July 6, 2015
      When working with higher end athletes one of the first assessments I use is the Global Extension Chin-up/Pull-up test. This test will help you analyze whether the athlete has adequate mobility and stability in their scapulae. It is also a good chance to have a conversation about addressing sticking points in their progress as well as avoiding possible injury. Many otherwise well developed athletes are lacking in this crucial area of scapular stability.

      The Test

      The Global Extension Chin-up/Pull-up test is relatively simple to conduct, but it is important to keep in mind who the test is for. Use this with an athlete who has passed the first level of the Athletic Skill Level assessment. Someone who is capable of a moderate number (6-8) of pull-ups or chin-ups but lacks a strict muscle-up.

      Why is this test important? It’s about establishing a solid foundation for future progress. As athletes advance they will want to develop more complex and demanding skills. Movements like muscle-ups, headstand push-ups or high volume kipping pull-ups. If you are not helping your athlete to develop the prerequisite strength they need to do these movements safely you are not doing your job as a coach (this applies to those of you training yourselves as well).

      Part 1
      First have your athlete hang from the bar in a passive position, totally relaxed with a supinated grip. Have the athlete contract their glutes hard, this should draw their feet behind the vertical line of the bar. This should be followed up immediately by a general bracing of the abdominal wall. At this point we begin the chin-up by retracting and depressing their scapulae. This should cause your athlete to be in a globally extended position under the bar (thus the name). Now that they are set they will perform the chin-up. The goal is to touch the chest to the bottom of the bar. For most strong athletes this is usually no problem, however if they fail at getting the chest to bar skip down to the Chin-up Fix below.
      Part 2
      If your athlete succeeded then they will move on to the next part of the test. This is to be performed EXACTLY like the above movement, but with a pronated “pull-up” grip. This is where most athletes will fail. To understand how to fix it we need to understand what is happening.

      When you supinate your grip for the chin-up you are setting your scapulae in a more stable position by “winding” the tissue of the shoulder girdle tight by virtue of the external rotation. This also makes it easier to engage the lats as well as bicep brachialis. If your athlete failed Part 1 then they are weak in their lats and biceps, a focus on these areas may be what they need to get their chest to the bar.

      Bicep failure is a bit easier to see. The athlete gets stuck, usually about halfway, unable to close the elbow joint. Lat failure takes a bit more of a trained eye. If the athlete gets the majority of the way but fails to get their chest to contact the bar. You will also see elevated shoulders and caved in chest.

      When you pronate your grip for the pull-up you are increasing the range of motion of the scapulae, thus increasing the strength required to support the structure of the shoulder. A lack of strength in either scapular retraction or depression will present itself as the inability to do a chest-to-bar pull-up. This can lead to performance problems such as the inability to do kipping chest to bar pull-up and strict no muscle-up. Weakness in this area can also lead to more severe problems such as shoulder pain and rotator cuff damage.

      The Fix

      Chin-Up Fix: If the athlete fails at Part 1 then put them through the following program for 4-6 weeks, 2-3 times a week.

      Warm-up: 2 Rounds
      Band Pass Throughs x10
      Scap Pull x10
      4 Rounds of:
      A1) Elbows Out Ring Row x8-10 @3011 (Pull to the top, hold retracted for 1 second, then lower for 3 seconds)
      Rest 45 Seconds
      A2) Dumbbell Bicep Curl x8-10 @3110 (Curl to the top, lower for 3 seconds, then pause for one while flexing your triceps)
      Rest 45 Seconds

      3 Rounds of:
      B1) Chin-up Static Hold x10-15 seconds – Use assistance if necessary, for this exercise a band is appropriate, but we prefer toes on a box.
      Rest 30 Seconds
      B2) Straight Arm Band Pull Downs x8-10 Reps @4010 -Pull down with control then return to the top for 4 second.
      Rest 30 Seconds

      2 Rounds of:
      Seated External Rotation x12-14 @4020 (Lift for 2 seconds, then lower for 4) – Use a weight that doesn’t lead to fatigue. You may be tempted to skip this part. DON’T, this is how you will build strength in your shoulder’s to handle the high volume of internal rotation that chin-ups require.
      Rest 60 Seconds

       

      Pull-up Fix: If the athlete fails at Part 2 then put them through the following program for 4-6 weeks, 2-3 times a week.

      Warm-up: 2 Rounds

      Band Pass Throughs x10
      Scap Pull x10

      4 Rounds of:
      A1) Assisted Chest-to-Bar Pull-up x8-10 seconds @3012 (Pull to the top and hold chest to bar for 2 seconds, then lower for 3, keeping consistent velocity through the entire range of motion) – The reason we are using assitance is because your lack of ability to pull to the top. Step your toes on the box, with minimal support to begin to build strength at the top of your pull.
      Rest 60 Seconds
      A2) Arching Front Lever x10-15 seconds – Watch the instructional video in full. Your goal is the best lat engagement you can manage for the allotted time.
      Rest 60 Seconds

      4 Rounds of:
      B1) Elbows Out Ring Row  x10-12 @3011 (Pull to the top, hold retracted for 1 second, then lower for 3 seconds)
      Rest 45 Seconds
      B2) Straight Arm Band Pull Downs x8-10 Reps @4010 - Pull down with control then return to the top for 4 second.
      Rest 45 Seconds

      2 Rounds of:
      Seated External Rotation x12-14 @4020 (Lift for 2 seconds, then lower for 4) - Use a weight that doesn’t lead to fatigue. You may be tempted to skip this part. DON’T, this is how you will build strength in your shoulder’s to handle the high volume of internal rotation that chin-ups require.
      Rest 60 Seconds

       

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