Pull ups

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  • #19146

    Until about 5 months back, I could not manage a single pull up. I progressed slowly using an assisted pull up machine until I could finally just about manage one. Then, as part of the 16 week mountaineering program, I decided to try the max strength pull up workouts described in TftNA. I have generally been using a pull up bar at home and in the gym I frequent where my arms are fully extended and I have to be on tip-toe to reach the bar. So far I have managed to do 2-3 pull ups in a set in the last workout wearing mountaineering boots and a weight vest with ~13 lbs of added weight. I’ve been feeling pretty good about myself. But here’s the problem – today, I was in a different gym, which had an assisted pull up machine. I folded back the bar that your feet rest on when doing assisted pull ups. In this case, when hanging from the handholds I was ~ 2 feet off the ground and felt like my arms were hyper-extended, and I could not get my chin up to my hands, even without a weight vest. Pretty deflating, because I got no sense that in my previous efforts at home or the other gym that I was boosting myself with my feet. Any suggestions for how to deal with this issue would be appreciated!

  • Participant
    saschroeder on #19175

    I have also had the same issue… I can do pull ups when I can reach the bar from the ground but struggle when I can’t!

    Anonymous on #19241

    First of all: Congratulations on making such great progress in your pull ups. That shows what a proper focus in your training can do. I would not be overly concerned about what you experienced recently. Here is why.

    Getting started from a dead hang in pull ups poses a special problem. In the dead hang position your shoulders are fully extended and not stable. In general this is not a great position for your shoulders to carry a bunch of load and can have potential injury complications if you over load the joint in this position.

    Rather than hang from fully extended shoulders Trying hanging from a position where your shoulder blades are retracted down and toward your spine. To get the feel of this I suggest hangin with shoulders relaxed and extended then working on retracting your shoulder blades then returniNG to the extended position. Repeat just this motion to help learn this new movement. It may takes some practice to get the hang 🙂 of this shoulder retraction drill. But the retracted shoulder is a much more stable and stronger joint to impose this big load through.

    Doing pull ups from an extended shoulder should only be done by athletes who have very strong shoulders who can stabilize the joint safely and even then it is not wise to do this often. Shoulder injuries are not worth doing this party trick.


    NandaDevi on #19243

    Thanks very much for the feedback, Scott! Wow, I had no idea it would make such a difference with a dead hang. Regarding the shoulder retraction, is there a video link that you know of that shows the motion from relaxed shoulder hang to retracted shoulder blades? Are my arms straight during this process, or bent at the elbows? Thanks again!

    NandaDevi on #19255

    Scott, I think you were referring to the motion in these clips?

    cam.kelley04 on #19259


    It’s also called “scap pulls” or scap pullups. I’ve always done them like any other exercise for shoulder stabilization, but do them with your own moderation. Like Scott said, the deadhang can be harmful for weak shoulders, but this is one way, maybe with the assisted machine to build the base strength for your shoulder.

    NandaDevi on #19261

    cam.kelley04, thanks for the link!

    Anonymous on #19299

    Great posts everyone. Thanks.

    @Nanda Devi:
    Yes these videos show the exact exercise. Scapula Retraction is the technical term for this. That retracted scapula position is the stable position in which this rather floppy joint is best able to handle big loads. Scapular winging (where the medial end of the the scapulas stand out from the ribs) is a sign of weak shoulder.

    If you struggle with doing this scapular retraction in a pull up position start with in inclined pull up position. This can be done with a bar in a squat rack or with rings or TRX straps. It is a very good general shoulder strengthening exercise for climbers.


    NandaDevi on #19638

    Thanks for the suggestions, Scott!

    government218 on #34897

    When taking the Alpine Combine Test do you have to stay on the pull-up bar the whole time? Meaning, are you done once you drop or can you drop, shake out your arms and then remount the bar until 60 seconds is up?

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