Information on Single High Pulls

Discussion in 'Kettlebell' started by Augustus F-N, Jan 14, 2018.

  1. Augustus F-N

    Augustus F-N Triple-Digit Post Count


    I've been reading a great deal about snatches and their cost-benefit. In particular here:

    The consensus appears to be that the snatch has benefits over the swing: an impressive WTH effect on pull up numbers, greater upper body work, greater grip work, greater metabolic demand, and a clearer end point for testing reps in a given time frame. But many have understandable misgivings about the lift: it is more technically demanding, and there is perhaps a greater potential for injury. The dilemma raises the question in my mind, is the high pull underrated/underappreciated?

    I've searched the blog, the forum and the training logs - a few people appear to use the high pull and mostly as a transition towards the snatch, only occasionally as an exercise in its own right. I was wondering:
    1. Do you think a high pull could have the same carry over to pull ups as a snatch?
    Could it maintain pull ups if not increase them? Or does the bell need to go through the lockout over head (as in a snatch) to benefit pull ups?

    2. What way do you recommend performing the high pull?
    There appear to be two versions: a high elbow, where you pull aggressively at the top of a swing, almost like a face pull, then push the bell back forward into the downswing. This seems to be the most common; and it is the one described in ETK. And a (newer?) low elbow version, which I have seen called a T-rex high pull or a subtle high pull, but for which I haven't been able to find a video or a photo, and which I'm struggling to visualise. Do you think one method would benefit pull ups more than the other?
    I'd be thankful for hearing all your opinions!


    Oscar likes this.
  2. Pavel Macek

    Pavel Macek Strong, Powerful, Explosively Athletic Member of the Forum Senior Instructor

    1. No
    2. The first one is a great drill on it's own (especially the double kettlebell version), the second one is an excellent bridge from swing to the snatch - I use it only when I teach the progression from swing to the snatch.

    Although the transfer of snatches to pullups is well documented, the best method that benefits pullups are - pullups: many variations of pullups. I disagree with the statement that there is a greater potential of injury in snatches. If you are not ready (not enough correct/relatively heavy swings/get-ups/presses), yes - but that can be said about any exercise. In the kettlebell lifts practice, I would focus especially on swings and snatches (all kinds), with maybe some high pulls as specialized variety.
    Jan, Shahaf Levin, Steve W. and 4 others like this.
  3. Marc

    Marc Strong Member of the Forum

  4. GeoffreyLevens

    GeoffreyLevens Strong Member of the Forum

    Agree about the path to better/more pullups is pullups! But I do think high pull is great exercise in its own way. Not as "big" a movement as snatch, and not as technically demanding, but a heavy high pull, esp if you really pull on it, has its own benefits. I've done them quite a bit as transition but then found I liked them so much I just stayed with high pull for quite awhile.
    Augustus F-N likes this.
  5. Augustus F-N

    Augustus F-N Triple-Digit Post Count

    @GeoffreyLevens Yes, no doubt doing more pull ups will lead to more pull ups. But I've been considering more of a minimalist approach to training, with fewer exercises, and the TNT TSC program linked above got me thinking that maybe I could maintain pull ups with some kettlebell ballistics without actually doing pull ups.

    What benefits in particular have you noticed from the high pull?
  6. GeoffreyLevens

    GeoffreyLevens Strong Member of the Forum

    I was not meaning to imply that high pulls would increase pullups. I have not even found much cross over from snatch to pullups. But I have found high pulls improve my posture and increase strength in mid and upper thoracic muscles the in turn strengthen my ability to do all sorts of things and just overall feel "stronger". Plus sets give me more cardio intensity than swings.
  7. Steve W.

    Steve W. Strong, Powerful Member of the Forum

    +1 to @Pavel Macek's post.

    To reiterate:
    1. Carryover to pullups? I've done a lot of snatching and a lot of pullups over many years and never noticed any significant carryover. Even if others have, relying on some other exercise to help your pullups does not seem like a great strategy.

    Program around your goals and preferences. Focus your daily practice to align with your goals and what you enjoy. If pullups are a priority and you enjoy them, then train them. If not, then don't. If they are a minor priority, do some maintenance training. But I would not rely on carrover from a largely unrelated exercise to maintain a skill I cared about.

    2. The only version of the high pull I have done consistently is the double bell version of the first variation you describe, as in Geoff Neupert's Kettlebell Muscle program. A nice variation in the context of a complex, but not anything I've felt a need to do as a stand alone drill. I've done lots of high rep double cleans, and I would do those every time before doing double high pulls. Same for the snatch and single high pull.

    I also don't necessarily think of the high pull as a snatch that isn't caught overhead. In the snatch, I try to keep my elbow down as long as possible and let the bell carry it up. Swinging and pulling the elbow up and back is a different groove.

    To me, the snatch is one of my favorite exercises to do. I believe it has a lot of benefits, but I mostly do it because I enjoy it. The idea of finding a substitute seems like a solution in search of a problem.
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2018
  8. North Coast Miller

    North Coast Miller Strong, Powerful Member of the Forum

    I have to agree with most of the above responses.

    These are two different lifts that hit different muscles. The only lift I do that I feel has solid carry-over to pullups would be bent rows and other deep rowing movements with a full ROM.

    I would stay with the high elbow version.

    Edit to add: when I'm doing high pull I execute similar to a push press. I want plenty of upper back involved in the last bit of pull, the hinge supplying only enough momentum to allow successful completion of the lift.

    If you have to brace to stop the KB momentum at the top, or have so much hinge-provided energy that you do not have to activate the upper back to raise it all the way, you aren't getting full benefit. In this respect it is very different from snatch or swing variations.
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2018
  9. GeoffreyLevens

    GeoffreyLevens Strong Member of the Forum

    Only time I would go w/ the low elbow version is in using it as way to get a more vertical snatch.

    I have not even found much cross over between inverted rows (horizontal/Australian pullups) and regular vertical pullups. I have worked up to 5 sets of 10 with feet on ground and when arms extended, scapulas just barely off the ground-->and still maxing out at 4 pullups.

    Recently came across a variation that shows promise...sort of 1/2 way between the two types of pullups, done with feet on the ground and one hand at a time. Seems to target the vertical pulling muscles much more than fully horizontal version does. Time will tell...up to 3 sets of 10 on these.

    How to Do 20 PULLUPS in One Set (WORKS FAST!)
  10. Augustus F-N

    Augustus F-N Triple-Digit Post Count

    Thank you all for the replies.

    I like being able to do pull ups, so I'll continue my regular practise of them then. Ideally I'd be able to do all my training at home; I must be one of very few people who has no opportunity to do pull ups at home, in my cramped student accommodation.

    Anyway, I might start chucking in high pulls for conditioning as swinging my 24kg bell gets easier - or I'll just swing it harder.

    North Coast Miller likes this.
  11. North Coast Miller

    North Coast Miller Strong, Powerful Member of the Forum

    I don't have a pull up bar either. Basement is too cluttered and low ceiling, garage is too cluttered and dang cold half the year. Wife is not good with me installing hardware into the ceiling.

    I do a fair bit of bent row variations, two and one hand, and I do a full pull/max contraction. I can do between 8 and 12 full hang pullups when fresh even though I never train them. Not too impressive but not bad either, and pretty good carry-over as I feel it in the same muscles at the end of ROM on both.

    High pulls are a great lift, but you won't feel anything like the contraction in the same muscles at the end of a pull up, same goes for snatches.
    Augustus F-N likes this.

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