Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Body - Weight Exercise

Fitness is a big part of training at London Shido-kan Karate Dojo and for myself personally, I enjoy resistance training with barbells, dumbells, and kettle bells etc, but I also like to do various body - weight exercises such as push-ups, pull-ups and a variety of calisthenics like burpees and mountain climbers.  

At our dojo we have a good selection of equipment (which is constantly growing) but for variety,  I occasionally go to the gym with my wife Joanne. Even though the gym is well-equipped I seldom- if ever- implement machines. I prefer to do exercises that  employ the greatest possible degree of core stability and whole-body integration. For example, when doing a shoulder press with either a barbell or dumbell (s) - it's preferable to do so in a standing position, rather than sitting. That way the low back, hips and legs all become involved in the exercise. This is just one example of many. Of course there are traditional exercises that defy any tampering with -  dead lifts, squats, power cleans, etc.

In this installment I am going to talk about Pull- Ups (or chin-ups)

The Pull Up

An old standard for developing strength in the back (lats) and biceps, this exercise is often called chin-ups. The difference in the two exercises is the grip one uses: chin-ups use an underhand grip (supinated) or palms facing you, and pull-ups use an overhand grip (pronated) with your palms facing outwards or away from you. Slightly wider than shoulder width is a good position for your hands,  but can be varied when the movement becomes more comfortable or for the purpose of customizing the focal point. In both versions the objective is to pull your body high enough that your chin clears the bar. Chin-ups are usually easier to do for most people due to the biceps being engaged more directly in the movement. In both versions the scapula (shoulder blades) should be retracted or squeezed together to properly stabilize and engage the muscles of the back before the load is transferred to the shoulders and arms.
The purpose of this article is to discuss and demonstrate an assisted pull-up using a heavy rubber exercise band to take up a percentage of body weight so that more repetitions can be achieved. This is helpful for beginners  who may not yet be capable of lifting their own body-weight for many reps- or for the more advanced who wish to perform a large number of repetitions in sets.

In the following video clip I am using a rubber band to perform a set of wide-grip pull-ups. I would typically use the band after exhausting myself with several sets and try to accumulate at least 50 reps.The movement should be done in a steady manner, avoiding excessive swinging and lurching upwards if possible. Simply loop the band over the bar and hook one knee into it. Try to position your body as naturally as possible- meaning - no leaning backwards or forwards. You can alternate which knee is used for support each time..

Assisted Wide-Grip Pull-Ups - click to view video

Check back next installment for a demonstration of the "roll-out" using a simple abdominal wheel. I will discuss the basic and advanced versions of the exercise.

Stay healthy!