Vertical/Horizontal Pull Progressions

Vertical and horizontal upper body pull exercises target the upper body posterior region of the body (Earle, 2016). In this blog post, I will briefly discuss the three simple progression that I use for both vertical and horizontal upper body movements.

Vertical:

1. Lat Pull-Down:

The lat pull-down is a multi-joint back exercise that targets the latissimus dorsi, teres major, trapezius, rhomboids, posterior deltoid, brachialis, biceps brachii, and brachioradialis. The execution of the lat pull-down movement can be performed on a machine or with a band (shown in the video below). When performing the lat pull-down exercise, you will first grasp the bar or band with a closed pronated grip or other various form of grip depending of the bar or equipment used. Then, you begin by pulling the band or bar toward the chest and return back to the starting position with the arms fully extended. It is important to lean the torso slightly back before performing the lat pull-down movement to create a clear path for the bar or band to pass the face when pulling down.

2. Chin-up

The chin up is also a multi-joint back exercise that targets the same muscle groups as the lat pull-down. However, the chin-up is more difficult compared to the lat pull-down because one has to pull-up against gravity when performing the movement. When performing the chin-up, you will grasp the bar with a supinated grip about shoulder width apart and arms fully extended. Then, you pull your chest to the bar. If you are unable to perform the chin-up exercise with your own body weight, you can add a resistance band or you can use an assisted pull-up machine to aid in proper execution of the chin-up exercise.

3. Pull-up

The pull-up exercise is also a multi-joint back exercise that targets the same muscle groups as the lat-pull down and chin-up. The pull-up exercise is different from the chin-up because of the hand grip. The hand grip in the pull-up is a closed pronated grip that is wider than shoulder width. The same execution of the pull-up movement is similar to the upward and downward movement of the chin-up. The pull-up exercise may be more difficult to perform compared to the chin-up due to the lesser activation of the biceps brachii (Youdas et al., 2010).

Horizontal:

1. Inverted Row

The inverted row is a multi-joint back exercise that targets the same muscle groups as the vertical pull progressions. However, more emphasis is placed on a rowing type motion. When performing the inverted row, one starts with a hand grip slightly wider than shoulder width. The body position is supine or head looking at the ceiling and back facing the ground. This movement can be performed with the feet elevated on the bench or regressed to the feet on the ground. The upward pull involves moving the body toward the bar while maintaining a strong back. The downward phase involves full extension of the arms while returning back to the starting position. Avoid dipping the hips while executing this movement. The key is to keep the body in a straight line.

2. Dumbbell Bench Row or One Arm Row

The dumbbell bench row or one arm dumbbell row is a multi-joint back exercise that targets the same muscle groups as the inverted row. This movement can be performed with one leg on the bench or standing toward the side of the bench. In the video below, I demonstrate the dumbbell bench row version and will explain this movement in this paragraph. Regardless, both movements involve the same rowing motion. The difference is within the starting position. When executing the dumbbell bench row, one begins by pulling the dumbbell up toward the side of the torso while keeping the wrist straight. The downward phase of the movement involves the full extension of the arm. It is important to maintain a flat back while performing this movement.

3. Barbell Bent Row

The barbell bent row exercise is a multi-joint movement exercise that targets the same muscle groups as exercises mentioned above. Start by grasping the bar with a closed and pronated grip that is slightly wider than shoulder width apart. Then, flex forward at the hips so that the torso is near parallel with the floor and maintain a strong back. Pull the barbell toward the torso by touching the sternum and then lower the barbell back to the starting position by fulling extending the arms.

References:

Earle, R.W. (2016). Exercise technique manual for resistance training. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Youdas, J.W., Amundson, C.L., Cicero, K.S., Hahn, J.J., Harezlak, D.T., & Hollman, J.H. (2010). Surface electromyographic activation patterns and elbow joint motion during a pull-up, chin-Up, or perfect-pullup rotational exercise. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 24(12), 3404-3414.

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