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Bodyweight Tactical pullup bar to neck or chest finish difficult

guardian7

Level 6 Valued Member
I am finding the tactical pullup difficult to finish by touching the neck or chest to bar. In fact, I can't do it according to standard.
I have reviewed the rules: I have checked off all these:
  • Eyes front not looking up. Chin tucked
  • Thumbless grip
  • Hollow position, quads, glutes everything locked for practice. May release some tension as reps increase. I can hold it in a flexed arm hang. Core strength I don't think is an issue.
  • Dead hang start
  • Scapular pulled back and locked in to initiate. Unlocked to dead hang before next rep. Half second pause.
  • Imagine pulling elbows back Karen Smith; pulling the bar to you, Aleks Salkin
  • Imagine flipping your wrists as if you are going to do a muscle up. Brett Jones?
  • Grip hard with little finger like you are bending the bar to help activate the lats.
I finish workouts with face pulls regularly.

My theory is that it could be any combination of the following:

1. Internal rotation of shoulders interfering with pulling elbows back and pushing chest forward
2. I have no shoulder pain or serious issues or injuries, but a common lack of thoracic mobility for my age and frequent computer work. Low bar squat position is uncomfortable. Mobility rather than strength might be the problem.
3. I deadlift and use KB but don't bench press. I haven't done many pushups since the virus as I am walking much more and doing other stuff. Potential chest strength imbalance? I swing and deadlift. I don't think I have a weaker posterior chain imbalance. The opposite if anything. How much does the chest activate in the end range of ROM for tactical pullups?

I like chinups but find regular pullups challenging also. I much prefer a neutral grip for pullups or rings.

What have I missed? What should I try? What accessory exercises should I add? Stumped. Need to fix this as I was thinking of doing the TSC masters for the first time.

All time PR ten neutral grip regular pullups pre-covid. Recent 6 strict hollow hold neck over bar but not touching chinups, so it is definitely the tactical rule that is the barrier to overcome.

Any ideas on what to try out to fix this would be appreciated.
 

Benjamin Renaud

Level 7 Valued Member
I have the same issue as you so I'm interested in hearing what others have to say. I can get the bar to clavicle height but I'm quite a few inches away from it.
 

Steve Freides

Staff
Senior Certified Instructor
Elite Certified Instructor
@guardian7, a simple task for you both: stand on a ladder or other sturdy support in what you think is the correct finishing position of the tactical pullup as regard your hands, neck, chest, etc. See if you can actually get into the position. If you can, then start applying some tension while you're in it. This can be a start, and the next step can be seeing if you can hold yourself in that position by picking up your feet from the ladder.

Having a spotter/assistant with you is very highly recommended for all this!

-S-
 

guardian7

Level 6 Valued Member
I'm not saying don't do your pull-ups strictly, but if I am going very slow and controlled then doing a pull-up to the sternum is extremely difficult - if I am accelerating, it is not.

I want to meet the strongfirst tactical pullup standard to participate in the Tactical Strength Challenge. Regular ones are not the problem.
 

Benjamin Renaud

Level 7 Valued Member
@guardian7, a simple task for you both: stand on a ladder or other sturdy support in what you think is the correct finishing position of the tactical pullup as regard your hands, neck, chest, etc. See if you can actually get into the position. If you can, then start applying some tension while you're in it. This can be a start, and the next step can be seeing if you can hold yourself in that position by picking up your feet from the ladder.

Having a spotter/assistant with you is very highly recommended for all this!

-S-
To get into the finish position, I really have to push the chest out, bringing the scapula together in the back, which makes it harder to keep the hollow position. Is pushing the chest out the correct way to do it?

I tried this with my bar at sternum height.
 

bluejeff

Level 6 Valued Member
To get into the finish position, I really have to push the chest out, bringing the scapula together in the back, which makes it harder to keep the hollow position. Is pushing the chest out the correct way to do it?

I tried this with my bar at sternum height.
I find that when focusing on retraction (squeezing shoulder blades together, touching chest to bar) the natural tendency is for the body to want to go into an arched, extended position.

It is much more difficult to retract fully while staying hollow. It’s not un-doable, but the reason I think it’s more difficult is because you are asking the shoulder girdle to do all the work with no compensations from changing posture to make it “easier.” Even well respected, super strong calisthenics athletes will tell you to focus on retracting, but don’t expect full retraction. It’s more about the intent.

I agree with the advice Steve gave. Practice squeezing the position you want at an intensity you can handle. Maybe mix it up with some rows here and there, focusing on tight glutes and a strict hollow position.

If it’s a mobility issue, then it’s a shoulder extension issue. Shoulder extension is trained by virtually no one outside gymnasts. It’s also often the limiting factor when people cannot get a muscle up when they can do heavy dips and pull-ups no problem.

To test your shoulder extension, grab a dowel/stick (something very light!) and hold it behind you with your palms facing forward. Hands should be only slightly wider than your hips or shoulders. Walk face first towards a wall so you cannot lean forward or stick your chin out. Keep your arms totally straight (no bending the elbows!) and see how high you can lift your arms behind you.

I would give vague benchmarks as follows:
-excellent is 90°, arms all the way as high as your shoulders. Very few people can do this.

-good is around 45°

-needs much improvement ;) is anything lower than 45°

You can do this as a mobility exercise. Simply repeat for reps, focusing on external shoulder rotation and a good squeeze between the shoulder blades. For most people a pic pipe will crush them in the exercise.
 

Boris Bachmann

Level 7 Valued Member
I want to meet the strongfirst tactical pullup standard to participate in the Tactical Strength Challenge. Regular ones are not the problem.
If no matter how you do a pull up you cannot finish to the standard, yeah, well, then I guess maybe it's a mobility issue. As others have mentioned, some video would be helpful and an assessment of your shoulder/t-spine mobility would be in order.
 

guardian7

Level 6 Valued Member
I find that when focusing on retraction (squeezing shoulder blades together, touching chest to bar) the natural tendency is for the body to want to go into an arched, extended position.

It is much more difficult to retract fully while staying hollow. It’s not un-doable, but the reason I think it’s more difficult is because you are asking the shoulder girdle to do all the work with no compensations from changing posture to make it “easier.” Even well respected, super strong calisthenics athletes will tell you to focus on retracting, but don’t expect full retraction. It’s more about the intent.

I agree with the advice Steve gave. Practice squeezing the position you want at an intensity you can handle. Maybe mix it up with some rows here and there, focusing on tight glutes and a strict hollow position.

If it’s a mobility issue, then it’s a shoulder extension issue. Shoulder extension is trained by virtually no one outside gymnasts. It’s also often the limiting factor when people cannot get a muscle up when they can do heavy dips and pull-ups no problem.

To test your shoulder extension, grab a dowel/stick (something very light!) and hold it behind you with your palms facing forward. Hands should be only slightly wider than your hips or shoulders. Walk face first towards a wall so you cannot lean forward or stick your chin out. Keep your arms totally straight (no bending the elbows!) and see how high you can lift your arms behind you.

I would give vague benchmarks as follows:
-excellent is 90°, arms all the way as high as your shoulders. Very few people can do this.

-good is around 45°

-needs much improvement ;) is anything lower than 45°

You can do this as a mobility exercise. Simply repeat for reps, focusing on external shoulder rotation and a good squeeze between the shoulder blades. For most people a pic pipe will crush them in the exercise.
Thank you. That is a great exercise. I do shoulder dislocations regularly but the grip is wider and this is much more difficult and needs work. I guess like shoulder dislocations I would just adjust the grip width as I improve? Is this an exercise in itself or just a method of assessment?
 

bluejeff

Level 6 Valued Member
Thank you. That is a great exercise. I do shoulder dislocations regularly but the grip is wider and this is much more difficult and needs work. I guess like shoulder dislocations I would just adjust the grip width as I improve? Is this an exercise in itself or just a method of assessment?
You can definitely train it like an exercise. I suppose you could either start with a narrower grip (just outside hip/shoulder width) or you could start a bit wider and gradually work your way narrower. My preference would be to start narrow though. You can mix it up with an exercise called “table rocks,” that a google will turn up plenty of examples of. It’s a bit “easier” to stretch the chest and such but the pipe/stick drill will probably might help mobility better. I’d play around with them and see what makes you feel better.
 

guardian7

Level 6 Valued Member
You can definitely train it like an exercise. I suppose you could either start with a narrower grip (just outside hip/shoulder width) or you could start a bit wider and gradually work your way narrower. My preference would be to start narrow though. You can mix it up with an exercise called “table rocks,” that a google will turn up plenty of examples of. It’s a bit “easier” to stretch the chest and such but the pipe/stick drill will probably might help mobility better. I’d play around with them and see what makes you feel better.

I started narrow and then widened the grip at each sticking point. Very effective. The other one I am familiar with and will incorporate it. I am thinking reverse plank too based on your advice.
 

BillSteamshovel

Level 5 Valued Member
I have read somewhere that explosive upsidedown rows aiming chest to barwill help with chest to the bar pullups. I have done some googling but cannot find the same web page again. Anybody able to comment on that idea ? Seems to me that the final arm position would be very similar for both exercises ie fists at chest level and elbows driven behind back.
 

guardian7

Level 6 Valued Member
I have read somewhere that explosive upsidedown rows aiming chest to barwill help with chest to the bar pullups. I have done some googling but cannot find the same web page again. Anybody able to comment on that idea ? Seems to me that the final arm position would be very similar for both exercises ie fists at chest level and elbows driven behind back.

Yes, it is a very good regression for pullups that I do. It doesn't seem to solve the problem I mentioned though. Search Australian pullup or inverted pullup/row.
 

guardian7

Level 6 Valued Member
If it’s a mobility issue, then it’s a shoulder extension issue. Shoulder extension is trained by virtually no one outside gymnasts. It’s also often the limiting factor when people cannot get a muscle up when they can do heavy dips and pull-ups no problem.

To test your shoulder extension, grab a dowel/stick (something very light!) and hold it behind you with your palms facing forward. Hands should be only slightly wider than your hips or shoulders. Walk face first towards a wall so you cannot lean forward or stick your chin out. Keep your arms totally straight (no bending the elbows!) and see how high you can lift your arms behind you.

I would give vague benchmarks as follows:
-excellent is 90°, arms all the way as high as your shoulders. Very few people can do this.

-good is around 45°

-needs much improvement ;) is anything lower than 45°

You can do this as a mobility exercise. Simply repeat for reps, focusing on external shoulder rotation and a good squeeze between the shoulder blades. For most people a pic pipe will crush them in the exercise.

Thank Bluejeff, I can't recommend this shoulder extension exercise enough. I have increased my extension ROM a good 15 degrees since throwing this in as a break from working regularly. Still a bit from my tactical pullup goal but closer now. Scapular pullups also seemed to help.
 

guardian7

Level 6 Valued Member
Do you feel like it has helped with being able to pull closer to the bar?

I do but I can't prove it because I have been doing other stuff like a slightly wider grip, holding the top position, scapular pullups, high front raises with weight plates, Australian pullups very low trying to reach the bar as suggested here (but Smith machine/squat rack usually busy), etc. But the key point is that I would do it even if tactical pullups were not my goal. It is complementary but better than shoulder dislocations. My shoulders feel better as I do a lot of computer work.
 

guardian7

Level 6 Valued Member
I have read somewhere that explosive upsidedown rows aiming chest to barwill help with chest to the bar pullups. I have done some googling but cannot find the same web page again. Anybody able to comment on that idea ? Seems to me that the final arm position would be very similar for both exercises ie fists at chest level and elbows driven behind back.

Yes, this is a useful regression. It is difficult to touch the bar even in this position.
 
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