Next up in my “Exercises You Should Be Doing” series is a pull-up — with a twist: The Band Assisted Pull-Up. Bodyweight pull-ups are one of the great “pure strength” moves in the gym today, but the problem is very few people get to the point where they know how to do a pull-up properly and therefore may miss out on the many benefits that come along with them. Many who are new to the pull-up game often find themselves stuck at a certain part of the exercise and never really progress to mastering the full range of motion pull-up. Frustration sets in and soon the goal to do a real pull-up is pushed aside. Does that sound like you? Don’t give up yet … I’ve got a great training tool that can strengthen your pull-ups and eventually get you to doing real, unassisted pull-ups before you know it.
Enter The Resistance Band — Your Secret to Learning How To Do A Pull-UpNow some pull-up “purists” will get upset with adding a band to help master the pull-up, but before you snap me with that big old rubber band, keep in mind the ultimate goal is to get to a point where you can do a “real” pull-up without the aid of the resistance band. Most people have no idea what a full range of motion pull-up even feels like, so a big positive in adding the band is that almost anyone can experience a full pull-up from start to finish and gain a better understanding of what muscles are being used and what areas they may need to work on in their overall strength program.
How To Do A Band-Assisted Pull-UpFirst things first, make sure you have a couple of different size (resistance levels) bands to get you started. The resistance bands should be the continuous loop style and you should be able to tell the difference in resistance by how thick they are. For complete pull-up beginners, you’ll want to start with a thicker band so the added resistance can assist you in the “pull” phase of the pull-up. As you get stronger and can hit a certain rep range (6-10), you can progress to using bands with less resistance (thinner bands) and, eventually, to no band at all!
- Loop your resistance band around the center of your pull-up bar and pull it down so you can place a foot, or both feet inside the band. Depending on the height of your pull-up bar, you may need to stand on a chair or box.
- Position your hands a bit wider than should width on the bar with an overhand grip (palms facing out).
- Start from the bottom position of the pull-up (the hang) with your foot, or feet inside the resistance band.
- While in the hang position, try to keep your shoulders down by packing the shoulders blades. This will help place more of the emphasis on the muscles of the outer back (lats) to help initiate and get through the pull phase.
- Next, and most obvious, pull yourself up toward the bar! The goal is to at least get your chin over the bar….if you can get the upper chest to the bar that’s even better!
- Now for the key part when doing band assisted pull-ups….take about 2-4 seconds to lower yourself back down. This will help assure your muscles are in control and doing the work.
- When you get back down to the bottom (hang) position, pause for 1-2 seconds before pulling yourself back up. Again, make sure the shoulders are down (not next to your ears). The pause is important because many will people will make the mistake of lowering too quickly and then trying to “bounce” back up. If that’s happening, your muscles are not doing as much work as they should and you’re not getting the full benefit of the move.
- Repeat for the number of prescribed reps (usually 6-10).
Here Are A Few Key Points To Focus On When Performing The Band Assisted Pull-Up:
- Make sure the band is placed securely around the bar and your foot/feet … getting snapped by a band isn’t fun!
- Always control the movement. If you find yourself swinging or bouncing out of the bottom, you’re NOT in control.
- Progress to a lighter resistance band when you can easily do 6-10 reps with a thicker band.
- Once you can do 6-10 reps with a lighter band, it’s time to give bodyweight pull-ups a try! Even if you can only do 1, that’s a start…remember, the ultimate goal here is to progress away from the bands and be able to do unassisted pull-ups.
ImageAbout the writer: Ken Grall is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and owns and operates an Edge Fitness in Madison, Wisconsin. Learn more about Ken.