When it comes to being able to perform pull-ups, once you have mastered supporting your bodyweight from a hanging position (part 1), and lowering yourself down in a controlled manner (part 2), you need to develop scapular stability (controlled mobility). Enter the scapula pull-up.
The scapula pull-up will help you: 1) learn how to support your bodyweight from a hanging position 2) learn how to lower your body with control 3) develop the scapular stability (I like the term controlled mobility) you will need to perform pull-ups and 4) improve your grip strength. Start out by performing the basic hang, and then progress to the eccentric phase. Once you are comfortable with both of these exercises, add in some scapula pull-ups.
- Set your grip so your palms are facing away from you, and are approximately shoulder width apart. You can also use a neutral grip (palms are facing one another).
- Before you go, take a deep breath in through your nose (360 degrees of air around the spine), brace your core, actively tuck your ribs towards your hips (close the space in your midsection), and squeeze your glutes. This will stabilize your pelvis and spine and will allow you to focus on your upper body.
- Your shoulder blades are meant to move while you perform this exercise. Without bending your elbows, perform a reverse shrugging movement and draw your shoulder blades together and down (retract and depress) and lift your body a few inches. Pause for a second in the top position, then lower yourself to the starting position in a controlled manner, reset and repeat. As you are lowering yourself down, your shoulder blades should move away from your spine (protract and elevate).
- Exhale shortly after you have initiated the pull, but not before.
- Do not disengage your muscles for the duration of the exercise. Your elbows should be close to fully extended, but not hyperextended. Keep your shoulders packed.
- You can either keep your legs straight and be in a hollow body position, or bend your knees.
- Your spine should remain in neutral(ish) alignment for the duration of the exercise. I used the word ''neutralish'' as there is no one definition of neutral. It varies from person to person. I like to use the canister analogy. Do not allow your lower back to hyperextend, or ribcage to flare.
- Reset before each rep.
- You can make this exercise easier by using band assistance, although this will render some components of the exercise less effective.
- You can make this exercise more challenging by hanging two sturdy towels on the bar and performing this exercise while holding on to these. You can perform negative reps and take 3-5 seconds to lower yourself down, or you can use additional resistance.