Pull-ups are one of the best upper body exercises to add to your workouts. If you haven’t already, adding this exercise will give you several benefits such as increasing strength in your back, shoulders, arms, and grip.
Even better, stronger muscles are not the only benefit of doing pull-ups. You will also sharpen your focus and build mental strength by consistently working to improve your pull-up performance.
With so many benefits, it sounds like we should be doing this exercise every day, right? Not so fast.
Daily pull-ups may not get you the improved performance and strength you are seeking in your fitness program. Continue reading to learn about the important factors to consider when designing a pull up infused workout.
Muscles Need Time to Repair from Workouts
When we strength train, trauma occurs in the muscles. One form of that trauma is microtears to the muscle. When given the proper time to repair, those microtears result in repairs to the muscle fibers that often result in fibers that are stronger and thicker. This process depends on regeneration at the cellular level.
If we continually train the same muscles without the proper rest, we don’t give the muscles the time needed for this repair and growth.
Your Body Needs Time to Replenish
Post-workout rest provides a valuable tool for your body to replenish energy stores. When your body has the proper time to re-energize, it becomes both stronger and healthier. Not giving your body the time to restore its energy levels can cause a poorly functioning immune system, disturbances to the balance of hormones, as well as neurological changes.
Avoid Injuries Caused by Overtraining
Ultimately, if we continue to stress our body without giving it the time to rest and recover, we will end up with overuse injuries. When we hear the words, “overuse injury,” we often think of injuries such as iliotibial band syndrome or patellofemoral syndrome (runner’s knee). The constant pounding our body takes from such a repetitive movement is far from ideal.
While we don’t typically hear about injuries related to overtraining with pull-ups, they do exist.
Shoulder (rotator cuff injuries) and elbow injuries are the most common injuries that happen when there is overtraining with pull-ups. Depending on if proper form is being used, injuries in the neck, biceps, and triceps can also occur. Without adequate rest between pull-up workout sessions, our form can be negatively affected, and these less common injuries can quickly become an issue.
How Long Do I Need to Rest Between Pull-Up Workouts?
There is a lot of research on the “magic number” of hours needed between training the same muscles. The majority of research says that muscles need at least 24 full hours of recovery. Some say 24-48 hours is best.
A good rule of thumb put forth by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is to train each muscle group 2-3 times a week. Keep in mind, rest and recovery in between these training sessions does not mean you have to remain inactive.
Muscle Recovery Can Happen in Different Ways
There are many different ways for your muscles to recover, and it doesn’t have to include absolute abstinence from physical activity.
Here are three ways to recover, so you come back stronger and ready for that next pull-up workout.
- Active Recovery: Use low-impact, low-intensity activity to keep both the oxygen-rich blood flowing in and the waste circulating out of your body. If you have just done an upper body workout the day before, try a good hike, biking, or a gentle yoga session.
- Cross Training: Do something different. That is the bottom line when it comes to cross-training. We have already touched on overuse injuries, and yes, cross-training is a great way to avoid those. If you spend a lot of energy building upper body strength (as in push and pull workouts), supplement that with cross-training for core and lower body strength.
- Myofascial Release: Used in massage, myofascial release helps to break up tissue and increase muscle flexibility. Foam rollers are a great way to do a self-myofascial release.
Pull-Ups are a Functional Fitness Goldmine
Pull-ups are a solid exercise to add to your functional workouts. It is a standard exercise that uses multiple muscles in one controlled movement to lift your body.
The pull-up targets primarily back muscles as well as secondary muscles (such as biceps and shoulders). Regardless of whether you are a beginner or more advanced in your pull-up workouts, the right pull-up program is out there.
Maybe you are at the point in your fitness training that you want to add pull-ups to your workouts, but feel you aren’t strong enough to jump into doing multiple unassisted sets? In this instance, you are going to need to increase your strength so you can slowly and safely add pull-ups to your regimen. There are plenty of exercises to help you with this.
Progressive pull-up training can be done with exercises such as:
- Dead hangs
- Flexed-arm hangs
- Negative Pull-ups
- Band-assisted Pull-ups
These exercises can be instrumental in moving toward an unassisted pull-up workout. If you have already been using pull-ups in your workouts, think about adding pull-up variations, which will simultaneously combat boredom and challenge your muscles in different ways.
Here are several types of pull-ups to keep your training fresh:
- Wide-grip pull-ups
- L pull-ups
- Narrow grip pull-ups
- Underhand pull-ups
Pull-ups are such a versatile exercise. Using them in your workouts will allow you to challenge yourself through progressive training to increase your pull-up ability or by using pull-up variations to keep your workouts fresh and ever-changing.
Just don’t forget to allow for some recovery time to maximize your strength gains while building a stronger, healthier body.
Pull-ups can be intimidating when you are just starting. As you progress in your ability, your hard work should be celebrated! Feel free to leave us a comment below on your challenges and progression, as we’d love to hear and offer support.