This post was triggered with all the work I have been doing with Nicholas Evans at E-Physiotherapy around the shoulder and its movement and correcting and strengthening it.
I want to give you some advice to get the most out of your training and the use of the pullup and its variations or when to use it and when not too and what regressions or progressions to use to get the most out of your training.
So to start we must look at the following things, how many years you have been training, what strength level you are at, skill level you are at and fitness, have you shoulder injuries? What are you training for? and what are your requirements for your training?
Your first stop is your spinal mechanics, what is your thoracic like extension and rotation, as the shoulder is connected to the ribcage/thoracic so if there needs correction their then that needs sorted first before you start looking at shoulder position and movement.
Once we have had a look at spinal mechanics and know the correct position to hold then we need to do the corrective exercises if you are not in that position. Maybe if your needing a lot of work here pullups are not the best solution to your training problem just now.
Once you know what the correct position is you need to know how to hold it and understanding how to control your ribcage, keep it down, and engaging your core is important. You need to keep your spine in the right position so the shoulder blades can move properly.
After spinal mechanics it is scapular humoral rhythm, how are your shoulder blades moving? Are they rotating forward/back, dumping forward and coming off the rib cage or are they moving well up and down and rotating up and in on the way up and down and out on the way down. Are you able to feel your Latts in your reps or do you just feel your biceps? Pain in elbows, Pain on front of shoulders? pain in neck? getting whip lash or neck strains?
If you are having any of these issues it would be worth seeing a physiotherapist first and foremost I would recommend my colleague Nicholas at E-physiotherapy. If you have any shoulder injuries already then you should be doing neutral pullups first and making sure you are seeing a physio definitely.
Once you have sorted spinal mechanics, understand how to hold them, understand how to move and engage your shoulder blades to fully utilise your Latts, good shoulder movement and to avoid injury it is time to look at the next part.
What is your problem your trying to solve with your training? do you just need strong Latts? Do you have a short time to get this strong and a restricted amount of time to train? Then I would avoid pullups and focus on Chest supported rows and Latt pulldowns.
If you havnt much training experience or just not got the strength to do pullups then you should be practicing the above 3-4 times a week with a pullup progression, with the pullup progression use something that you can keep tension on the whole movement and do high reps, which can be done with bands or doing pullups seated with a racked barbell.
If you are coming in from a stronger base of strength then pullups are for you and can be used more effectively for building upper back strength. As when you have the appropriate amount of strength your pullups will start to look like how you do your Latt pulldowns. You feel your Latts, you don’t have pain in your shoulders, elbows, traps are not taking over, then you are ready to fully utilise your pullups.
Tempo-tension-volume – when ever you are training in compound lifts or bodyweight movements you should be thinking about creating tension throughout the movement, pulling yourself into the movement and then pushing yourself out of the movement. Look at your ability to engage your latts then how fast you pullup and drop down (pro tip you should not be dropping down)
control the movement, slow and controlled up and slow and controlled on the eccentric portion of the movement. Then watch your Latts just light up. Once you have the tempo and tension down it is then doing the correct amount of reps, just enough to feel it, stop as soon as you cant engage or its a strain or you can no longer engage your Latts. But be prepared to work them with adequate rest for 20mins right up to 1hr.
If you want to delve into the Rabbit hole of spinal and shoulder mechanics, help rehab old or nagging injuries, help you address a training plateau you are on, or just want to finally be able to do pullups or have stronger Latts then get in contact to begin training at #bobsgarage email me at firstname.lastname@example.org