Over the years I have coached many people through their first pull up. It is a a goal for many that really marks a milestone in achievement. Pull Ups are hard. I also have given lots of advice to ahtletes over the years when they ask me how to get stronger at pull ups; and my answer always is.... not so surprisingly... do more pull ups. But when the rubber meets the road, there are certain tricks I use that go well beyond training the entire movement itself.
Isometrics involves holding a static position throughout the Range of Motion of a movement.
A pull up for instance has three distinct areas of particular muscle recruitment. For the sake of getting too far out in anatomy land Ill just say they are the initial pull, mid pull and finish pull and beyond. Muscles work in coordination with each other during all movements and if you are weak in a certain portion of a movement ROM then you are a great candidate for isometrics.
There are a TON of articles, studies and opinions about the subject of isometrics and building mass and strength. It is said that you can recruit more power and strength in isometrics than is possible in both concentric and eccentric phases of muscle activation See HERE . The strength gains that are possible in isometrics apply to not just gymnastic movements either!
Consider your Olympic lifts. For those of you who follow my programming and train with me I do mid pull Hangs and holds at the knee position. When you are pulling a barbell from the floor at speed there is very little time for your to perfect the midline strength and neural conditioning to keep your chest over the bar, hamstrings loaded and back and midline engaged. Isometrics allows us to focus on the balance and strength necessary to keep the bar rising in the right position. Over the course of 8 sets of :15 , pausing pull from the ground, you will develop the awareness and strength necessary to improve your pull from the ground. Not to mention your back and midline get strong as shit!!
Now back to the pull up. Many people struggle getting their chest to the bar. The extra ROM an pull it takes to get those extra inches takes serious strength and power. Scaling the movement so that you perhaps use a resistance band to get your chest to the bar and holding for :20 before lowering, will definitely get your back nice and fired up. Along with a good pump, you will feel the muscles that you have to engage in order to get the work done so there will be both a hypertrophy benefit and a neuro-physiological benefit.
The work continues my friends. These types of hold should be looked at as skill development days. When programming isometrics you will work very hard in your :20-:60 holds. If you want to lift or do conditioning after the isometric workout, leave those muscles trained alone! You want the body to adapt and not break down. If you are building mass, make sure to take in adequate amounts of BCAA's right after your workout to ensure muscle growth.
Keep it real in 2017. Try new stuff, even if that means slowing down and focusing on certain isometric holds. Your strength will improve and your optimal self will be revealed.
Banded Iron Cross
Contra lateral Hip/ Arm Reach and hold (on all 4’s, reach limbs away from each other)
10 Romanian Deadlift
10 Bent Over Row
10 Sumo Deadlift
3X5 @ 85%
14 Minute AMRAP
25 Med Ball Clean
15 Sit Up
10 Pull Up