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Better Pull-ups Without Pull-ups

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I Can’t Do It Either

I use to DREAD it! Yet, every year it would come around the same time in school. The presidential fitness tests!!! Ugh, being a kid that hadn’t grown into their body and feel often awkward, gangly, and definitely NOT strong, I dreaded these tests. ESPECIALLY the pull-ups. 

It would be humiliating watching my friends knock out reps while I struggled with all my might to do a single rep! Heck, I think the girls even would hit a couple after their arm hangs just to rub things in a bit more. 

Of course, I made the excuse, I’ve got long arms. Yea, that’s it!!! The reality is I was tall and long, but that wasn’t my problem. I just never really was active as I should have been and feeling awkward as a kid you don’t really want to do things that embarrass yourself. 

However, I finally had enough! So, I dedicated myself to building my pull-up strength so the next time I got tested I actually got five or six reps. I was pumped, but to be honest, my training wasn’t the most well thought out or anything. Mostly, I just did pull-ups a lot! 

Looking back on things, I could have been more efficient and done even better, but I was a kid after all;) Eventually, as an adult that weighed over 220 pounds I would be able to perform 15 repetitions. Not a world record, but not too bad either. Yet, everything I worked for fell apart when in 2010 I had to have a neck fusion due to some bad car accidents and sports injuries. 

The surgery killed the nerves that worked with the muscles to help me do pull-ups. While I recovered relatively fast, the hardest was to get back into doing pull-ups. Nerves regenerate so slowly and I wasn’t about to wait. 

I couldn’t do a pull-up, not a single one so what was I going to do?! My goal was to teach my body to work right again and because I wasn’t a kid and didn’t have the flexibility to just do “stuff”, I had to do this right. 

Pretty soon I had a pretty good game plan. I placed most of my energy (not all) into four DVRT Ultimate Sandbag Training drills. All of them were dedicated to teaching my upper body to work right again, but not just work, work with the rest of my body to be more efficient. My four DVRT Ultimate Sandbag Training drills included the following….

Ultimate Sandbag Half Kneeling Arc Press

How could an overhead press exercise relate to a pull-up? Well, particularly the Ultimate Sandbag Arc Press lets you tap into using your lat to press the weight. Yea, you don’t actually press with focus on the shoulder, but the lats. The Arc Press is so awesome for this because it is a pushing exercise that becomes a pulling exercise. Check out what I mean in the video below.

Ultimate Sandbag Forward Step Deadlift to Row

This makes no sense right? Well, it does when you understand that you want to tap into the full body when doing a pull-up, not just the arms. Using the forward step deadlift allows you to load up the glutes and core so that your lats can work better! 

Rowing from this position really makes you use your core right and identifies weaknesses in the upper body pulling muscles. You need to see the shoulder blades come back, not just the weight come up!

Ultimate Sandbag Side Plank Rows

Why would a plank of any sorts teaching you anything about pull-ups? Well, not only do planks teach you how to use the full body, but side planks tell you a lot about how to pack your shoulder as use that lat. 

More importantly, we want the lat and glutes working together again. We want them to not only work, but do so with a really strong and stable core. That is why this drill is SO much harder than it looks when you do it right! 

Ultimate Sandbag Lateral Drags

A classic DVRT Ultimate Sandbag Training exercise has SO many benefits. One of the most underrated is what happens with the arm that is on the ground in keeping stability and strength. Keeping the body braced and the shoulder packed is one of the hardest things about the Lateral Drag. See how you can do it better!

Don’t think exercises like pull-ups are beyond you, or that the only/best way to improve them is to just more of them. Don’t be like the 13 year old, be smarter, we know better and that means we can get results faster. 


Learn more how to gain a fitness edge with our DVRT educational programs coming up all over the world! Find out HERE