient. The same persistence is required as you seek to master pull-ups. To make rapid improvements you need high frequency training. Training two pull-up variations per week will help you master Pull-Ups due to improved neural efficiency, muscular strength, size, and endurance. Train one workout per week with high reps and one workout with an emphasis on heavier resistance and lower reps. In both cases avoid failure—this only develops poor technique and zaps your nervous system. If you struggle to do many reps take 50-75% of max reps and do smaller, technically perfect sets, like four rep sets instead of eight. Practice doesn’t make perfect; rather, perfect practice makes perfect.  

Wrap Up

It doesn’t take complicated exercises nor “super-advanced” programming to build a strong, shredded, athletic body– it takes hard work and mastering the basics. Pull heavy, pull light, pull frequently, and pull correctly to  master your pull-ups—they’re a vital tool for building upper body health, strength, and mass.
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