The 4 Week Pullup Challenge Workout

When it comes to fitness “bucket list” goals, for many people it’s as simple as “I want to be able to do one pullup again. Just one!” So we’ve made February officially Pullup Improvement Month here at AST.

Important note: this is the technique that you SHOULD be using when you do a pullup.

So flailing, flopping, bouncing, and generally attempting to imitate a drunk seal jumping through a flaming hoop while surrounded by penguins throwing lawn darts… won’t count.

You’ll start by finding out how much weight you can lift for 1-2 strict, clean reps.  If you can’t lift your entire bodyweight for one rep, you can either use an assisted pullup machine (available at most commercial gyms), or use thick resistance bands attached to the rack or the pullup bar itself (we use resistance bands from EliteFTS here at AST).  By stepping inside the bands it creates assistance, not resistance, allowing you to reduce the size of the bands over time as you get stronger.

Your goal over the course of four weeks is to increase the number of reps you can do with that initial resistance/assistance level, and then re-test your 1-2 rep strength at the completion of the program.

You’ll be performing this workout 2-3 times per week, and it can be done either at the beginning of your workout, at the end, or as a stand-alone on days you normally wouldn’t train.  We’re using it after training sessions with our clients and we’ve removed any pullup variations from our regular programming over the course of the Pullup Challenge to avoid any overuse and fatigue issues that would hinder progress.

Download the 4 Week Pullup Challenge, and leave a comment to let us know how you did!

Product Review: EliteFTS Blast Straps

Blast Straps, sold by Elite Fitness Systems here, are two individual D-handles attached to long, adjustable straps that attach to the top of any power rack or chinning bar.  They’re designed to add an element of instability and balance to traditional bodyweight movements (such as pushups, pullups, dips and more), as well as a few exercises that are specific to the Blast Straps (try the Abdominal Fallout for an example of what I mean).

The Blast Straps are incredibly high-quality, especially for the price.  The handles are solid metal with a chrome finish, and the straps themselves are rated at over 600 pounds per square inch.  I paid a little over $60 for mine about a year ago, well under the $200 that the TRX Suspension Trainer goes for.  The TRX gets the edge for being more versatile for lower body movements, but then again, it should for the difference in price.

As a personal trainer, one of my biggest concerns when training clients is always “man, I hope I don’t have to spend all day waiting to get on the equipment I want to use.” The less space I need, and the more movements I can do in that space, the better. Problem is, sometimes it’s not very easy to move quickly from one movement to the next when you have to constantly change plates on a barbell or swap out multiple sets of dumbbells. The beauty of the Blast Straps is that you can move quickly from one exercise to the next or quickly change the load just by adjusting your feet.  Without making a single adjustment to the strap length, I’ve run clients through the following circuit of movements using the Blast Straps with the handles set about 2 feet off of the ground:

  • Pushup
  • Row
  • Flye
  • Face pull
  • Overhead squat
  • Tricep extension
  • 1-leg squat
  • Bicep curl
  • Reverse flye
  • Abdominal fallout

And that’s just for starters.  There are all sorts of hybrid movements that you can come up with if you’re creative, which brings me to my next point: these things are fun as hell.  They do a great job of breaking up the monotony of conventional training and let you think outside of the box for a while.   This is especially refreshing if you’ve been training with the same movements for years on end.

There are very few cons that I have run into so far, but I have found a few.  The handles tend to be incredibly noisy when they’re rotating during movements.  Nothing major but it can get a little old at times.  I also wish it was a little easier to make the straps shorter for movements like dips and pullups, and a second loop to place the foot in for lower body training would have been nice (again, if you want a lot of leg work, go with the TRX).  But, like I said, you can’t beat the price.

Overall rating: 9/10
Retail price: $74.95 from Elite Fitness Systems

See more Blast Strap exercises here.