By “SGT Ken®” Weichert

The US Marines Physical Fitness Test (PFT) utilizes the Pull-up exercise to effectively measure the grip strength and power of the back and arms muscles.

The love-hate relationship with the pull-up

I have always been a huge fan of the pull-up exercise, so much that I perform pull-ups nearly at every workout. I have noticed that people will either love the pull-up or hate it. If you have grown up performing the pull-up, you will more likely be able to perform the exercise as an adult. If you have never performed a pull-up and attempted to perform it for the first time as an adult, you may find the exercise extremely challenging to accomplish.

The good news about pull-up training for beginners

It is never too late to learn how to perform an exercise safely and effectively. Pulling for Power is a fitness program for the person that has never performed a pull-up, or has not performed many in the past and could benefit from a gradual approach.

As my Drill Sergeant said at Basic Combat Training (BCT), “To master this task we will need to perform the crawl, walk and run phases.”

Look at accomplishing this program through three primary parts: Progression, Variety and Precision. Gradually progress at a safe rate within your own fitness level and expertise, perform a variety of movements to help achieve optimum results from your workout, and strive to attain proper exercise form at all times.

Let’s get started!

STEP 1: WARM-UP

Calisthenics: Perform 4-6 minutes of calisthenics, such as running in-place, Side-Straddle-Hops “Jumping Jacks” or jumping rope in order to warm-up the body.

Dynamic stretching: Perform 2-4 minutes of dynamic flexibility exercises, such as Knee Lifts, Hip Stretches, Leg Lifts and Shoulder Rotations.

STEP 2: ASSISTED PULL-UPS

Assisted pull-up

Assisted pull-up

Equipment needed: A fixed horizontal bar that is 1” or up to 1-3/4” inches in diameter and securely positioned approximately 3-4 feet above the ground.

Primary muscles targeted: Latissimus Dorsi

Synergists: Brachialis, Brachioradialis, Teres Major, Deltoid (Posterior), Rhomboids, Levator Scapulae, Trapezius (lower, middle), Pectoralis Major (sternal), Pectoralis Minor

Dynamic stabilizers: Biceps Brachii, Triceps (long head)

Start: Sit underneath the pull-up bar. Grasp the bar tightly with your hands over or under the bar, arms shoulder-width apart and fully extended. Tighten your abdominal muscles and elevate your hips until your back and legs form a straight line. Adjust your foot position until your chest is aligned under the bar.

Actions: While keeping your abdominal muscles tight, slowly pull your body toward the bar by bending both elbows. Return to the start position and continue until your goal is reached. Exhale through your mouth as your pull your body upward and inhale through your nose while you return to the start position.

Warning: Try not to rock your body while performing Assisted Pull-ups. Swinging or kipping is when you use a forceful movement of the legs and hips at the start of the exercise in order to gain momentum. Sudden uncontrolled pitching actions with your body during the onset of the pull-up may prevent your stabilizers from protecting you from unwarranted strain or possible injury.

Basic: 1-3 repetitions

Intermediate: 4-8 repetitions

Advanced: 9-15 repetitions

Extreme: 16-24 repetitions

STEP 3: TRX REAR DELTOID ‘T’ FLY

TRX Rear Deltoid T Fly

Equipment needed: TRX

Start: Stand facing the anchor with your feet together, or up to 12 inches apart, holding the handles shoulder level, palms inward. Position your feet in front of your hands. Lean back and fully extend arms, maintaining a slight bend in your elbows. Note: A staggered stance may be used for added stability.

TRX Rear Deltoid T Fly

Actions: While keeping your abdominal muscles tight, squeeze your shoulder blades together and pull your arms out to the sides at shoulder level. Keep tension on the TRX and maintain alignment with your shoulders, hips and legs. Return to start position and continue until your goal is reached. Exhale through your mouth as your pull your body forward and inhale through your nose while you return to the start position.

Basic: 1-2 repetitions

Intermediate: 3-6 repetitions

Advanced: 7-12 repetitions

Extreme: 13–20 repetitions

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STEP 4: TRX BACK ROW

TRX Back Row

TRX Back Row

Equipment needed: TRX

Start: Stand facing the anchor with your feet together, or up to 12 inches apart, holding the handles shoulder level, palms inward. Position your feet in front of your hands. Lean back and fully extend arms, maintaining a slight bend in your elbows. Note: A staggered stance may be used for added stability.

Actions: While keeping your abdominal muscles tight, pull your body toward the anchor by bending both elbows. Keep tension on the TRX and maintain alignment with your shoulders, hips and legs. Return to start position and continue until your goal is reached. Exhale through your mouth as your pull your body forward and inhale through your nose while you return to the start position.

Basic: 1-6 repetitions

Intermediate: 7-15 repetitions

Advanced: 16-25 repetitions

Extreme: 26-40 repetitions

Fit Tip: You can add a rotational variation with the arms by turning your palms upward as you perform the row.

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STEP 5: US MARINE CORPS PULL-UP

Pull-up

Pull-up

Equipment needed: A fixed horizontal bar that is 1” or up to 1-3/4” inches in diameter and securely positioned approximately 7.5 feet above the ground.

Start: The bar must be grasped with both palms facing forward or to the rear and arms fully extended beneath the bar. The legs may be positioned in a straight or bent position, but may not be raised above the waist.

Actions: A repetition is counted when you bend both elbows and raise your body with your arms until the chin is above the bar and lower your body until your arms are fully extended. Continue until your goal is reached. Exhale through your mouth as your pull your body upward and inhale through your nose while you return to the start position.

US Marine Corps pull-up standards of performance: US Marines are not permitted to rest their chins on the bar. The intent is to execute a complete vertical or dead-hang pull-up. There is often a modest amount of rocking movements that will occur as the pull-up is performed continuously. The intent is to avoid a pendulum-like motion that aids in the ability to execute the pull-up. Movements like whipping, kicking, kipping of the body or legs, or any leg movement used to assist in the vertical progression of the pull-up is not authorized. If observed, the repetition will not count.

STEP 6: COOL-DOWN

Dynamic or Static stretching: Perform 2-4 minutes of dynamic or static flexibility exercises.

STAMINA STOPWATCH

The Stamina Stopwatch includes the timing estimates for each set of the Champion’s Challenge (does not include the 6-min warm-up and 4-min cool-down).

Quick Fix: 1 full set of 4 rounds = approximately 20 minutes

Double Tap: 2 full sets of 4 rounds = approximately 40 minutes

Triple Threat: 3 full sets of 4 rounds = approximately 60 minutes

Author notes:

Always seek the advice and guidance of a qualified health provider with any questions or concerns you may have prior to commencing a fitness program. This article should not be relied on or substituted for professional medical diagnosis or treatment. The exercises presented are for suggestion only. Participate at your own risk. Stop if you feel faint or shortness of breath.

Additionally, the views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Navy, Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.

REFERENCES

Office of the Commandant of the Marine Corps Marine Corps Physical Fitness Program. Marine Corps Order 6100.13 W/CH 1. Washington, DC, Department of Defense, 2008. Available at http://www.marines.mil/Portals/59/Publications/MCO%206100.13%20W_CH%201.pdf; accessed May 13,2019.

Office of the Commandant of the Marine Corps Semper Fit Fitness and Health Promotion Policy. Marine Corps Order 1700.29. Washington, DC, Department of Defense, 2013. Available at http://www.marines.mil/Portals/59/MCO%201700_29.pdf; accessed May 13, 2019.

Office of the Commandant of the Marine Corps Marine Corps Physical Fitness and Combat Fitness Tests. Marine Corps Order 6100.13A C 469. Washington, DC, Department of Defense, 2018. Available at https://www.marines.mil/Portals/59/Publications/MCO%206100.13A.pdf?ver=2018-01-23-094656-933; accessed May 13, 2019.

Remarks:

Come join us for the Boot Camp Instructor Certification Course at canfitpro 2019:

  • 14 August 2019, 8:00am-4:00pm, Session #105, canfitpro 2019 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

We are ready to help you create clarity in your purpose so you can see the opportunity in your practice.

Feel free to reach out with any questions that you may have at sgtken@sgtken.com.

Hooah!

SGT KEN®

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About Sgt. Ken Weichert

SGT. Ken is an international speaker, six-time U.S. Army Soldier of the Year, and highly decorated combat veteran. He’s trained over 500,000 soldiers and civilians through Operation Fit to Fight, has written over 100 magazine articles, and created the fitness and health education website for the U.S. Army National Guard. Ken founded the START Fitness® boot camp program, has starred in several best-selling fitness videos, and was named canfitpro’s Best New Presenter (2011).