So I was standing around Friday being painted before a show. My phone buzzes. I ignore it. Then it buzzes again, and again. I apologize to the guy doing the painting and grab my phone as he goes to work on my back. Eight facebook comments involving me; this can’t be good. Evidently the boys and girls from the RKC have been having some kind of pull-up challenge that I didn’t get an invite to. Two fingers per hand… three pull-ups. I like it… but am unsure of how I am involved as I had no idea that it was even going on. Then I see the link, one of my buddies has posted a link to a shitty video of me doing a two finger one arm pull-up from about a year ago. Groan. I love the props, but am at times tempted to just remove videos from back when I was first starting to develop certain skills. However people like it. Pull-ups of all kind seem to be an elusive and sacred item for people in the training community. People cheer when individuals get their first pull-ups, men and women alike are thrilled to do them. The one arm pull-up seems to hold even more of a mystique. So lets unpack this skill a bit.
First off: Yes you should be able to do some regular pull-ups before you start training one arms. However, in my experience, pulling extra weight on two arm pull-ups doesn’t help, and quite frankly the huge push to pull with one hand and hold a towel, or a string, or some lace, or whatever else with your other hand has only got minimal benefit. The body positioning, the muscles engaged, and the direction of pull will only get minimal benefits from being trained with a second hand on anything.
Second: Go find a copy of Paval’s “The Naked Warrior“, read it. Having read countless books put out by dragon door, this is still one of the best when it comes to talking about the notion of getting tight and engaging lots of muscles. This is super important. Yes there are a lot of books that claim to teach one arm pull-ups, this book out does them all, despite never really discussing the movement.
Third big item: Get a timer. Or a clock. Or a watch. Or something you can see while on your pull-up bar.
My go to method for developing the one arm pull-up is statics. Not moving. The progression if you could do no pull-ups of any kind would be to jump up (or step off a box) and hold yourself in a locked off position as long as you can. Build that into the 15s-30s range and then start playing with your joint angles. Then after a while add some partial pulls to that. Before long: boom! Pull-ups. So the one arm pull-up is similar. You need to be able to hold the lock off at the top. Be it by starting out with a self spot on your own wrist, a towel held at arms length, or just by stepping off a box into the position. Spend a lot of time there. Squeeze the elbow as tight to your side as possible and just hang out. Lower slow when you are dying, never just collapsing because it is hard. Thats where training this skill has to start. By simply being under load on one arm. Start there. If people are interested I’ll keep writing about this.