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Old 02-25-2004, 07:40 PM   #1
Barry Cooper
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I wanted to throw some ideas out there, and see what people think. I've actually been meaning to post this for some time, and thought now might be a good time to attempt to create some positive discussion on how to increase max pullups.

I've been thinking about putting some effort into improving my bench, and this article had been referenced on WOD page a while back: http://www.testosterone.net/html/body_115b600.html

As the people with a Powerlifting background no doubt know, he talks about 3 types of training: dynamic-effort method, the maximal-effort method, and the repetition method.

Westside seems to focus mostly on maximal effort--which is seen most purely in heavy singles--(cycled every 2-3 weeks to a slightly different but complementary exercise), and dynamic effort, which is lifting a sub-maximal weight with maximum speed. As I understand it (and I haven't read the book, so correct me if I'm wrong) the repetition method is essentially muscular hypertrophy.

Hypertrophy/Repetition (again, to my understanding) seems not too different than what bodybuilders call pumping. Essentially, you're stressing the muscle with relatively high reps, and trying to keep blood in there so that the muscle will absorb more protein. Enough bodybuilders did some version of that for a long enough period of time before steroids that I believe the concept has merit.

In John McCallum's book "Keys to Progress", he talks about what he calls the Protein Pump, which is essentially eating protein throughout the day, and putting a mild pump in to your muscles. In his version, he did 7-8 workouts daily with half his normal weight. He did it daily for two weeks, with two days off.

My point is that Greasing the Groove could be considered pumping, and furthermore pumping without the negative lactic acid consequences (or whatever the stuff is that makes you sore). You're doing a submaximal workout that gets the blood flowing, and you're doing it a number of times daily. The result should be muscular hypertrophy, with corresponding specific strength gains.

There have been enough reports I've seen from people that have successfully used this method to increase their max set of pullups that I consider it to be useful and proven.

This raises the question, though: what about the other two types of training, dynamic and max effort? In the sense that powerlifters may tend to give Repetition training short shrift--b/c who wants to train like bodybuilders?--could it be that people training pullups are neglecting to their detriment Dynamic and Maximal effort training?

In thinking about it, Clapping Pullups are clearly Dynamic. Rope Climbing--especially if done without the help of legs--seems like a cross between Dynamic and Maximal effort. There are a number of other examples like ring work, rowing (repetition), Bachar Ladders, etc.

My point is that it seems like in the same sense that Maximal effort and Dynamic Effort seem like the biggies for increasing max lifts, so possibly should Repetition AND Dynamic be mainstays for increasing pullups, with maybe occasional weighted pullups for low reps, heavy weighted row, maybe even bicep curls for low reps.

It seems intuitive that someone that can do 200 pushups probably has a decent bench-although not what he would if he trained bench consistently with Maximal Effort--and someone who can bench 600 pounds can probably do 40-50 reps at least with a 135 barbell, so there is some crossover, and your exact mix determines where you achieve your most relative strength, but it is all related.

I have been experimenting with explosive pullups where my hands jump free of the bar. I can't quite pull off a Jumping Pullup, but that's where I'm aiming. I've also noticed that pullups seem easier when I pull hard at the start. I haven't done any weighted pullups or rows, but feel like they should play a small role. When I do, I will go for low reps, and switch up the exact exercise regularly.

In any event, this is untested theory, but I am testing it. I would welcome most opinions on this. Thanks!!
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Old 02-26-2004, 09:29 AM   #2
Ryan Atkins
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Hi Barry,

This is a small segement of an e-mail that Jason "J-Dog" Highbarger sent to me (Jason, hope you don't mind if I share). It touches on some of the issues you bring up:

"Just like one varies their pullups by simply altering their grip, one should also vary their pull-ups by other means. For example; some days you do sets with absolute strict form and NO kip at all, smooth and controlled. Other days you use all kip. Other days you do sub-max sets, but lots of them [like Pavel's "Greasing the groove"/"Synaptic Facilitation"-- What we at CrossFit simply call "practice" :-) ]. Other days you have a spotter help you to get 5-10+ more reps than you would be able to get on your own. Some days you might do a couple of the "1-minute pullups" or if the strength is not quite there yet to do that go for a 30-60 second descending negative with slow and controlled motion. Just like switching the grip, each method will provide for a different overall stimulous, adding to your overall "pulling" power/ability."

In addition, I think Roger's mentioned something about doing pull-ups while holding one of his students with his legs. Sounds like good maximal training (for me, at least).

Like you, I find pull-ups significantly easier when pulling hard and fast from the beginning. This makes it easier for me to get my chest to the bar (for the first couple of reps anyway) and helps me get a good rythm going.

Hope this helps,

Ryan
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Old 02-27-2004, 03:01 PM   #3
Brian Hand
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This is an interesting topic!

As I understand it (and I haven't read the book, so correct me if I'm wrong) the repetition method is essentially muscular hypertrophy...

Essentially, you're stressing the muscle with relatively high reps, and trying to keep blood in there so that the muscle will absorb more protein.

Well, the repetition method is just plain sets of multiple reps. Westside uses the repetition method quite a bit - every day, on abdominals, triceps, rotator cuff, and other assistance work. Hypertrophy is not the only reason to use the repetition method. Many exercises are not suited to the max effort and dynamic effort methods.

I think the theory that pumping works by supplying protein during the workout, during the pump, is nonsense. The pump actually causes a temporary decrease in circulation through the muscle. The muscle grows because an unaccustomed stress has been encountered, and it adapts (the fundamental SAID principal, specific adaptation to imposed demands). It grows after the workout, not during.


...he did 7-8 workouts daily with half his normal weight. He did it daily for two weeks, with two days off.

I don't think this makes much sense unless an occasional adaptive stimlus (i.e., hard workout) is introduced. It will help you recover, but you need something to recover from!


There have been enough reports I've seen from people that have successfully used this method to increase their max set of pullups that I consider it to be useful and proven.

I agree that the general method works, but not necessarily via hypertrophy. Pavel does say that GtG works mainly by neurological changes. Look at the Armstrong pullup program though. It combines "grease the groove" with the repetition method. Seems like it would do more.


In thinking about it, Clapping Pullups are clearly Dynamic. Rope Climbing--especially if done without the help of legs--seems like a cross between Dynamic and Maximal effort.

Clapping pullups are dynamic, because they require maximum speed with submaximal wieghts. Rope climbing is the repetition method, unless you sprint (dynamic) or you can only climb for two pulls (max effort). Just doing pullups or assisted pullups or even pulldowns (depending on your strength level) at maximum speed or with compensatory acceleration would be dynamic work.


...so possibly should Repetition AND Dynamic be mainstays for increasing pullups,

Here's what I would guess. Dynamic method mainly improves recruitment (speed). It will have little carry over to endurance; the more you recruit, the more you fatigue, and it will catch up with you by rep 10 or so. Max effort will improve recruitment and size and strength, so it will have some carry over, like in your 600 bench example; however, a bodyweight exercise is going to carry over a little less, since whatever muscle you build, you have to haul! Endurance training is the most specific and the most important factor; it will have the most effect. Grease the groove will improve neurological efficiency and may help recovery, so that should help.

Good luck with the experiment, I hope you'll keep us posted.
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Old 02-27-2004, 06:15 PM   #4
Ben Gimball
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Brian,

Just some thoughts on your excellent post!

"Neurological efficiency" is the least important factor to concern yourself with. As you do Pull-ups in your normal training this will be gained. that is one reason why GTG is inferior to the other methods discussed on this thread.

Also, while I agree "speed has little carry over to endurance" (and in fact hampers it in the long run), it is in itself essential to one set of max reps, as speed determines momentum which in turn means less fibers need to be recruited!



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Old 02-27-2004, 06:37 PM   #5
Kevin Roddy
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Ben, just a thought - wouldn't speed itself be less vital than pure power? If you're talking momentum in a pullup, I'm assuming you mean a strong start, which - in itself - would be aided MORE by neurological efficiency.

I'm just making observations here. Please correct me if I'm wrong. :-)

-Kevin
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Old 02-27-2004, 08:03 PM   #6
Ben Gimball
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Kevin,

Two great questions!

First, let's cover a few basics: "power" = Force x Distance/Time. A good example of this would be an Olympic style lifter. They are the true "Powerlifters" as they utilize speed and strength to a much larger degree than what we like to call Powerlifters.

The point is, "power" is expressed by the work achieved in a unit of time, so it's obviously a combination of strength and speed. Therefore, the answer to your first question is a resounding no! As "pure power" is in fact the combination of both speed and strength. In short, you need to exert a greater force through a greater range of motion, in the shortest amount of time! This helps build momentum, which is essential to building that one set max reps that we all desire.

As to your second question: There is far to much general hype surrounding neurological efficiency. this is where I have alienated some people on this forum, as those individuals are afraid to look beyond the latest "hot fad" in the training world.

Neurological efficiency is one component to be sure. However, it should be relegated to the lower end of the spectrum as it is easily obtained through normal training routines, over a relativily short period of time. All of this talk about "greasing the groove" is utter nonesense (as I make more enemys).

Most who claim success using GTG are: 1. New trainees, who will succeed doing almost anything. 2. Regaining prior performance, "muscle memory." 3. Finally, being consistent in their training. As it takes consistency to perform x amount of reps throughout the day. And this while inferior to almost any other training method is in fact better than no method at all.

The truth is that many fail using this method! Those who fail using this method, and there are many of them, are found on various forums and gyms across the country. They are roundly chastised by the "herd" for not sticking with it long enough! If they object they are branded a "heretic" verbally beaten into silence and the charade continues! the lucky ones are simply told "well I gues this training method is just not for you." What a ruse!

Neurological efficiency does become important when you are learning a new motion, or are attempting to perfect a complicated motion, as you need to create efficient pathways. Some examples where neurological efficiency would be useful: Tennis, Golf, Bowling and even Olympic weightlifting! (one reason that the GTG crowd incorrectly points to Olympic lifters "the Bulgarians train three times per day so I have to do it to improve my Pull-ups"), to name just a few.

Why are these more complicated? When eyes, ears or feet are all being used to a more or lesser degree, newer and better neuro pathways need to be established. Now, please compare for a moment the basic dead hang Pull-up with my examples. The amount of new neurological pathways that need to be developed in order to efficiently perform a Pull-up, even for a novice trainee, can be developed very quickly in the course of more traditional training patterns. It is, in short, almost an unimportant detail!

Again, I am sure I have offended more people with the truth. I will not apologize for this. I am sure that some of those people were the same ones who ate the high carb, extremely low fat diets of the 80's and 90's.

I hope that this answers your two questions to your satisfaction. And thanks for asking!






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Old 02-28-2004, 01:10 AM   #7
Paul "The Viking"
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Ben,

As a physicist, I'm a little wary in trying to use formulas like the one you quoted to analyze weightlifting. The formula you quoted is only true when the force applied to the bar is constant over that distance, which is not the case for just about every exercise. For someone who doesn't study mechanics, its an easy mistake -- and one I've even seen in professional exercise science journals!

I think that there is a general confusion about what the terms power, momentum, force, and the like actually mean. Their colloquial meaning and their scientific definitions don't coincide.

Increasing momentum is more directly an issue with Force, not Power - its also easier understood that way! In actuality, force is equal to the time rate of change of momentum. More force = faster change in momentum.

In terms of force, a powerlifter essentially only applies a force equal to (or slightly greater) than the weight of the bar, so there is little or no acceleration. Olympic lifters lift less weight, but have to apply forces much greater than the weight of the bar in order to impart a large momentum to the bar. Who applies more force? I'd have to get some numbers for the different lifts to be able to compare them!

Power and force are interrelated, but power is a more complicated beast! For example, when you are doing the negative portion of an exercise (lowering the bar) you are actually delivering negative power to the bar! I can try to post a "cliffs notes" for mechanics if anyone is interested.

At any rate, all of the formulas, while useful, only tell part of the story. The rest of the story is even more complicated and is the chemical work happening inside your body when you contract your muscles. This aspect is totally ignored by focusing on what happens to the bar (or your body's position, in the case of pullups) but is probably more important when it comes to improving!

-Paul
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Old 02-28-2004, 07:14 AM   #8
Justin Jacobsen
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“Neurological efficiency does become important when you are learning a new motion, or are attempting to perfect a complicated motion, as you need to create efficient pathways. Some examples where neurological efficiency would be useful: Tennis, Golf, Bowling and even Olympic weightlifting! (one reason that the GTG crowd incorrectly points to Olympic lifters "the Bulgarians train three times per day so I have to do it to improve my Pull-ups"), to name just a few.”

http://www.crossfit.com/discus/messa....html#POST9053}}
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Old 02-28-2004, 07:14 AM   #9
Larry Lindenman
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Wow. quite a bit going on in this thread. I love the Westside method and believe there is much to learn. They have proven themselfs on the "field of combat". I would also say Westside is the best method to produce big numbers in the three big lifts (period). Due to the narrow constraints of the sport of powerlifting everything WS does is geared to increase your 1 rep max in bench, squat (just below 90 degrees, and DL). Now, does big numbers carry over to other activities. . .yes! For most people max strength is the most trainable attribute, but. . .you would be sacrificing a lot of other attributes. So, does crossfit have a dynamic "day" for pullups, I would say every time I perform pullups its dynamic and sub maximal. Body weight for me is a submaximal load (approx. 60-70%)and I'm cranking out the pullups as fast as I can (with good form), so I'm training all my motorneurons to fire fast and harmoniously ala westside. Crossfit trains all of the assistance exercises just by completing the WOD. We are rarely pulling max loads in pullups but what kind of crossover does it have to #s, I know I know if I could pullup 100x my body weight I should be able to crank out decent nmubers but the more weight I add to my waist to practice a max effort, the more it alters my form and the more likely I am to injure myself (think about your elbow ligaments and tendons supporting 100X your BW, a little diffrent thean DL, BP, or SQ. Also about GTG, practice makes perfect. When I was a kid (14-15) and first touched the rings and swung, I looked like a spastic monkey, you should have seen the first attempt at a back uprise, feet kicking, head bouncing, arms bent, ugh! A year later, didn't even have to think about the back uprise one swing and straight arm nice pop and I'm above the rings. Now did the thousands of reps increase movement specific strength. . .a little but did the reps make me more efficient with the move YES. I got better thru practice. so is there a skill component to pullups, I say yes. Will practicing the pullup make me better, again yes. Is GTG practice, yes again. Will GTG or for that matter any other repitation method make me better at pullups I have to say yes!
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Old 02-28-2004, 07:36 AM   #10
Larry Lindenman
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Ben, I have to say the tone of your posts are, at the very least, condescending. You could state your point without becoming defensive. Share your knowledge, don't pound us with it.
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