Why You Can’t Do a Pull-Up
July 13, 2015
Why You Can’t Do a Pull-Up?
Despite being strong, some people can’t figure out how to do a pull-up/
Pull-ups are one of those ubiquitous tests of strength, but a move that can humble even the toughest of men. Most who are unable to do this particular feat think the answer lies in more weights. And while your lats, biceps, and traps are doing work during this move, the real answer lies in your serratus anterior (SA), the muscle that holds your shoulder blade against your rib cage. If your SA isn’t working correctly, you are setting up the other 17 muscles that attach to your scapula to fail. When the scapula is out of position, you are putting yourself at a mechanical disadvantage. In other words, it’s not strength, it’s positioning. As a physical therapist, I am always amazed to see how much strength is trapped in the body because bones are out of position. When I put the bones back in to the right position, the muscles are at the right length, and all of a sudden, the body moves better. You may be strong, but you are always stronger in balance and in alignment.
This is especially true for the strength and balance required to do a pull-up. Put the scapula in the right position, and your lower trap, biceps, and lats will work much better. With the scapula out of position, you are asking your teres major and minor (which are tiny muscles) and only a portion of your lat to lift your entire body. No wonder you can’t get your chin up to the bar.
You need to start releasing muscles that attach to your shoulder. Modern life is about texting, working on the computer, and stuffing yourself into airplane seats built for 12 year old kids. The result is a forward head and rounded shoulders and ultimately, a shoulder blade that is constantly drifting forward and up. Gravity exacerbates the situation, pulling you down and further out of position.
Senior Lecturer, TE