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Tempo and lat activation with pullups?


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#1 Colibri

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Posted 15 October 2012 - 03:12 AM

Firstly, I wanna say a big thanks to everyone here. I've not felt (or looked) this strong in my entire life, and that's only after about a month of GST type training.


Secondly, how can I go about activating my lats more when I'm doing pullups?

I am focusing on two things: the muscles involved/movement, and the chin from clearing the bar (I try to go chest to bar as much as I can). I just don't feel that my back is being worked. Right now for sets, I am doing 4 strict shoulder width pulls with a 3 second eccentric each and 30 second eccentrics at the end of each set. I feel everything more in my biceps, forearms and my chest (somewhat). Is this normal guys?

Also, on tempo. I try to stay within the 3-5 rep range (except for the legs) so I stay around the strength zone but, am I also right in that you must factor TUT too, to progress? I try to make my eccentric longer, in the case of my pullups for example - 30x1 (3 second eccentric, 0 sec pause, as fast as a concentric I can make and 1 sec at the top) with a 30 eccentric at the end of each set. I love it. It amounts to 39 seconds total TUT per pullup set, with 3 sets in total.

Am I wasting my time in training with this tempo? Would adding a slower concentric be of more benefit?

Thanks guys!

#2 Flameous

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Posted 15 October 2012 - 05:55 AM

You might want to test doing pullups both with arched and hollow body. In general it's easier to retract fully when arched so you can use it to learn better activation. However you should do most of your pullups hollow.
I'd say your TUT seems just fine, of course it's sometimes good to throw long sets of easier exercises but that's not the issue here.
I'd say the main reason you don't feel it too much in the lats is simply because your lats are strong enough that regular pullups won't really fatigue them. Try to pull off some FL rows and see if that hits your lats better.
I do occasional OAC negatives and man those burn my lat all the way down with a single rep. :lol:

#3 Joshua Naterman

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Posted 15 October 2012 - 06:35 AM

You might want to test doing pullups both with arched and hollow body. In general it's easier to retract fully when arched so you can use it to learn better activation. However you should do most of your pullups hollow.
I'd say your TUT seems just fine, of course it's sometimes good to throw long sets of easier exercises but that's not the issue here.
I'd say the main reason you don't feel it too much in the lats is simply because your lats are strong enough that regular pullups won't really fatigue them. Try to pull off some FL rows and see if that hits your lats better.
I do occasional OAC negatives and man those burn my lat all the way down with a single rep. :lol:


I will disagree with the "most should be done hollow" comment, especially for beginners.

Hollow pull ups, while necessary in my opinion to develop the strength needed for later movements like no lean muscle ups (a ways in the future) and butterfly pulls (far, far off in the future), shouldn't be performed until you have a strong arched pull up.

That's just my opinion on the matter, but it is grounded in basic function. You are going to have a very hard time retracting in a hollow pull up if you don't already have a very strong arched pull up where you are fully retracted at the top with chest near the bar.

Once you have that, you should start spending up to 50% of your time on the hollow pull up, but not more. It isn't better, and it isn't worse. It is literally there to develop specific abilities, and these abilities must be built on top of more basic scapular development.

Right now, because I am still fixing my shoulders, I spend about 70% of my time on arched pull ups and 30% on hollow. In other words, I train pulls 3x per week. Only one day out of 3 contains hollow pull ups, and they do not get the same volume as the arched pull ups. I do at least one set of those each training day, though not to failure on non-pulling days.

This has resulted in considerable improvements across the board, including in my hollow pull ups because my lower traps had become extremely under-developed. That is now rapidly changing and the re-balancing is granting me the ability to do much more than before.

#4 Cole Dano

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Posted 15 October 2012 - 08:57 AM

Flameous has a good point on the FL pull up family, they can feel more lat intensive.

Regarding tempo, what happens if you take out the explosive concentric? What if you just slow it down a bit say 3011?

It depends in part if the explosion is the only way you can get over the bar. If so try to hold at the top a bit longer so you can develop the top of the pull. Otherwise slow it down enough that it's not pure momentum on the way over the bar. Pause, then down at a three count.

In the long run you don't want to neglect the concentric, so think of what you are doing now as a stepping stone to controlled concentric.

#5 B1214N

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Posted 15 October 2012 - 10:27 PM

I guess it would be normal to feel it more in the arms at first if you haven't really worked them out much since the lats are a much stronger muscle. To activate or initiate with your lats, you should think about pulling your elbows down and back when doing the pull-up. You should also be able to do hanging shrugs.

I have a question for Joshua or anyone else who may know regarding arched pull-ups and hollow pull-ups. I remember Josh and Coach saying that hollow pull-ups recruit the lats more and so I was wondering if that would make the pull-up harder or easier like for instance which type of pull-up (arched or hollow) would allow you to pull more weight in a weighted pull-up? I was thinking that it would be hollow pull-ups since the lats are a strong muscle, but some posts from multiple members suggests arched pull-ups were easier. Sorry if that was a dumb question and thanks in advance.

#6 Joshua Naterman

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Posted 16 October 2012 - 06:08 AM

I guess it would be normal to feel it more in the arms at first if you haven't really worked them out much since the lats are a much stronger muscle. To activate or initiate with your lats, you should think about pulling your elbows down and back when doing the pull-up. You should also be able to do hanging shrugs.

I have a question for Joshua or anyone else who may know regarding arched pull-ups and hollow pull-ups. I remember Josh and Coach saying that hollow pull-ups recruit the lats more and so I was wondering if that would make the pull-up harder or easier like for instance which type of pull-up (arched or hollow) would allow you to pull more weight in a weighted pull-up? I was thinking that it would be hollow pull-ups since the lats are a strong muscle, but some posts from multiple members suggests arched pull-ups were easier. Sorry if that was a dumb question and thanks in advance.


This is a great question!

Here is my opinion on the matter:

This depends on a small but rather important aspect of form: Shoulder rolling.

If you are rolling the shoulders forward with the arched pull up, you will find them to be much, much easier. This teaches bad habits and builds in rear shoulder girdle weakness in my opinion. If you're rolling forward, what you are doing is using teres major, subscapularis, and the lower lats preferentially INSTEAD OF the rear delts, traps and upper/mid lats. You can feel the difference.

When keeping the shoulder from rolling forward during the retracted pull ups, you will feel the external rotators work a LOT, and I believe this to be a fundamental developmental necessity. This is where you build up a lot of the strength and size in these areas that you simply cannot do without for both general health/longevity as well as continued long term progress.

I personally believe that even in the hollow pull up you want to strive to not roll the shoulder forward. Doing so requires much stronger SITS muscles as an entire group, along with proper use of serratus anterior and traps. You should be able to retract during a hollow pull up, though not to quite the same degree as during an arched pull up.

In my opinion, a pre-requisite to this is simply learning to

1) keep an arched back and protract + retract + elevate + depress in this position
2) Do the same with a hollow body. This is the one that will be very difficult at first, because most of us have learned to use the spine and shoulder blades as a single unit as opposed to TWO SEPARATE UNITS working together.

#2 is the key here. Yes, it is foreign at first but after a few weeks it won't be that big a deal, and you'll be able to start doing this with your pull ups.

For those who are currently not using perfect form: you will feel new muscles working, and as they catch up your reps will increase back to what they used to be.

Remember: If you can't use proper form, it means you aren't training the muscles that create proper form.

If that means you use bands for pull ups at first, that's fine. Once you hit proper form, progress actually comes along pretty quickly in many areas, because this is literally the foundation of strength.

You never want to train your body to allow the scapulae to wing, and that is the fundamental basis behind this.

I strongly believe that my personal emphasis on this aspect of pull ups throughout my life is a large part of why I have always been so strong in all-around pulling and why things like the inlocate and wide muscle ups just came naturally.

A forward lean in a muscle up is much more preferable than rolling the shoulders. As you get stronger you'll be able to lean less, until eventually you're going up like Andreas Aguilar. I used to think that was a really hard thing to do but I am almost there, and that changes my perspective a bit. It is impressive, no doubt, but it isn't the near-impossible task I originally thought it was.

I mention muscle ups because let's face it: That's where all of this pull up work leads to. If you understand where proper form can take you then perhaps it will be easier to find the motivation to perform pull ups properly! Not everyone needs that, but perhaps someone does.
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#7 Flameous

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Posted 16 October 2012 - 10:58 AM

I will disagree with the "most should be done hollow" comment, especially for beginners.


This was quite new to me and even slightly shocking really. I must admit that I don't really even remember the time when I have done arched pullups apart them being weighted. (And I rarely do those)
Pullups has been something I have always done and due parkour it's very natural movement so maybe I just am quite proficient at pullups. I might give those arched pullups some more time to at least learn something about how my body functions :)

Actually I didn't even know the difference couple years back. I had one friend who always did arched pullups and other who trained little with BW, but did pullups with hollow. So the one doing hollow pullups complained how they mainly seem to get abs sore. Obviously the one doing arched ones couldn't understand at all how you could use your abs in pullups. That was a good learning moment for all of us :D

#8 Joshua Naterman

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Posted 16 October 2012 - 04:18 PM

I will disagree with the "most should be done hollow" comment, especially for beginners.


This was quite new to me and even slightly shocking really. I must admit that I don't really even remember the time when I have done arched pullups apart them being weighted. (And I rarely do those)
Pullups has been something I have always done and due parkour it's very natural movement so maybe I just am quite proficient at pullups. I might give those arched pullups some more time to at least learn something about how my body functions :)

Actually I didn't even know the difference couple years back. I had one friend who always did arched pullups and other who trained little with BW, but did pullups with hollow. So the one doing hollow pullups complained how they mainly seem to get abs sore. Obviously the one doing arched ones couldn't understand at all how you could use your abs in pullups. That was a good learning moment for all of us :D


Without trying them to failure it is hard to know whether you are already well-developed in that area through your previous activities and proper scapular movement or whether arched pull ups may be more difficult than you expect them to be, and I honestly won't even hazard a guess :) I would be a fool to make assumptions about someone I have never met! I will be curious to hear what you feel if you choose to try them.

If so, try to really focus on retraction + keeping the shoulders rolled back.

I definitely think, especially for a community that is heavily oriented towards protraction and hollow movements in terms of beginning progressions, that arched pull ups with the retraction and lack of rolled shoulders (accomplished by depression and no winging) are the best guarantee of developing a balanced shoulder girdle from the get-go.

I also think they have value for those of us who are more advanced (whom I am not currently one of in most areas) both as prehab and in terms of building some of the musculature that we will later rely upon in Manna training. I have noticed a moderate but measurable improvement when I press my hips forward in a tucked V since really getting back to the arched pull ups. I don't do that very often, and it was nice to see some of that old strength come back. I hadn't thought about the connection until that happened and I obviously can't say for sure that it's super strong, but an awful lot of the same muscles that are not super heavily worked in many other areas are worked pretty hard in a proper arched pull up.

Be careful to still activate the abs so that you don't put too much pressure on your lumbar spine.

#9 Nic Branson

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Posted 18 October 2012 - 01:49 PM

You really need to look at where you are at in your training. One or the other make good warm up movements. If you're really working on heavy protraction then I would do arched for instance.

As an aside for corde lisse I was climbing the rope shoulders down and back, sternum up but ribs tucked and feet where I could see them if I glanced down. Point being the technique used was applicable to what I was doing.

Use warm ups not only to get your ready but also to keep some balance in as needed. If you really know how to activate a muscle you can basically cause it to cramp in a rep or two by generating more tension then necessary. Anyways getting a bit to in depth for this.