Like most MMA fighters, you take your training seriously. Part of taking training seriously often involves analyzing the exercises you are currently using, or should be using, in order to ascertain whether or not you are seeing maximum possible gains & improvement from their use in your training. Punching power, endurance, follow-through and pullback are essential for the fighter. The use of pull ups in your training routine will deliver advantages in these areas, as well as many others. Let’s examine the punch as a full-body motion, then determine the benefits to be gained from the inclusion of pull ups in your training routine – and how to get the most out of their usage.
Much of the speed and power delivered in a standard punch will be derived from your shoulders and back (latissimus) muscles. You explode into a punch, then you retract back to the starting position. For both the explosion and the pulling back quickly, highly conditioned and developed back muscles are essential. The punch is a full-body motion involving a series of hip & spine twists, scapular push then pull, arm extension, and some additional contractions. This is a series of muscle groups working in conjunction on completing a series of different movements, utilizing various muscle groups, and done very quickly – repeatedly! Pull ups are essential for building this strength and endurance. Let’s examine some additional points to consider when using pull ups.
If you are unable to currently complete a single unassisted body weight pull up for a full repetition, you can use the machine variety that many gyms offer. You are not alone at this diminished starting point, particularly if you currently sit in a heavier weight class. However, the inclusion of pull ups in your routine should mean you are able to increase your strength quickly. Within weeks, your muscles should develop the strength to complete several repetitions. And if not, then it’s seriously time to look at your diet and cardio, and do whatever it takes to get your body fat down while adding strength.
Full Range All The Way!
Partial repetitions do not count when it comes to building functional strength from a compound movement such as the pull up. You want to be using full extension in order to avoid injury, activate all possible muscle fibers, and fulfill your strength potential. Move slowly through your repetitions but never allow yourself to slow to a pace when it becomes a series of stops and starts. Feel the full stretch at the bottom of each repetition and the flex/muscle contraction at the top of each repetition.
Some debate lies in the “weighted vs non-weighted” arenas of pull ups for the fighter. Yes, bodybuilders, powerlifters and strength athletes see great benefits from adding a few 45 pound plates to a chain and clamping it to their back brace. However, if you are working to develop endurance, limited strength, and not add too much in terms of new muscular size (weight), the unweighted variety will allow you to meet your goals. For the most part, body weight alone will suffice for your pull up needs. However, if you do wish to develop serious knockout strength and target those fast-twitch explosive muscle fibers, there is nothing wrong with adding some weight, particularly as you are able to complete 15, 20, or 25 or more body weight repetitions without assistance.
You don’t need to look far to find a friend, training partner, or family member with back problems. The use of pull ups can help you to fully develop your latissimus muscles of the back, which can be quite beneficial in delivering some injury protection. Minimal weak areas means minimal compensation from stronger muscle fiber groups as you train, fight, or simply carry in a bag of groceries. However, any improper use of form with your body while completing pull ups can result in a minor tweak or major slipped disk. Either way, you’ll be out of commission for breaking form. Keep your back straight, head up, andbody straight. NEVER turn your head to the side when completing pull-ups, and opt for pull ups to the front – not the rear – in order to keep your rotator cuffs from sustaining damage.
Warm it up
Finally, no discussion on the proper use of pull ups would be complete without mention of the importance of warming up. A quick walk or jog prior to attempting pull ups will increase the blood flow to your entire body, including the muscles of the back, and prepare your system for the upcoming workout, which will be traumatic to the rested athlete who hasn’t yet activated the muscles or their system for strenuous exercise. Hanging stationary from the pull up bar is also useful for activating muscle fibers and “waking up” the body, in order to prepare the hands, arms, shoulders, and most importantly back, for the workout ahead.