- Setup a bar in J hooks about sternum-to-nipple height. Place knee-height box/bench ~2-3 feet away from the bar to rest your feet on. You should have enough clearance to hang in full extension with your butt hovering off ground.
- Take a wider-than-normal grip on the bar. This should be ~1-2 inches wider then your bench press grip. Remember to use straps for grip assistance.
- Start in a dead hang position with elbows extended fully and shoulder blades upwardly rotated. Heels should be on the elevated surface with knees slightly bent.
- Begin the concentric by driving your shoulder blades down in conjunction with pulling down through the arms. Upper arms should be comfortably flared as to not force external rotation.
- Continue the pull until your elbows are flexed at ~90º and the bar is at about eye level. Make sure to keep your knees at the same bend throughout the rep to stabilize your body position relative to the bar. This will ensure that there is consistency from rep to rep.
- At the top of the rep, your shoulder blades should be fully depressed and moderately retracted. A good cue for this is to think about leading with your collar bones to create a natural arch in the spine.
- Once the concentric and scapular depression has been exhausted, shift into the eccentric and reverse the motion until you're back in the dead hang position. Make sure to reach at the bottom of the eccentric and pause briefly to break the stretch reflex in the elbow flexors and direct all the tension towards the surrounding musculature of the shoulder blades.
- Elbow pain
- Shoulder pain
- Poor Shoulder mobility
- Poor Scapular mobility
- Weak upper and mid back musculature (mid/low traps, rhomboids, teres major, and rear delts)
- Wide Pronated Rack Pull-Ups (feet on floor)
- Wide Pronated Cable Pulldowns
- Neutral Rack Pull-Ups
- Single Arm Cable Pulldowns
- Weighted Wide Pronated Rack Pull-Ups
- Band Assisted Wide Pronated Pull-Ups
- Wide Pronated Pull-Ups
- Neutral Pull-Ups
- Supinated Pull-Ups
- Weighted Wide Pronated Pull-Ups
- Up to 5 sets per session
- Up to 15 sets per week
- 5-20 rep range (depending on intent)
Applicable Intensity Techniques:
- Load Drop Sets
- Mechanical Drop Sets
- Rest Pause Sets
- Cluster Sets
- Supersets (These can be easily paired with a press like dips to increase volume and reduce training time. Alternatively, consider performing these first in the superset followed by a wide pronated pulldown to keep it in the vertical pattern or even a horizontal variation like bent over DB rows)
- Eccentrics (These could be especially effective for those lacking the strength to perform the feet elevated version. Have feet flat on the floor and using your legs to assist through the concentric while controlling the eccentric with the requisite musculature is a great way to increase specific strength quickly)
There is no doubt that one of the most primal feats of strength is the ability to perform a perfect pull-up.
No, that kipping nonsense does not count here. I'm talking about full extension at the bottom, dead hang, collarbone to bar, and full control. If you think you're among the few who can do this, you might want to retest yourself under these conditions. Not many will have the strength or mobility to pull this off (pun intended).
So does that mean that we all just have to accept our fates and be relegated to a lifetime of cable pulldowns?
Quite the contrary! We just have to get a little creative, put our egos aside, and breakdown the intent of the movement pattern.
With the rack pull-up, we have an interesting case study. On one hand, the movement is clearly a regression of the bodyweight pull-up and allows us to perform the pattern in a more controlled environment. But on the other, aspects of this new variation can actually be pushed to increase complexity and intensity thus creating a PROgression. This seems to be an idiosyncrasy that actually increases its value within a program; so long as we know how to take advantage of it...
First we must clearly understand what the wide pronated rack pull-up is and what it isn't:
- It is a great movement for allowing the scapulae to move freely and reduce inhibitions.
- it is NOT a very good lat exercise.
Extrapolating from here, we can derive our intent and understand how the movement must be performed in order to align with it.
Revisiting the cues above will clearly show that we are primarily concerned with the top half of the ROM. That last bit of the pull (from eye level to collarbone) isn't important for now. We will be MUCH stronger from full extension to that 90º elbow flexion so isolating our entire pattern in order to focus on it will yield much greater returns, so long as we set aside some volume for the neglected part of the range to be done at a later time.
Ok so we have this half pull-up thingy now that kind of looks like a pull-up but kind of also resembles something out of a prison yard. Why don't we just do partial pull-ups and negate all this tomfoolery?
Well anyone who has tried (and generally failed) to get better at pull-ups by doing more shitty pull-ups will note that there is really no good way to strain through this movement pattern. When breakdowns occur, they happen fast and in a hurry. Your body starts shaking then contorting then swinging back and forth; all of which are doing very little for your goal of getting stronger or more jacked. The solution here is to add in an external way to increase stability.
With the rack pull-up, that external addition is the platform that your feet are resting on. This "closes the loop" of wasted energy. When there are no more leaks in the system, we are able to actually express our strength, focus on the proper muscle groups and refine our technique versus slithering about just to get our chin above the bar.
In my opinion, the true uniqueness of this variation is in how easy it is to regress or progress, making it ideal for literally ANY trainee from novice to advanced. If you're struggling to get them down with your bodyweight, just drop your feet to the floor and use this as a natural assistance. If bodyweight is too easy or you're really looking to improve strength in lower rep ranges, it's as simple as adding load into your hip crease. The fundamentals don't change with scale.
A lot of hype is being thrown around here but the rack pull-ups (in some iteration) are one of the few specific variations that I will program for just about every one of my clients and leave in nearly year-round. When it comes to vertical pulls, these are the clear winner for me.
Primary Use Case:
- Strength within the vertical pull (carries over well to perfecting pull-ups)
- Hypertrophy of the mid/low traps, rhomboids, teres major, rear delts, and indirectly, the lats.