Sadistic variants of the pull-up are just as good for your muscles as the humane version
Let's face it: some strength coaches are sadists. Instead of doing nice things - like cuddling puppies or expressing their feelings in poetry - they devote their lives to studying ever more terrible and impossible exercises. That way they know what to do if for the very first time have been able to pull yourself up ten times in a row. They propose to replace the traditional pull-up with the much heavier towel variant, where you do not hold yourself to the bar, but to a towel that you have wrapped around the bar. A terrible exercise, but hell, it's good for your muscles.
Well - that's something American exercise scientist Ronald Snarr, affiliated with Georgia Southern University, would never do. Snarr published a study in the Journal of Human Kinetics in which he compared the effect of three different versions of the pull-up.
Snarr had 15 trained strength athletes - their average age was 25 - performing three different versions of the pull-up: the traditional pull-up, the towel pull-up and the suspension pull-up.
The subjects made 3 reps of each variant. Snarr had electrodes glued to their skin to measure the activity of the muscles below. That way he could determine how hard those muscles had to work.
There were virtually no statistically significant differences between the effect of the exercises on the muscles. Snarr discovered only one: the middle part of the trapezius was activated a little less during the towel pull-up than during the other exercises.
"Practitioners can be confident during programming that performing any of the pull-up variations examined within this study may provide significant benefits to the client or athlete", Snarr concludes.
J Hum Kinet. 2017 Aug 1;58:5-13.
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