The Big Six Breakdown Series: The Pull


At Resilient Fitness (RF), our upper body days are a mix of pushing and pulling movements (read here about the push). When we say pulling, we mean that you are either pulling a weight or band towards your body or you are pulling your body towards your hands. Ring rows, face pulls, lat pull downs, and pull ups are examples of some of the pull movements that are usually programmed. It is important to alternate the pull and the push to train the muscles of the arms, shoulders, and upper/mid-back without overloading and individual muscles. It is also a critical part of daily life that we often don’t think about.


The pull can be divided into two planes of motion: horizontal pulls and vertical pulls. Horizontal pulls can include row variations (banded rows, bent over rows, rowing machines) and face pulls. When pulling in the horizontal plane, the muscles of the upper and mid-back are typically targeted. Pulling in this plane also promotes shoulder stability and postural health. With developments in technology seemingly happening every day, many people present with hunched shoulders and stooped posture. Pulling and stretching in the horizontal plane can help improve postural issues.


The other plane we typically pull in is the vertical plane. This includes pull ups, chin ups and lat pull downs. Since most vertical pulls start with the shoulder in full extension, the shoulder stabilizing muscles must work to both start the movement and keep the shoulder stable. Generally speaking, the rotator cuff muscles usually initiate the movement and the back muscles act as stabilizers. Muscles can be further targeted depending on grip or use of single-arm.


The pull is used frequently outside of the gym as well. Horizontal pulling movements can include opening doors, pulling objects closer to you, or pulling dishes/appliances out of cabinets. Vertical pulling movements can include using a pull down door, pulling yourself up from the ground, or picking up objects from the ground. Regardless of which plane you are pulling in, it’s important to be able to pull to keep yourself safe and independent. If we train this movement consistently and often, then the strength and stability it offers can easily be used daily in life outside of the gym.


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