Increasing the number of pull-ups performed is a goal of many Marines. Virtually everyone, regardless of size, is capable of training for pull-up improvement. These simple tips can help you attain that first-class PFT score in no time.
Activation of lat muscles.
The primary movers in a pull-up are the latissimus dorsi, large muscles capable of generating a great deal of power. However, during the initial upward movement of a pull-up, many Marines rely on bicep strength to perform elbow flexion. A much smaller muscle, the biceps should be used as an accessory muscle, assisting the lats as they initiate and execute the majority of the work. Train the lats to initiate the movement by consciously focusing on lat activation. Having a partner simply place a hand on the working muscle can be a helpful reminder until new movement patterns are learned.
Strength of grip can actually be a limiting factor for some individuals while doing a pull-up. Build hand and forearm strength by doing grip switches: begin in a dead-hang position and alternate your hands, one at a time, from overhand to underhand grip. Work for about thirty seconds, then rest.
A solid trunk is the foundation to nearly every exercise movement. Without proper core support, muscle activation and movement are compromised. Adequate core strength will allow you to maintain a gentle movement, focusing your energy on the proper muscles. Failure to maintain a solid core, and adding excess movement such as kipping, can also increase your likelihood of injury. Not only is kipping not allowed during a PFT, the swinging motion can place excess stress on the shoulder joint.
Work the Negative.
Don’t limit your training to only the concentric upward phase of the pull-up. Build strength by practicing the eccentric lowering as well. Step or jump into the up-position of your pull-up, then lower yourself to full arm extension as slowly as possible. This will help train muscular endurance over the full range of motion, and can help you from fatiguing too quickly.
This may not seem like a mind-blowing revelation; however, many people assume that simply building their lat muscles will improve their pull-ups. The most effective way to increase pull-up strength is repetition of the movement itself. Work a reverse pyramid: perform your max pull-ups to fatigue. Recover and repeat, subtracting one pull-up each set until you are down to one.
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