Category Archives: Pull-ups!

Advanced Muscle-ups

I know what you might be thinking, “Advanced muscle-ups? Aren’t muscle-ups already an advanced exercise?”

Yes, the muscle-up is a fairly advanced exercise by itself, but with practice, muscle-ups will eventually become manageable. That’s when it’s time to raise the bar!

Plyo Muscle-ups
If you know about plyometrics, it’s easy to figure out what a plyo muscle-up might look like. To do this move, keep pushing after you get to the top of your muscle-up and try to
get some hang time.

Muscle-overs
A muscle-over takes the plyo muscle-up to the next level. Instead of just getting a little hang time at the top, a muscle-over involves throwing your entire body over the bar. This is typically done by bouncing your hips off the bar at the top to get a little extra momentum (sometimes referred to as “casting off”). Psychologically, the muscle-over can be quite intimidating at first, but do not let your fear stop you from trying. If you can do a muscle-up and a vault, you can do a muscle-over.

Reverse Grip Muscle-up
Unlike the pull-up, which is typically easier with an underhand grip, performing a muscle-up with your palms facing towards you is much harder than with your palms facing away. In order to perform a reverse grip muscle-up, you need to generate a lot of explosive power by kipping from your hips and creating a large arc with your body as it moves over the bar. Since you can’t use a false grip when your palms are facing you, allow your palms to spin around the bar on the way up.

Circle Muscle-ups
The circle muscle-up begins like an archer pull-up. Once you get your chin over the bar, begin bending your straight arm and shifting your weight to the other side as you press your body all the way to the top. This move takes a lot of practice but if you are willing to put in the work, it is attainable.

Performing any of these moves requires strength, skill and grace. They’re all still works in progress for me. If you’ve read this far and you don’t know about the Bar-barians, check them out. I made up some of these names for moves but I didn’t make up the moves themselves. Make sure you’re comfortable with how to do a muscle-up before trying these advanced progressions.

Watch the video below for more:

Muscle-ups on Rings

Last year, I posted a muscle-up tutorial that explained how to perform the muscle-up on a pull-up bar. Since then, several people have inquired about learning to perform this skill on gymnastics rings.

Performing muscle-ups on rings may at first seem a lot harder to someone who is used to doing the exercise on a bar, but once one acclimates to the subtle differences in technique, the disparity should balance out.

Why Do the Rings Seem Harder?

The main difference between the bar and the rings is that the rings add a stability component. The other big difference is that because the rings are not in a fixed position, they allow you to rotate your wrists as you pull yourself up and over. While this may seem like an added challenge at first, the rotation actually makes the move less difficult.

The False Grip
While utilizing a false grip to perform a muscle-up on a bar is helpful, using the false grip to muscle-up on rings is essential.

A false grip involves cocking your wrist and putting your hand through the ring, so that the tip of your ulna (the bottom bone in your forearm) is in contact with the ring. This will likely feel uncomfortable at first. (You may get some bruising on your wrists, consider using wraps if it is an issue.)

The Technique

As you pull yourself up, think about bringing the rings towards your armpits and reaching your legs forward. Once the rings are below your shoulders, begin pushing your chest and shoulders in front of your hands while rotating your wrists so your knuckles wind up pointing towards the ground. From there, simply press yourself up, just like you would if you were doing a dip.

Watch the video below for more:

Thanks to Nimble Fitness for letting me shoot in their facility.

The One Arm Chin-up (May 2010)

The one arm chin-up has been my favorite feat of strength since the first time I ever saw one performed. It’s a beautiful display of strength, power and control. Anyone who can do a one arm chin-up has automatically earned my respect, for to perform this move takes discipline, patience and determination.

No matter how strong you are, you simply cannot acquire this skill without lots and lots of practice. In previous posts, I’ve discussed some effective techniques to utilize while training for one arm chin-ups , like the archer pull-up and one arm negatives.

Last fall I was still working towards getting a single one arm pull-up. Now, after nearly 3 years of working on this move, I’ve finally gotten to the point where I can do two in a row!

Check out the video below for evidence that if you set your mind to something and dedicate yourself to it, you can make it a reality.

Kipping Pull-ups to Failure

As you may already be aware, pull-ups are my favorite exercise! I’m also all about training to failure–so for me, doing pull-ups to failure is a no-brainer.

However, like all exercises, there are infinite variations on the pull-up; some allow for a greater total number of reps than others. One such variation is the (often controversial) kipping pull-up.

Since my recent dead hang pull-up contest with my brother Danny, I have been curious to see how many pull-ups I could manage using the kipping technique.

We’ve finally been getting some nice weather here in NYC (not that weather has ever stopped me from exercising outdoors.), so I took to the park to challenge myself by doing one set of kipping pull-ups to failure.

Watch the clip below to see how it went:

Dead Hang Pull-ups w/ Danny Kavadlo

Danny and IIf you’ve ever had a pull-up contest (or been asked to judge one), then you know how hard it is to ensure fairness. There are a lot of things to consider, such as technique, range of motion, hand placement, grip, etc.

I’ve heard a lot of people boast about how many pull-ups they can do only to find out that what they count as a rep is barely half the range of motion.

Last month, when I took the 20 pull-up challenge, a few readers even criticized me for “cheating.”

Using the dead hang pull-up is one way to make sure everyone is on the same page.

A dead hang pull-up involves fully locking out the elbows at the bottom of every rep. No momentum is involved during a proper dead hang pull-up. It’s a total 180 from the kipping pull-up.

I stopped by to see my brother Danny last week at his gym (he’s the personal training manager at NYHRC’s flagship location on 23rd street), and we decided to have an impromptu dead hang pull-up contest.

I went first, making sure to proceed slowly and deliberately between reps. Danny went second, and seemed more focused on trying to beat my number, rather than doing every rep with total precision.

Alas, I feel as though our pull-up contest ended ambiguously, but we both got a great workout, so in that sense we’re both winners.

Watch the video below to see for yourself:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O9pofy0WWWk


For more information about muscle-ups, pick up a copy of my book, Raising The Bar: The Definitive Guide to Pull-up Bar Calisthenics.

Al Takes the 20 Pull-up Challenge!

Pull-upsAs you may know, pull-ups are my favorite exercise. So when I stumbled across the twenty pull-up challenge the other day, it was obvious to me what I needed to do.

For the purpose of this particular challenge, our pull-ups will be performed using an overhand grip on the bar, the legs will be kept straight and the movement will be performed with control.

There are lots of types of pull-ups, and I’m not usually a stickler, but I know some people are, so I’m hoping to avoid any confusion.

A couple months ago, I issued my own 50 pull-up challenge, but this challenge is different than that one. These twenty pull-ups must be done in one consecutive set.

I think that 20 consecutive pull-ups is an achievable goal for any able-bodied man out there. For women, 10 might be a more achievable goal. The potential to do incredible things is within all of us!

Watch the video below for more:


Update: One Year Later

I received some criticism on my first video from people who either claimed my grip was too narrow or that I didn’t complete a full range of motion. I took those criticsms to heart and made a new video:

All About Australian Pull-ups

Look Ma, no hands!

Look Ma, no hands!

Australian pull-ups are becoming a very popular exercise. Like all types of pull-ups (and all types of exercises for that matter) there are many different ways to do the Australian, and it can be incorporated into a number of different contexts within a workout.

Using the Australian for Beginners
I first mentioned this idea in my introduction to Australian pull-ups. If you aren’t strong enough to do a pull-up (this goes for you too, ladies), this a great way to start to build toward it. Once you can do 3 sets of 10 without struggling (something that shouldn’t take too long for any reasonably fit, dedicated individual), it won’t be long before a pull-up is within your grasp.

Trainer Tip:
The higher up the bar, the better the leverage. Of course, this is only true up until a certain point–once the bar is too high, then you’re just doing a regular pull-up!

Using the Australian in a Superset
The Australian pull-up is a great exercise to use as a superset with push-ups, since they work opposite muscle groups. You will get a great pump from doing this and it also allows you to keep your heart rate up. Due to the fact that you’re allowing certain muscles to rest while you are using others, you can maintain that elevated heart rate without burning out your muscles too quickly.

The Australian pull-up can also be used as a superset after the standard kind if you are trying to increase your reps on pull-ups.

Plyometric Australian Pull-up
I like to turn the Australian pull-up into a plyometric exercise by switching between overhand and underhand grips on alternating reps. You can also switch back and forth from a wide grip to a narrow grip in an explosive fashion to mix up this exercise with a plyometric spin.

The One Arm Australian Pull-up
Of course an Australian can be done with just one arm. This is another method to practice while building towards one arm pull-ups. Like any single limb movement, the one arm Australian pull-up requires a ton of core strength and stability. You can add an extra challenge by trying it on one leg also!

Watch the video below for more about Australian pull-ups:


For more information about pull-ups, pick up a copy of my book, Raising The Bar: The Definitive Guide to Pull-up Bar Calisthenics.

One Arm Australian Pull-ups and More!

When doing a one arm Australian pull-up, you are down under the bar

When you do a one arm Australian pull-up,
you wind up down under the bar!

Last month I gave you some tips to get started on building up to one arm pull-ups. Here are three more tools to have in your arsenal along the way.

The One Arm Australian

The one arm Australian pull-up is a worthwhile exercise in its own right, though it’s never been one of my favorites. However, it can be a useful tool to help build towards a classic one arm pull-up. Since at least one leg stays on the ground, it is a little easier to perform than a regular one arm pull-up.

When attempting the one arm Australian pull-up, concentrate on engaging your abs and your back muscles–don’t just focus on using your bicep strength. Remember that when you do a one arm Australian, it’s natural for your body to roll a little bit in the direction of you arm.

Keep your whole body tight when performing a one arm flex hang

Keep your whole body tight when performing a one arm flex hang


The One Arm Flex Hang

The flex hang, which involves holding your body at the top of a pullup position, is commonly used to build strengh and endurance in the upper body. Female marines are required to perform a flex hang in order to prove themselves worthy of that title.

The flex hang can also be performed using only one arm. At first, I recommend keeping your legs tucked close to your body as it will allow you to engage more core strength. As you get better you can try practicing with your legs extended.


Weighted Pull-ups
Weighted pull-ups are another great way to build the strength that you’ll need to perform a one arm pull-up. Just like the one arm pull-down, pick a weight that you are only able to get around 3 reps with. Going for a one rep max on this is also beneficial, but make sure that you are warmed up first!

Don’t assume that you need to be strong enough to pull double your body weight with two arms in order for it to carry over into a one arm pull. Once you can do weighted pull-ups with around 65-75% of your body weight, that will roughly translate into a one arm chin-up.

Keep in Mind
It’s important to mention when discussing one arm pull-ups (of any kind) that your secondary arm does not touch your primary arm in any way. It can be stiff against the body or it can be out in the air, but if you are holding your arm or wrist you are not doing a true one arm chin.

The one arm pull-up (or chin-up) is a very elusive move and requires a lot of patience, consistency, and dedication. So the question you need to ask yourself is this: How badly do you want it?

Watch this video for demonstrations and more!
httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pmiv4tkyxK8

The Kipping Pull-up (featuring Lenny Lefebvre)

Untitled 0 00 00-03 Sometimes a straight line isn’t the fastest way to get from point A to point B.

While pull-ups are typically performed by going straight up and down, the kipping pull-up creates an arc, rather than a straight line, as a means to quickly propel the body upward.

In sports, there are rarely slow controlled movements like conventional pull-ups; real life activities typically involve using the body as a whole. Kipping pull-ups are an explosive, dynamic exercise, turning the pull-up into more of a full-body exercise as opposed to just working the upper body.

Kipping pull-ups involve swinging your legs

Kipping pull-ups involve swinging your legs

Utilizing the kipping technique for pull-ups usually allows for more total reps, which is why some gym rats have referred to it as “cheating.” But I think that’s somewhat of a juvenile attitude.

Now don’t get me wrong, pull-up contests can be a lot of fun, and it’s okay to make stipulations as to what the guidelines of your particular contest are, but it’s a shame to write off a great performance tool like the kipping pull-up do to a narrow minded view of proper form.

While strict, controlled pull-ups are fantastic for body-building and strength training, kipping pull-ups are great in the context of high intensity conditioning and circuit training. They get your heart rate up and they allow you to share the workload amongst more muscles, as opposed to just isolating the upper back and arms. I think the best approach is to have room for both of these types of pull-ups in your workout regimen. Variety is what it’s all about.

Watch the video below for demonstrations and more:
httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s-NPBT3QCzE

Muscle-Ups!!

Muscle-ups are one of the most intense body-weight exercises ever. They work so many different muscles and will get your heart and lungs pumping as well.

What is a muscle-up, you may ask? It’s almost like a combination of two of my favorite exercises: the pull-up and the dip, but way more intense than either of those on their own!

Muscle-ups are a pretty advanced exercise so I recommend that before you even try to work up to one, you get to the point where you can do 15 consecutive pull-ups and 20 consecutive parallel bar dips.

Close up of the false grip.

Close up of the false grip.

When doing a muscle-up it is important to note that the most effective grip is different than a traditional pull-up grip. Muscle-ups are typically done using what’s called a “false grip” which involves putting your hand farther over the bar, so that your palms are facing the ground and your wrist is cocked when you are hanging. This allows you a smooth transition from the pull-up phase of the movement into the dip phase.

If you want to work towards doing muscle-ups, it’s helpful to practice trying to get as high up over the bar as you can when doing pull-ups. Explosive pull-ups where you let go at the top can also be used as a precursor to doing muscle-ups.

When you perform a muscle-up, think about moving your upper body away from the bar on the way up rather than pulling straight towards it. Once you clear the bar, move your chest over it as you press yourself to the top of the movement. The arc of the body will create an S-shape pattern.

See my other muscle-up tutorial and check out the video clip below for more!

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-9w-xS2AudA

And if you’ve already got the hang of muscle-ups, check out my article on advanced muscle-ups.