Pull-ups, one of the oldest exercises. It’s a pretty simple concept, grab onto something, a bar, a tree branch, an unusually tall friend, and using your upper body strength pull yourself up.
Let me ask you something when the last time you did a pull-up was? They are freaking hard!! Honest to god if you have any amount of weight on your frame and you aren’t consistently training pull-ups there is no way you’re going to be able to haul your ass up that bar more than a handful of times at best. What would your great great great great grandfather think of you?
That’s not a situation we can let stand; pull-ups have a massive variety of benefits from being one of the most comprehensive back exercises to reversing the poor posture caused by being hunched over a computer all day. There is no good reason any self-respecting man cant bust out some pull-ups, or save himself in an emergency by pulling himself out of danger.
Alright, let’s get into the nitty-gritty, what you’re going to need. First, off something to pull on, I recommend a pull-up bar like this one, You can also go for a couple of different outdoor styles depending on if you want to go freestanding or wall mounted. I use this pull-up bar and then hang gymnastic rings from it, but that is a whole other level of difficulty you can progress to later I’m just crazy.
Honestly, a tree branch, a wall, a door frame, anything you can grip onto will work in a pinch, pick whatever fits your situation and let’s get going.
Now, pull-ups can be tough when starting, if you can’t perform a single one or if your only able to do one or two, you need to do negatives. This is where you jump to the top of the pull-up and lower yourself down through the range of motion. This lets you build the strength to do one, without being able to do one. The guide for proper pull-up form is linked here by strong lifts; it goes into proper form, grip, etc. for pull-ups and chin-ups.
That should start you down the path to becoming a pull-up machine, now let’s look to the future of pull-ups. Or more accurately the past, and how it holds the key to revolutionizing our bodies.
Part of the reason pull-ups are so essential today is we are front side dominant, walk into any gym and you will see endless guys repping out pushups, bench-pressing, and just generally focusing on getting “Big.” Walk into any corporate office (They are getting better with the advent of stand up desks) and you will see people hunched over their computers for eight hours. This leads to the classic rounded back, pulled forward head, and pain lots and lots of pain.
Pull-ups help us balance our bodies out, bringing us closer to “Optimal Human.” Ever imagine our ancestors running around the plains like the hunchback of Norte Dame? NO!! Because they did their freaking pull-ups.
Now saying they did their pull-ups may be a bit off, they didn’t find a perfectly shaped tree branch that was nice and flat and then performing sets of 15 clean, precise pull-ups before walking off for dinner or to find a lovely lady. They lived and moved in a dynamic and ever-changing environment; it was more like scramble up a tree for a better vantage point or scaling a cliff and some boulders tracking game.
Humans for several hundred thousand years (And these guys would be indistinguishable from modern humans) lived and thrived in this environment. You have that potential within you, imagine being able to move in a fluid and controlled way over some of the roughest terrain on the planet, smoothly scaling cliffs, climbing over dead logs, pulling yourself up trees to scout. Think of the coordination, the control, the raw strength required for those feats performed every day by our ancestors and by some rare people today.
Take a look at this video
This is Erwan Le Corre, a French movement expert and the author of The Practice of Natural Movement: Reclaim Power, Health, and Freedom” rel=”noopener noreferrer”>The Practice of Natural Movement. A book focused on moving and working out in a way congruent with our distant past.
When I picked up a copy and started trying out some of the basic movements, I was astounded. First off by how freaking hard, they were and second by how weak and uncoordinated I was. My body could not move dynamically, much less perform some of the pulling maneuvers such as pulling yourself on top of a log from a dead hang, give it a try it’s not easy.
Over time incorporating this type of training along with yoga, rock climbing, and stretching, I have noticed massive differences in not only my strength but also my coordination, flexibility, and the ability to perform complicated movements under load.
As I learn more I will make sure to keep you guys updated, for now, I leave you with a challenge. Why don’t you find out how capable you are? You might surprise yourself, here’s a copy of The Practice of Natural Movement: Reclaim Power, Health, and Freedom” rel=”noopener noreferrer”>the book and a pull-up bar. Good luck, you know what you need to do.
Wishing you the best of luck on your journey -Emmit
P.S. If you guys are interested in learning more about the capabilities of your bodies, keep your eyes open for my next blog post. It is all about saving your own life and it should be coming out later this week.