The other day I was training a young hockey player and he noticed someone in the gym performing a pull-up style exercise.

And I say ‘pull-up style’ because this wasn’t your traditional pull-up.

The pull-up can be a great exercise for developing the backside of the upper body specifically the lats, rhomboids, rear delts and lower traps. And for the guys who like to train their arms, which really doesn’t make sense for hockey btw, you get a great arm workout from chin-ups and pull-ups. That’s because every rep involves flexing the elbows and thus contracting the biceps with your entire bodyweight.

But this isn’t about training the guns. We’re here to look at the pull-up.

So back to the guy doing the weird pull-ups in the gym.

What made these pull-ups so weird? Well it was because every rep involved using every bit of momentum and leverage possible in order to get his chin  over the bar.

And so the hockey player asked me if this was a good technique?

And as with every answer I give him and every hockey player I work with, I said ‘it depends’.

In order to answer a question about whether that was a good technique or not you need to be able to answer the question ‘what is the reason for performing the exercise in that way?’

Maybe you’ve entered a pull-up contest and max number of reps wins, regardless of form. Than this may be a better technique to use.

Or maybe if you’re training  for gymnastics it might be a great exercise. Imagine a gymnast on the uneven bars kicking the legs forward and back in order to generate momentum and start into full swings around the bar. This might be a good idea if that is the end goal.

Or if you are ever in a burning room on fire and you need to swing your body feet first through the window this may be a good exercise for you.

But as a hockey player training to improve your on-ice performance you may not want to perform your pull-ups in this way. Here’s why.

Doing your pull-ups with this kind of leg swing to generate momentum takes the stress off the targeted muscles such as the lats rear delts, lower traps and rhomboids. Instead it transfers this stress to the joints involved at the wrist, elbow and shoulder. And for some the kicking motion of the legs is forceful enough to move the lumbar spine. Not a good thing.

As with any type of training or exercise you want to have progressions in place.

You don’t do box jumps until you can eccentrically control your body through a one legged-squat.

You don’t do plyo push-ups if you can’t maintain spinal integrity on regular push ups.

And you shouldn’t be adding in force and momentum to your pulling movements until you have developed a certain base level of strength.

That is unless you are quitting your hockey team and going out for gymnastics.

Keep training hard but smart,


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