Practice makes perfect: Pull Ups

‘Pull Ups’ is a bodyweight exercise. By ‘bodyweight’ it just means no extra weight is used to perform the exercise –  the individual’s own weight provides the resistance for the movement. All that is required here is a strong bar hanging above your head.
This exercise is a back exercise, in particular the Latissimus Dorsi muscles (Lats for short). This muscle is one of the larger single muscles in the body and when it grows, it gives you an inverted triangle shape.
How pull ups are performed is simple in terms of movement. Grab hold of the bar above your head in an over hand grip position, squeeze your shoulders back and pull yourself up driving your elbows towards the ground to increase the lat stretch.
Although I say to perform the exercise is simple, if you’re not used to doing body weight exercises then this can be difficult to begin with. ‘Practice makes perfect’ is the perfect quote for this particular move.
Two ways this exercise can be made simpler is by:
A. Hold the bar and jumping up, squeezing your back muscles and trying to come down slowly, this is what we call negative training.
B. “Negative pull ups” i.e. using a resistance band attached to the bar.
We recommend starting with the resistance band pull ups. To use the band  attach it to the bar and then stretch it under you foot or knee depending on the tonicity and away you go.
Try 3 x 10 with 3 seconds decline in the way down. After mastering that you can move onto the jump pull ups / negative pull ups. The negative pull ups are a great weight to lower your whole body weight without any assistance. Amazing for developing strength.
And if you’re strong enough try the full pull up exercise. Very tough but yields great results in your back strength and size. Once you get good vary your rep range and tempo to keep your results moving forwards.
Body weight training is amazing in getting a good workout. A key word you should familiarise yourself with is ‘Calisthenics’, which basically means body weight training.
Enjoy your training!
By Marcel Destouche

Get Moving! The tyranny of technology and convenience

Movement is a very broad subject which I’m sure most of you would have already talked about in life and what I am going to share is just a fragment of my passion about it. I feel it is important to bring it up, considering in this modern age, we are developing as a species, many studies have shown how we have evolved intellectually compared to our ancestors, not in a better way but a different way. How we deal with daily situations has changed so much, now so much can be done through our phone without having to move.

We live in a constantly growing technological generation where less and less physical labour is required to achieve given tasks. If I compare the education system now to when my dad was at school, he was fortunate to do 6-8 hours of compulsory sports a week whereas my high school only allocated 2 hours. Now I hear it can be less in some schools. As you can see from the early years of our life we have been brought up in an environment that involves sitting a lot and developing our brains. Most of us would then go on to work at a desk 7 or more hours a day. Our bodies will soon fall behind with activity being sacrificed.

I myself am no genius on the topic of movement but I can strongly say it is one of the healthiest aspects in life. Certainly a healthy body is a healthy mind. My appreciation and understanding for movement will always change as I develop as a person, with the influences I have around me playing a big part.

However at this time in life, I also make a massive sacrifice in order not to become as efficient as I can with moving my body in different ways. I choose to specialise more in certain sports which will limit my physical capabilities and even change my posture that could be considered impractical towards other disciplines. But that is where my passion lies for the time being and that is where I am happy to be right now. Just to give you an example my week will involve the following sort of sessions:

  • Weightlifting x 4-5 sessions
  • Rock climbing x 1-2 sessions
  • Gymnastics x 1-2 sessions
  • Circus training x 1 session
  • Rope conditioning x 1-2 sessions
  • Tennis x 1 session

Within the sessions there will always be some flexibility work, but as a trainer I would say this is a limiting program. If I want to be a better weightlifter I have to squat more, simple as that. I do believe with everything there needs to be some balance, I don’t believe there is a perfect balance as I see ourselves constantly drifting from one side of the spectrum to the other.

There are endless things we want to do in life. For most this will involve getting off the seat we spend most of our time on, and if we don’t we will soon pay the price of not being able to stand up properly. Arguably we all need to live; in London that means making money to pay living necessities and it seems we don’t even have time to do anything else but work if we want to survive, pay the bills and look after the family. For most of us there will have to be enormous sacrifices to be made to spend more time moving.

Most of my clients tell me they don’t have the time to exercise more than 2 or 3 hours a week, but what I am talking about is not just about exercise, that in itself is a limiting activity. It is the activeness I am talking about. Here are a few very simple examples of how you could get started:

  • Cycle or walk to work
  • Avoid the escalators, or better still do a calf stretch while standing on the escalator. Remember it is still a great movement to do.
  • Stretch your wrists and fingers while you are at your desk
  • Do your shopping in person instead of online
  • Take your elders to do something physical, I take my dad once a week religiously to the tennis court regardless of weather conditions all year round, it’s an easy way to spend family time and he loves it. But this could also mean walks to the park or museums
  • If you have children make an effort to spend time and play with them
  • Do some gardening
  • Go back to using old fashioned suitcases without wheels
  • Spend more time making love
  • Go dancing, it amazes me to see great dancers past their 60’s. Go to Cuba and you see it as the norm day and night!
  • Help your trainer change the weights 🙂

I’m sure there are endless things you can do in your life to help look after your body if you put some thought into it and it is never too late to start. Here are a couple of links from Ido Portal, a great influencer about movement.

Written by Anthony Masters, MoreFit PT