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The Key to Stronger Pull-ups, Part II: Latt Strength

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In our first post about stronger pull-ups, we covered the hollow body position – check it out to refresh your memory

Normally, when an athlete first attempts a pull-up, they initiate the “pull” with their elbows and biceps.  They quickly find out that this only gets them about a quarter of the way to the bar.  So what are they missing? Latt engagement and latt strength.  Think about it: isn’t it easier to use a large muscle group like your back, as opposed to the small elbow joint?

When performing a pull-up, the first step is to start in hollow body.  Next, engage the latts.  To engage the latts, think of pulling down on the bar – like old school latt pull down machine.  You’ll feel those shoulder blades drop down the back.

Check out the picture below. On the left, Coach Angeli is in a dead hang on the pull-up bar, not engaged.  Notice how close her shoulders are to her ears.  On the right, she has her latts engaged, shoulder blades drawn down.  Notice how her shoulders have dropped from her ears.

From here, she’s in a strong position to now start her pull over the bar.  This movement may seem small but it really does help in the overall strength of the pull-up.  Try doing a few of these latt engagements when prepping for your pull-ups; not only will it get you warmed-up, but it will also improve your pull-ups in the long run.