Band Resisted Pull-ups

To begin, I’m not here to debate the pros and cons of kipping pull-ups. In my eyes, a pull-up is just an exercise. I won’t split hairs about how different people choose to perform them. To each his own. What I can say however is that the kipping craze has led some athletes to flail on the bar like a fish out of water. As a result, the top portion of the exercise becomes nothing but a free ride that’s powered by momentum. Little attention is focused towards the last few inches of each rep. To no surprise, those last few inches are often a sticking point when progressing towards stricter or heavier pull-ups. Fortunately, resistance bands can be used to strengthen this common sticking point.

Band Resistance

Most people associate resistance bands with assisted pull-ups. We’ve all seen someone attach a band to a pull-up bar and then slip their foot or knee through the bottom loop. This set-up is quite common when working towards your first pull-up. Tension from the band helps to pull your body towards the bar.

A much less common exercise is the band resisted pull-up. With this variation, you will actually be pulling against the band. To perform this exercise, simply attach a band to your waist with a lifting belt. The opposing end of the band will then be anchored by a heavy dumbbell.

Band Resisted Pull-ups

Band resisted pull-ups make the last few inches of the each rep much more difficult. As you pull towards the bar, the band lengthens thus providing a steady increase in resistance. The band will literally try to pull you down.

41 Inch Resistance Bands

To perform band resisted pull-ups, you will need a 41 inch resistance band. This size was first popularized many years ago when Dick Hartzell created the original Jump Stretch bands. In the image above, I am actually using one of his originals. It is a Jump Stretch blue band. For many years, Jump Stretch bands were the only looped bands that you could find.

Fortunately, in recent years, it has become much easier to locate quality resistance bands. You can even buy them on Amazon. For example, Serious Steel has become one of the more popular suppliers. Their #5 band is similar in resistance to the Jump Stretch blue band. It is a strong band that will provide plenty of resistance.

Iron Woody Fitness is another popular supplier. They too offer a large band that is essentially identical to the Jump Stretch blue band.

Iron Woody Fitness bands

And if a resistance band doesn’t offer enough of a challenge, you can also wear a weighted vest. The combination of band + vest is quite difficult. Expect to be challenged throughout the entire range of motion.

Refer to the 1:25 mark in the video below for a brief demonstration.

Final Thoughts

As popular as band assisted pull-ups have become, I’m surprised that band resisted pull-ups remain largely unknown. Whenever I demonstrate the exercise, I’m shocked by how many people haven’t seen it before.

Band resisted pull-ups have been a staple in my pulling arsenal for many years now. Band resistance has been a great addition to my heavy pull-ups and chin-ups. There’s no doubt that I am stronger throughout the entire range of motion.

In summary, if you have resistance bands, I highly recommend trying band resisted pull-ups. Even an extra set or two with band resistance can make a big difference when consistently used. I often conclude my heavy pulling sessions with a few sets of band resisted pull-ups as a finisher. It doesn’t take long to include them and the results have been obvious.

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“Paralyze resistance with persistence.” – Woody Hayes

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13 comments:

  1. You blog is great, you advise is awesome, your insights are meaningful. I’m going to keep reading in-spite of the fact I’m not your target audience. I can’t do a single real pull-up. I don’t think you should be catering to my crowd, but often wish you could. I guess if I had 1 question it would be if you think my back is the limiting factor, or shoulders? I assume my biceps while weak aren’t the biggest issue I face since I can complete at least 2 to 3 chin-ups. What is a good beginner exercise I could do to help me prepare for real pull-ups. I would like to be able to do at least 1 strict pull-up with bar to chest…

    1. The fact that you can perform 2 to 3 chin-ups puts you well ahead of many beginners. You aren’t far away from hitting similar numbers with pull-ups. As far as progressions, the previously mentioned band assisted method can be useful. Attach a band to the bar, hook it around your foot or knee, and perform full range reps (the band will provide assistance). Static holds can also be useful (ex. top of the bar, mid-range, and free hangs). Body rows are also useful as you can vary the difficulty by raising/lowering the handles of a suspension trainer.

      I’d also add that simply getting stronger (all around) will help with exercises such as pull-ups. The more upper body strength that you develop as a whole typically equates to better performance with almost any bodyweight movement. Don’t limit your work for the bar to the bar.

  2. Shocks! I have a question, what are the preparations before performing this pull-ups? I think it will be very heavy for me since I still have a small body. Overall I really want to perform high intensity workouts soon so that I can reach my ultimate goal and shape the best out of me.

  3. I’m definitely adding these to my pullups. I’ve done weighted pullups, but I like the idea of focusing the extra resistance right at the end where you get over the bar.

    All said, I’m surprised that I’ve seen people use bands to add resistance to the end of the bench, squat, deadlift, or push ups, but never for pullups. Thanks Ross – you have a way of seeing what the rest of the world misses when it comes to options.

  4. Wish I Were Riding: I’m going to do a plug for Ross – it’s his website after all 🙂
    I’ve bought all of Ross’s products and can tell you first hand that his programs are “your target audience” and much more. I’d say just about most of the workouts you can’t outgrow. ICT/EIT/GPP strength and warrior can scaled to fit your fitness level. For example, you can never outgrow burpees. Jump higher, work longer, go faster, timed workouts, max efforts, do burpees for distance etc. If you can’t do burpees go to your knees and instead of jumping just stand etc..(although some would argue these are no longer burpees, but hopefully you get the drift). Ross also talks quite a bit about pull up improvements in his material too – can’t remember off the top of my head which book and don’t have them in front of me.
    If you haven’t bought any of his material, I can’t recommend it highly enough. Seriously! (and no…..I am in no way profiteering from this plug for Ross. His workout material is awesome and speaks for itself).
    All the best with your workouts,
    Rohan

  5. chin OVER the bar, right? i’m excited to try this resistance band technique with negatives and isometric holds!! one thing tho.. i’ve been trying to get my chin as high over the bar as i possibly can and lowering myself to straight arms. someone told me that i actually only need to go up to about eye level with the bar and there’s no need to straighten my arms. ??! am i making my pull ups harder than necessary or am i doing it the right way? any info will be appreciated! =)

    1. @air – Yes, I bring the chin over the bar. I’m all for maximizing range of motion. I pull higher than most, but I feel that the extra range of motion offers additional benefits that I wouldn’t otherwise realize.

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