Pull-ups are like a fitness right of passage. When you ask people about their fitness goals, one of the most common answers is, “I want to get my first pull-up.” A pull up is not only cool, but it's functional and can help get you strong for any aspect of your life. Have to pull yourself up a tree because a cow is chasing you? Pull-ups can help with that (and yes that has indeed happened to me. True story.) Pull ups not only give you cool party tricks, but they are great for building upper body strength. While getting your first pull up is hard for anyone, women tend to have a harder time building upper body strength because women, on average, possess about one-tenth the testosterone levels of men. But don’t worry. This fact doesn't mean that women can’t build upper body strength, it just means that we might take a different approach. It is information that guides us in the right direction.
“But I’m not interested in getting a pull-up….” Let me kindly convince you why you should jump on this pull-up train. Pull-ups are one of the best ways to build upper body strength. But before we get into why it is important to develop your upper body strength, let's define upper body. Our upper body consists of many different muscles, ligaments and tendons. When we do pull-ups the following muscles are engaged; Latissimus dorsi, Trapezius, Thoracic erector spinae, Rhomboids, Infraspinatus, Teres minor, External oblique. AKA: Lats, Biceps, Obliques, Serratus anterior, Rhomboids. AKAX2: Lats, biceps and back muscles.
One of the muscles I want to highlight is our “lats.” This muscle is used in various fitness movements and many of us have a hard time engaging our lats in our lifts or any fitness movement because our lats are underdeveloped, or we don’t know how to engage or “turn them on.” We use our lats in any pulling motion, deadlift, Olympic weightlifting, back squatting and almost every movement. Think of your lats as a support system for your body. Besides your glutes, hamstrings and quads, your lats are your power muscles. Therefore, pull-ups are a great way to not only grow and develop those muscles, but they are a great way to train yourself to engage those muscles.
Here are 6 alternative ways to build strength in your lats beside doing pull ups. These exercises will help you develop the strength you need to get your first strict pull up or continue to improve if you're already able to do them. Give them a try and let us know what you think.
Banded Face Pulls
Banded Lat Pull Downs
Band Assisted Pull Ups
DB Bent Over Rows
Negative Pull Ups