Only a pullup bar? No problem.
You can do many exercises with just an overhead bar. Besides the obvious pullups and chin-ups, the bar accommodates a slew of movements that come from the world of gymnastics.
Today’s exercises are simple movements that deliver a high return. They target the core but you may notice other muscles such as the lats, shoulders and forearm muscles also get some attention.
Unlike some exercises that isolate individual areas of your core, today’s raised knee movements work the entire core. You may feel this high into the ribs to low in the abdominals. Perform them slowly for maximum effect and stability gains.
Some people have trouble holding onto bars because of grip issues. The average person should be able to hold onto a bar for 30-60 seconds. If your grip lacks strength, practice holding yourself suspended from the pullup bar to build that strength.
If you suffer from a condition such as carpal tunnel syndrome or arthritis, follow your doctor’s advice about grip intensive movements. The doctor may recommend a brace, strap or alternative exercise to assist with grip issues.
There is more to hanging from a bar than just hang from a bar. Let’s create a stable environment to work from before we start moving.
Remember, moving with a floppy spine and loose joint capsules may not be the best way to prevent injury. Grasp the bar with both hands outside shoulder width. Be sure to wrap the thumb around the bar. It will help you keep a stronger hold.
Contract the upper back by bringing the shoulder blades together. Engage the core by bringing the rib cage down toward the top of the pelvis. Hold the legs together and point the toes slightly in front of the body.
The hang position may be more difficult than you thought. Contrast that with a loose hang position where the torso stretches the shoulders and the fingers start to slip.
The legs may be bent at the knees and crossed behind the body. Not many people can last too long in this position.
Essentially, today’s raised-knee movements are just elevating the knees from a solid hanging position.
First try the knee-to-waist version. It is relatively simple. Perform it slowly and with control. Next, try the knees-to-elbow modification. The body uses more lats and shoulder strength to control the torso. This is the part that really burns.
Avoid using a swinging motion to get the knees up to the elbows. You will build strength and stability with the controlled movement.
What if you can get your knees up to your waist but not up to your elbows? That’s fine. Keep working on getting those knees higher and higher. Have a trainer or gym buddy help you. The core likes to adapt and get stronger and does so quickly. With some practice you will get those knees up there.
One unfortunate side effect of bar work is blisters. Once you finally start to make some progress, a blister rips and you have to stay off the bar until it heals.
Minimizing blisters goes back to the full grip mentioned earlier. Instead of gripping the bar with only four fingers, wrap the thumb around the bar, too. This will decrease the amount of twisting your hand does around the bar.
The strict movements also will help reduce fiction of the hands on the bar. If you get sweaty and feel yourself starting to slip, hop down, dry your hands and reset your movement. Gloves, wraps, tape and chalk may help keep your hands intact but are a personal preference specific to each athlete. Feel free to try them out.
Even though you may be limited in equipment, you can still get some quality work done with just a pullup bar.
Chris Huth is a Las Vegas trainer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Consult your physician before beginning any exercise program.