Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Wall Mounted Pull Up Bar

Has the wall mounted pull up bar lost it’s place in today’s garage gym?  With the emphasis on moving weight as the path to extreme fitness, have some overlooked the simplicity and effectiveness that this functional piece brings to the dedicated user?

Is it the fact that many see the pull up bar as only having one use that has caused it to lose its appeal?  We’re the first ones to get up on the soap box to say that if a piece of equipment has only one use then it had better be stellar.   But the pull up bar has uses well beyond just the pull up.  And CrossFit’s main page programming is dominated by the pull up so overlooking this important piece can leave you falling short of your potential.

Even if the pull up bar had only one use, it does do it very well.  But don’t let the simplicity of this tool fool you, we’ve got a ton of ways to mix up how you use it to keep your body guessing and your workouts varied.

A few things we should mention before pointing out some great movements that the pull up bar can offer your training routine:

How High to Hang it? - Ideally, the final height of the pull up bar should be just beyond your reach when installed.  Doorway pull up bars tend to hang too low to be the most effective.  Having to jump up just a bit when grabbing the bar means your feet will be able to hang free for the whole range of motion of the pull up and will keep the exercise the most intense.

Wall Mounted or Ceiling Mounted? - Both are great choices but depending on how high your ceiling is, the pull up bar might be out of reach or too low.  If you can find a wall to mount it on with good overhead clearance, we’ve found that the wall mounted pull up bar is the most successful of installations.  Distance from the wall to the pull up bar plays a big factor in how easily it is to use as well.  Too close, and those that have an aggressive kip will find that their feet or knees will collide with the wall.  A wall mounted pull up bar that is designed with the bar at least 30” from the wall will keep you free from hitting the wall.

Bar Diameter and Coating? - Those bars that are between 1” and 1-1/4” in diameter [25mm-28mm] are some of the most comfortable.  The diameter of the pull up bar should feel very similar to that of an olympic bar in your hands.  Some doorway pull up bars add foam rubber or other coatings to make the bar grippy.  We’ve found that it is a personal preference.  Some choose to add athletic tape to enhance the grip whereas some use chalk.  Starting with a bar that has a neutral surface appeals to most athletes as tape, chalk and other treatments can be added as per individual preference.

So once you’ve outfitted your Garage Gym or Basement with a Pull Up Bar, here’s a few ideas to keep your training varied.

Six Movements to Work On with Your Pull Up Bar

The standard movements for the pull up bar are Pull Ups or Chin Ups.  Switching hands from palms facing in to palms facing out changes the emphasis on certain muscle groups.  Palms facing in puts a higher emphasis on the biceps while palms out recruits the lats more.  If you’ve reached failure with one hand position, switch the grip to pound out a few more reps.

Pulling Strength Movements

The Mountain Climber
With palms facing out and unsung a wide grip, pull your chin up over the bar and pause at the top of the movement.  Move your body from the center to the left, then to the right.  Return to the center before dropping underneath the bar.

Chest to Bar Pull Ups
Hold a switch grip [one palm facing out and the other facing in] and pull so that your chest touches the bar.  When first beginning this movement, the tendency will be to lean back away from the bar as you pull upward.  As your strength improves, keep the body as vertical as possible and vary hand positions as well.  If this movement is not in your wheelhouse, add a resistance band in a lark's head knot to give you some assistance.

Close Grip Pull Ups
Grip the bar with both hands in opposite grips touching each other and pull up.  With this grip, your body will want to rotate 90 degrees so that your head is now directly under the bar.  As you pull up, move your head to the left or right of the bar.  Switch from left to right on each repetition.

Bar Muscle Ups
Moving from below the bar to a position of support above the bar is called the muscle up.  Many see the bar muscle up as the progression to the ring muscle up.  Some find it more difficult.  Working the chest to bar movement [variation three above] to a point where it becomes easy is a great precursor to giving these a try.  Get help from a resistance band to train this movement if necessary.

One Arm Pull Ups
Certainly something to brag about if you've got these.  To work up to the single arm pull-up  start with one hand on the bar and the other gripping the wrist.  To increase the difficulty and increase strength in the movement, throw a t-shirt over the bar and grip the bar with one hand and the bottom of the folded over t-shirt with the other.  That farther away from the bar your opposing hand gets, the harder the movement.

Towel Pull Ups
Just as the name suggests, throw a towel over the bar and grab a loose end with each hand.  This varies the grip strength required.  A variation of this movement is to change the position of the hands by sliding the towel up and down on the bar.

Once you are strong enough that you are knocking out these movements for reps, add weight either with a dip belt or by using a resistance band run though a kettlebell and hung around the waist.  I’ve even given my kids piggy back rides while knocking out a few pull ups.

Core Strength Movements

Knees to Elbows
The pull up bar is also a great tool for blasting your core.  From a dead hang position with any of the grips mentioned above, lift the knees to the elbows or as close as possible.  Your body will naturally curl the higher the knees get - that’s acceptable.  

Toes to Bar
Once the Knees to Elbows is mastered, now at the top of the movement, kick your toes to touch the bar.  With either of these movements, a kip or swing can develop which brings the hips behind the vertical plane of the bar.  Many find this movement acceptable but keeping the kip to a minimum will enhance the effectiveness of these exercises.

Hanging L-Sits
From a hanging position on the bar hold the feet out in front of the body with the knees straight.  To make the movement easier, bend at the knees.

Windshield Wipers
Not for the timid, the windshield wiper requires serious grip strength and core strength as well.  From a hanging position below the bar bring the toes up to the hands by bending at the waist.  Once at the top, move the feet from left to center to right and return to center before dropping down.  When first starting the movement it's easier if the range of motion from left to right is short.  As strength increases, increase the range of motion.

Accessories for the Pull Up Bar

Get a Set Of Gymnastic Rings - The pull up bar is a fantastic tool that also can be used as a place to mount gymnastic rings.  Run the gymnastic rings straps around the pull up bar and set the rings for any of these exercises:

Ring Dips - Hang the rings at just above waist height and shoulder width apart.  Grab the rings and jump up to a position of support with your arms extended.  Lower your body by bending your elbows behind you.  Once your wrists are at or just above chest level, return to the starting position.  [Variation - The Bulgarian Ring Dip.   Elbows stay flared out rather than tight to the body.  Note: Master the first ring dip position before moving on to this one]

Ring Rows - with the rings hanging at waist height and your back on the floor, reach up and grab the rings while keeping your body in a plank position [feet well in front of the rings].  Pull the rings to the chest while keeping the body tight and lower back to the starting position.  Pulling the rings so that the hands touch the chest increases the difficulty substantially.

Ring Push Ups - lower the rings a few inches from the ground so that when you grab them your hands just miss coming in contact with the ground.  Keeping the rings shoulder width apart, lower the body [keep the thigh plank position] so that the wrists touch the chest.  Return to the starting position.  [Variation - while in the bottom of the push up move the left hand out away from the body and back in.  Repeat with the right hand.  Then push up to the starting position.  Repeat for every rep.]

Has the pull up bar lost it's appeal or usefulness?  We don't think so.  Outfit your garage gym or basement with one of the most effective training tools right here.

Hammerhead Strength Equipment is a functional fitness and strength equipment manufacturer proudly outfitting Garage Gyms and Commerical Facilites throughout the US and beyond.