Build a Strong Back With Pull-Ups

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Building back strength is of the utmost importance in sports, especially for female athletes. Working your back stabilizes your shoulders, protects your spine, improves your posture and enhances overall sports performance.

One of the best exercises for developing upper body strength is the Pull-Up. It works several large muscle groups in the back, as well as muscles in the shoulders and arms. However, it can be difficult to perform at first if it's not part of your regular workout routine.

The best way to become a Pull-Up machine is to start with a progression that gradually develops strength in the muscles that are activated during the movement [similar to the Push-Up progression we've already covered].

Perform the following exercises and reap the benefits of greater back strength. Keep at it and you will soon be able to perform multiple Pull-Ups.

Lat Pull
This exercise allows you to pull a resistance lighter than your bodyweight with the same movement as a Pull-Up, and it's a good way to begin strengthening your back muscles.

  • Sit on Lat Pulldown machine and grip bar overhead, slightly wider than shoulder width
  • Without rocking back, pull bar down in front until it touches upper chest
  • Allow bar to rise back to start position until arms are straight
  • Repeat for specified reps

Sets/Reps: 1x10, 1x8, 1x6; 90 seconds rest

Coaching Points: Keep torso upright // Move bar with control // Increase weight each set

Band Pull-Ups
This exercise simulates the Pull-Up motion while providing assistance.

  • Attach band to pull-up bar
  • Grab pull-up bar with shoulder-width grip and step into band with both feet
  • Perform Pull-Up
  • Repeat for specified reps

Sets/Reps: 1x8, 1x10, 1x max; 90 seconds rest

Coaching Points: Remove one foot from band to increase challenge // Adjust band width or length to achieve rep goals

After completing this progression, you should be able to effectively perform multiple Pull-Ups, but your strength development doesn't have to end there. To continue, perform as many Pull-Ups as possible to get your max. Then, based on the result, perform the Pull-Up routine below. Retest your max every three or four weeks to keep challenging your muscles.

Pull-Up Routine
1x max minus four reps
1x max minus two reps
1x max

Rest: 90 seconds between each set


Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock