Every year on Memorial Day, gyms all across the country perform a workout called the MURPH. The MURPH is done in memory of Michael Patrick “Murph” Murphy. He was a United States Navy SEAL officer who was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions in the war in Afghanistan. The workout includes a 1-mile run, 300 bodyweight squats, 200 push-ups, 100 pull-ups, and then finishes with another 1-mile run. The exercises can be done in any order you like. They can also be broken up into multiple sets and reps. When describing the MURPH to people, most seem confident in their ability to perform the runs, push-ups and squats. The hesitation mostly comes from the thought of doing 100 pull-ups and leads people to contemplate participating in the MURPH. We hear many of those people say that they could never do 100 pull-ups.
Unfortunately, some of the people that say this may have never really tried to develop their pull-ups. The fact is that the pull-up is a fantastic exercise that should be included into almost everyone’s fitness routine. In the following newsletter, we will discuss the benefits of pull-ups and pass on some training tips that can help develop a strong pull-up technique. We have also attached a video with some simple exercises that can be used to help build the strength needed to perform your first free hanging pull-up. The video can also be used as a tool for people that may be looking to add reps to their max pull-up sets.
There are so many benefits for doing pull-ups. Pull-ups are an extremely functional exercise. That means that the exercise uses muscles and motions that we use in our everyday life. For example, a police officer pulling themselves over a fence or lowering a piece of equipment down from a high area uses the same muscles developed by pull-ups. Pull-ups also develop the muscles in the hands and forearms increasing grip strength. Benefits for officers increasing grip strength range from apprehending suspect to pulling citizens out of harm’s way after a traffic accident. Pull-ups can also be used to restore balance in the body. Imbalances can occur from doing to many pushing exercises and not enough pulling exercises. Without balance in in the body posture issues can emerge due to weak and overstretched back muscles. Imbalances can be even more detrimental to police officers due to the equipment that must be carried on a daily basis.
There are several ways to develop a strong pull-up if you are looking to perform your first one or even to increase the number of pull-ups that you are already doing. Pull-ups utilize the muscles in your back like the latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, and trapezius. Performing exercises that engage these muscles can help you do your first pull-up and many more. Some of these exercises are TRX inverted row, hanging scapular depression and hold, resistant band head pulls, and super band assisted pull-ups. We have included a video here demonstrating these exercises: https://youtu.be/qfmMB4nc_sI . Also, pull-up assist machines that you find in many gyms can be helpful in develop muscles needed to complete your first pull-up.
If you are already doing pull-ups on your own, unassisted, then you may be looking to increase the number of pull-ups that you can do in one training session. If this is you, squeezing your shoulder blades back and together, away from your ears, before every pull-up rep can help. This will ensure that you are fully engaging the back muscles needed to perform multiple repetitions instead of just pulling yourself up with your arms. When holding and hanging onto the bar, imagine driving your elbows straight down towards your hips. Again, this imagery has the effect of helping you to engage your back and core muscles together that are needed to help you to perform more pull-ups. Finally, after pulling your chin over the bar, control the lowering portion of the pull-up. Don’t let yourself just drop down to full extension. This will increase the time your muscles are under tension and ultimately will help you add more repetitions to your max pull-up attempts.