Assisted Pull-Up

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Assisted Pull-Up Exercise Guide

This is a great way to work your big back muscles and practice the movement of the regular pull-up if you lack the strength to lift your whole body weight. Remember that adding weight to the stack makes exercise easier. The weight you select is subtracted from body weight when you perform the exercise. Therefore, the more weight you select, the easier the exercise.

If you can’t do enough pull-ups or chin-ups with your body weight to complete the workouts as written, you have several options. (a) One is to use an assisted pull-up machine, a staple of newer gyms, which allows you to replicate the body weight exercise. If you have access to one and need to use it, push yourself to reduce the amount of assistance you get from the machine, with the goal of working with your own body weight as soon as possible. (b) Without access to that machine, you can use an advanced technique called rest-pause – you will get on the bar and do two or three reps, drop off, catch your breath, then jump back up and do the next. (c) You can also use resistance bands (tube) for pull-ups. The resistance band helps you to rebound and therefore adds momentum to the upward phase of the exercise. That extra bit of assistance can turn the elusive pull-up into an actual achievement. Loop both ends of the resistance band around the bar, and tie each in a secure knot. Test the band to make sure it is secure by pulling it down. Than all you have to do is to place the center of your dominant foot into the bottom of the band. Slightly bend your nonworking leg and cross it behind the dominant leg.

How to Perform Assisted Pull-Ups?

STARTING POSITION (SETUP): Select the weight from the stack and then kneel on the plate (depending on the design) with the rest of your body in the same position as for basic pull-ups. Keep your back straight and use an overhand grip with your hands slightly more than shoulder width apart.

Assisted Pull-Ups

Assisted Pull-Ups

EXECUTION (ACTION): Pull your body up (until your chin is above the line of the hand grips) while arching your back slightly to expand your chest and leaning your body backwards a little. Your elbows should come down vertically and parallel to your sides. Pause, then lower your body by reversing the movement until your arms are fully straight.

Muscles Involved in Assisted Pull-Up

The external and upper parts of the latissimus dorsi are the areas most used, and assisted pull-ups are very effective if your aim is to broaden your back.

  • Main muscles: latissimus dorsi, biceps (short head), teres major
  • Secondary muscles: pectoralis major (lower and outside), triceps (long head), teres minor, rhomboids, brachioradialis, biceps (long head), deltoid (front and rear)
  • Antagonists: deltoid, pectoralis major (upper), triceps

Assisted Pull-Up Variations

  • Assisted pull-ups with neutral grip. If the machine is designed to allow a neutral grip (palms facing), this can be used to vary the exercise.
  • Assisted pull-ups with narrow grip (either overhand or underhand).
  • Assisted chin-ups.

Replacement Exercises (Substitutes)

There are plenty of other alternative exercises that do the same thing. Choose any other of the following middle back exercise (latissimus dorsi exercise) for building a wide back (broaden your back):

Advanced Tip

  • Combine body-weight pull-ups with assisted pull-ups by doing body-weight pull-ups to failure, then shift immediately to assisted pull-ups to reach a higher rep count. Eventually, you should be able to do more body-weight pull-ups.
  • The exercise can be very demanding if you want it to be (e.g., by reducing the counterweight used) because it eliminates swinging and other forms of cheating.

Closing Thoughts

This is an excellent middle back exercise suitable for users at all levels.

You simply stand or kneel on a pad and add weight to the assisting stack. Unlike other machines, with this one your goal is to use less and less weight until you can lift your body weight.

Assisted pull-up is very useful exercise for those wanting to progress to full body weight pull-ups as it uses the same muscle groups. It’s a similar movement to the regular pull-up requiring the same muscles, but is easier to perform as you’re not lifting all of your body weight and have assistance with the feet on the machine pad.

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