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Movement Monday – Why Doing Banded Pull Ups Won’t Make You Stronger


Movement Monday – Why Doing Banded Pull Ups Won’t Make You Stronger

Cut the Bands!

One of the biggest mistakes we see inside the box is the application of bands for pull up development. In theory they are great. They help you go through a full range of motion, can get the body use to hanging from a bar, and can teach someone the skill of a pull up in a reduced resistance state.

Unfortunately, the cons do outweigh the pros when it comes to the actual development of a pull up. This is because the limiter for 99% of people is absolute pulling strength. What this means is that most people can’t perform a pull up, not because they don’t have enough skills, but rather they simply don’t have enough strength to accomplish the task. This leads to a tool, in this case the bands, becoming a crutch that people never get off of. And yes, we are talking about you.

Let us break this down further. Bands give you the most assistance the further it is stretched. As the band shortens, it begins to help less and less. This can be beneficial for something like a squat were the lift is hardest as the bottom and progressively gets easier (google ‘accommodating resistance’). However, the opposite is true for a pull up, where it is easiest at the bottom of the movement and progressively gets more and more difficult. Using a band for assisted pull ups is ineffective because you are getting the most help where you need it the least and then continuously offers less and less assistance.

Taking the time to build upper body pulling strength through other methods will get you to that holy grail of a strict pull up well before any band ever will. We have several options to progressively overload our pulling strength, the first and simplest would be a ring row. Never be to good for ring rows, people! This is an excellent choice because it allows you to have a consistent effort through the movement, as well as self regulate by adjusting where your feet are. This is a great choice to scale pull ups with in the course of a workout because you won’t slow down and you can keep your intensity high.

If you are interested in building real strength, you will need to do that outside of a WOD. Pulling in a little extra time before or after class will go a long way. Here we recommend challenging yourself with a negative pull up or a static hold, either chin over the bar or arms bend at 90 degrees, constantly varying your grips.  Mix these often but keep track of your efforts, when building strength the goal is to progressively overload the system.

Being able to perform multiple strict pull ups is a key indicator to see if someone is functionally strong. Make sure you are putting your efforts into something that will actually get you better and stop wasting your time with hair ties.