Power Pull-ups

When climbers talk about “power”, they are typically referring to the need to make quick, strenuous reaches or handhold grasps on steep terrain. This type of movement is the stuff of steep sport climbs and V-hard boulder problems.

Physiologically, your ability to move powerfully is a function of how fast muscular motor units can be called into play and how well they are trained to fire in unison. Effective power training exercises must then target the nervous system with fast, dynamic motions that are far different from the strength and endurance training exercises. Inherent to power training are high dynamic force loads that provide beneficial training stimuli but also threaten the joints and tendons of the fingers, arms, and shoulders. For this reason, the power-training exercises are inappropriate for beginner or recently injured climbers, as well as anyone lacking the maturity and discipline to follow the training and rest guidelines.

Adequate rest between power exercises and workout sessions is also crucial. As a rule, you should not engage in more than two power workouts per week. Furthermore, individual workouts should be relatively brief, as training intensity and speed is more important than training volume. In fact, performing a high volume of power exercises (or training power more than twice per week) is a prescription for injury. Constantly remind yourself that in training power, less is more.

Below I detail an excellent exercise ideal for people new to power training. Use this exercise for a few months before graduating to other power-training exercises such as campus training. Check back for future updates to learn more power training techniques.

Power Pull-ups

This simple power-building exercise can be performed on any pull-up bar or fingerboard. You can train with this exercise by doing a few sets, or just do a single set as a power warm-up before executing at more-advance power exercise.

1. Grip a pull-up bar or the largest holds on a fingerboard in the palms-away position. Your hands should be about shoulder-width apart.

2. Now explode upward with the goal of doing the upward phase of the pull-up as fast as possible.

3. Pause at the top position for a moment, and then lower to the starting position at a slightly slower rate.

4. Upon reaching the bottom position, immediately explode upward with the next pull-up. Strive for as rapid a reversal in direction as possible—this rapid turnover is essential to optimal training.

5. Continue with these explosive pull-ups for a total of five to ten repetitions. Do not do more than ten reps, regardless of the feeling that you could continue on with the exercise.

6. Rest for three minutes, before doing a second and third set.

Safety note: Warm-up with a few slow pull-ups and stretching before engaging in Power Pull-ups. Never drop forcefully onto straight arms, but instead strive to change directions slightly before the arms reach full extension. Cease use of this exercise if you feel any pain in the elbows or shoulders.

Copyright 2007 Eric J. Hörst. All rights reserved.