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When you apply your hard-trained upper body muscles to recreation or sport events, you will rarely activate one muscle at a time. Instead, your movements will be a concert, with back, shoulder and arm muscles working together in a smooth rehearsed fashion. Perhaps you don’t have a particular sports application, but you just want to get a great upper body workout as quickly as possible. If you have a busy schedule it’s not time-prudent to do 10 different versions of an exercise to get a full upper-body workout when a more complex but intensive upper body exercise will fully activate the same muscles.

One of the best compound upper body exercises is the medium grip pull-up. It will improve your upper body muscle fitness strength and stamina without bankrupting your time budgeted for training. Pull-ups (or chins) provide an excellent way to stress most of the muscles in the middle and upper back, shoulder, chest and arms and therefore, it’s an outstanding upper body exercise. This exercise is effective and will improve your athletic output whether you are going after a rebound in a weekend pickup game of basketball, or out for a leisurely canoe trip in the wilds.

Structure and Function

Many muscles are involved in the pull-ups, which makes it a difficult but extremely productive exercise. This includes everything from the intrinsic muscles of the hand to grip the bar, to the forearm and upper arm muscles that help in the pull upwards, to the host of deltoid and upper back muscles that are strongly activated in this exercise. The major muscles involved are described below.

The latissimus dorsi muscle (from which the abbreviated term “lats” has been derived) is one of the prime muscles in the upper back that are activated by pull-ups. This muscle attaches from the vertebrae in the thorax and lumbar regions to the iliac crest of the hipbone. The distal attachment of this muscle extends all the way to the humerus bone near the shoulder. Together, the muscle fibers of the latissimus dorsi adduct the humerus (bring the arm toward the center of the body) and extend the humerus (pull the arm backward). The upper fibers of the latissimus dorsi muscle are most completely activated when your hands begin above shoulder height and they are pulled toward the armpits (axilla) during the pull-up exercise. The teres major muscle begins on the lowest part (inferior angle) of the scapula (shoulder blade), but it attaches to the humerus bone of the upper arm. It assists in arm extension and adduction of the arm at the shoulder joint.

The biceps brachii muscle has two (“bi”) heads (“ceps”). The short head of the biceps brachii muscle begins on the front part of the scapula on a bony area called the coracoid process. It extends down the medial (inner) part of the arm. The long head of the biceps brachii attaches on the supraglenoid tubercle of the scapula (a bump over the glenoid fossa of the scapula). It sits on the lateral part of the arm and its fibers mesh with the short head to insert into the bicipital tendon, which attaches on the radius (at the radial tuberosity). Both heads of the biceps flex the elbow joint. The brachialis muscle begins on the distal half of the humerus and inserts on the coronoid process of the ulna. It helps to flex the elbow joint during pull-ups.

It may surprise you that the pectoralis major muscle has a role in pull-ups. This fan-shaped muscle covers the upper (superior) part of the chest. The sternocostal head attaches from the manubrium (the top portion of the sternum or breastbone), and the upper six ribs and converge on a groove near the head of the humerus. The pectoralis major adducts the humerus (draws the arm toward the midline of the body) and when the arms are over the head (as in the start of pull-ups), the sternocostal head of the pectoralis muscle helps extend the arms. Nevertheless, it is most active at the beginning of the pull-ups and it has less of a role as the bar gets close to the chest.

The trapezius muscle is a large diamond-shaped muscle. The superior (upper) fibers of the trapezius attach to the base of the skull and along the midline of the vertebrae of the neck (cervical vertebrae). These fibers attach to the lateral part of the clavicle (collarbone) and along the spine of the scapula. They pull the clavicle upward toward the neck. The middle fibers of this muscle begin on the upper thoracic vertebrae, and then run almost directly laterally to attach to the spine of the scapula. When the middle fibers contract, they pull the scapula toward the vertebrae (like squeezing your shoulder blades together). The upper and middle regions of the trapezius are active in pull-ups. The inferior (lower) fibers of the trapezius pull the scapula and shoulders inferiorly (as if you were forcing your shoulders downward).

Medium Grip Pull-Ups

Usually, it’s a good idea to begin with lat bar pull-downs before progressing to medium grip pull-ups. However, once you have the base, pull-ups can be an excellent all-around exercise as a latissimus, biceps/brachialis and chest builder, and can be done wherever there is a bar, a tree branch or even a doorjamb in a hotel room if you are traveling or at home.

1. Grip the chin bar with your hands directly below your shoulders. Start with your hands in a pronated position. Although your biceps will be more strongly activated if your hands are supinated, the major disadvantage is that these small arm flexor muscles (relative to the back, the biceps are small) fatigue more rapidly with your hands in a supinated position.

2. If possible, stand on a box or bench so that the bar begins at your chest rather than at your chin. The use of wrist straps is recommended for those who have weak forearm strength (weak grip strength), and/or anyone who finds that his arm flexors fatigue before his back.

3. Step off the box or bench, bend your knees (so your feet do not touch the bench or box) and then slowly (three to five seconds) lower yourself until your upper back is completely stretched at the bottom position. Allow a two-second stretch at the bottom before starting upward. This will result in lengthening of the latissimus and teres major muscles before the contraction, and will therefore increase activation of the muscle throughout the next part of the movement.

4. Pull yourself up until the bar is at the upper part of your chest (just below your chin). Attempt to arch your upper back and get your body as high as possible to ensure a complete contraction of the upper and intermediate back muscles (i.e., trapezius and small scapular muscles).

Important Tips

The pull upward extends the humerus bone and activates the latissimus dorsi, teres major and part of the pectoralis and deltoid muscles. Your elbows, however, must flex so the biceps brachii and brachailis muscles are activated. Furthermore, your arm must be adducted at the shoulder joint so all the muscles described above, including the pectoralis fibers, contract.

If you choose a wide grip instead of a medium grip, you will reduce the range of motion that’s produced by the humerus of the upper arm and this will decrease the extent of muscle shortening, but increase the activation of the teres major. Conversely, the lower fibers of the latissimus dorsi muscle should be in a better angle for activation if the grip is narrow. A medium grip activates all regions of the back effectively and this should be the preferred grip for most people.

If you want to turn the intensity up a notch, try adding a few forced repetitions to your set of pull-ups. For example, if you have your box or bench below the chin bar, you can use it to help you when the set gets impossible to complete. Instead of having your knees bent to prevent contacting the bench, extend your knees and push off the box with your feet to assist you in the upward movement (but only after you have exhausted your back strength under the first part of the exercise). Always control the downward stretch.

After a couple of months of intensive pull-ups, you will likely need additional resistance (a belt with a chain for attaching a plate is ideal for this purpose). You will feel the stamina, strength, thickness and width of your upper back, arms and chest begin to take on previously unseen dimensions in only a few months of consistent effort. Remember, the upper back consists of a lot of complex muscles, so it’s critical to work hard enough to stimulate all of them. Compound exercises that activate many muscles are never easy, but then, what else would you expect from the ultimate upper body exercise?


1. Antinori F, Felici F, Figura F, Marchetti M and Ricci B. Joint moments and work in pull-ups. J Sports Med Phys Fitness 28: 132-137, 1988.

2. Cotten DJ. An analysis of the NCYFS II Modified Pull-up Test. Res Q Exerc Sport 61: 272-274, 1990.

3. Grant S, Hynes V, Whittaker A and Aitchison T. Anthropometric, strength, endurance and flexibility characteristics of elite and recreational climbers. J Sports Sci 14: 301-309, 1996.

4. Harms-Ringdahl K. On assessment of shoulder exercise and load-elicited pain in the cervical spine. Biomechanical analysis of load–EMG–methodological studies of pain provoked by extreme position. Scand J Rehabil Med Suppl 14: 1-40, 1986.

5. Koukoubis TD, Cooper LW, Glisson RR, Seaber AV and Feagin JA, Jr. An electromyographic study of arm muscles during climbing. Knee Surg Sports Traumatol Arthrosc 3: 121-124, 1995.

6. Moore, K.L. Clinically oriented Anatomy. Third edition. Baltimore, Williams & Williams, 501-553, 1992.

7. Signorile JF, Zink AJ and Szwed SP. A comparative electromyographical investigation of muscle utilization patterns using various hand positions during the lat pull-down. J Strength Cond Res 16: 539-546, 2002.

8. Singer RN. The effects of palms-in vs. palms-out pull-ups training on isometric strength of forearm flexors and extensors. Am Correct Ther J 24: 61-63, 1970.


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By: Stephen E. Alway, Ph.D., FACSM
Title: Pull-Ups: The Ultimate Upper Body Exercise
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Published Date: Wed, 07 Oct 2020 14:13:13 +0000




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Mens Health

Failures in Business: The Unseen Stepping Stones to Success

Equally significant is the need for businesses to remain vigilant about broader shifts in both domestic and global markets. Macro factors, whether they’re economic trends, geopolitical events, or emerging global challenges, can have profound ripple effects, impacting even the most niche industries. By staying abreast of these larger market dynamics, businesses can better anticipate risks, adapt to challenges, and capitalize on new opportunities. In an ever-globalizing world, the ability to navigate both the nuances of one’s immediate market and the broader global shifts is what separates thriving enterprises from those that falter.

TACTICAL Takeaway: Stay sharp and monitor your industry’s trends. When things shift, being ahead in understanding consumer habits offers you the flexibility to adjust and succeed. Things can change rapidly and the sooner you have insight into consumer behavior changes, the more opportunities you have to pivot.


Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable

The sports nutrition industry is an interesting, fast-paced vertical where what’s old can quickly become new again but also what worked yesterday likely won’t work tomorrow.

It might seem counterintuitive, but it’s spot-on. Take creatine as an example. It hit the shelves in the early 1990s and quickly became a hit. Yet, a decade later, its demand had waned. Jump another decade to today, and it’s back more popular than ever.

TACTICAL Takeaway: The key for businesses is knowing when to go all-in on a product and when to ease off, as it’s the ever-changing consumer market that truly drives demand.

Never Rest On Your Laurels

Just because something “has always worked” doesn’t mean it’s going to continue to work (or continue to work as efficiently).

In the dynamic world of business, the saying “never rest on your laurels” holds more truth than ever. What propelled a company to success yesterday might not necessarily be the formula for its tomorrow’s success. Market demands, technological innovations, and consumer preferences are in a perpetual state of evolution. While a particular strategy or product might have been a game-changer at one point, there’s no guarantee that it will remain relevant or effective in the future. This inherent unpredictability underscores the need for adaptability and forward-thinking in any business endeavor.

This reality pushes companies to be proactive, always forecasting and adjusting to the next potential shift. Relying solely on past successes can lull businesses into complacency, risking obsolescence in the face of changing tides.

TACTICAL Takeaway: To remain competitive and relevant, businesses need to cultivate a culture of continuous learning, innovation, and agility. In essence, the past can inform and guide, but it’s the vision and readiness for the future that will determine enduring success.

Embracing The Journey

To any entrepreneur reading this: the road to success is rarely a straight one. At times, it may seem like every decision leads to a dead end. But remember, every misstep is an opportunity to learn, grow, and pivot.

The trials you face in business are not meant to discourage you. Instead, they are meant to shape you, refine your vision, and improve your strategy. As the age-old adage goes, “smooth seas do not make skillful sailors.” It’s the challenges that will arm you with the experience and resilience necessary for long-term success.

So, the next time you face a setback, remember that your next big success could be just around the corner. Embrace failure as a part of the process, learn from your mistakes, and continue pushing forward with a renewed sense of purpose and determination.

Lastly, don’t forget to enjoy the journey. With so much time spent working and navigating challenges, it’s essential to find joy and have fun along the way.


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Negativity Is a Losing Mindset

By Marc Lobliner


‘A good coach can change a game. A great coach can change a life.’

I coach my son’s U11 football team. I am just the line coach, but the dudes who coach with me are also in the same mindset as I am.

Positivity wins.

Let’s start off with last weekend’s game.

It’s 0-0, the opening kickoff is a short one and we fall on it.

You can hear our coaches getting our kids fired up and getting the offense ready for play. POSITIVE statements. A lot of “Let’s Go!” and energy.

On the other sideline, you hear the coaches angrily yelling at their players for the execution of the kick.

First play from scrimmage, our line makes every block and opens the outside for our running back to score.

You hear their coaches furiously yelling as we celebrate.

We celebrated and our fullback punched in the extra point.

After the kickoff, our defense held them to four and out. We got the ball again, touchdown. Extra point good.

14-0 in two offensive plays.s

Their coaches were still mad. Angry. Yelling.

We smiled, encouraged our kids, and ended up with a 42-0 mercy-rule win.

Our players are awesome, but not the biggest, not the fastest, not the strongest.

It’s all about culture and what you’re playing for.

We demand a lot of our athletes. Learn your plays, DO YOUR JOB, and we will win.

Every Tuesday after we win, I buy my linemen doughnuts and give them to everyone, telling them that a random lineman (changes weekly) said everyone deserves doughnuts. We don’t punish every mistake with extra running and up-downs. We focus on what we do RIGHT, and not what we do wrong.

The other game one of my linemen got called for a hold. He came off the field expecting to be scolded. I put my arm around him and said, “What happened?” He explained it and then I said, “You’re better than that guy, you don’t need to hold. Show the world how dominant you are!” He didn’t get one call the rest of the game and crushed it.

This is also my management style at work. Managers are usually garbage. You can do 1,000 things right and you mess up once and your manager attacks you.

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Employees typically respond better to positivity, and numerous studies have found that positive reinforcement and a positive work environment can significantly improve employee motivation, performance, and well-being. Here are some reasons why, supported by various studies:

Increased Productivity: According to a study conducted by the University of Warwick, happiness led to a 12% spike in productivity, while unhappy workers were 10% less productive. The research shows that human happiness has large and positive causal effects on productivity.

Better Decision-Making Abilities: Research from the University of Pennsylvania’s Positive Psychology Center found that individuals who were induced to feel positive emotions were better at problem-solving and making decisions than those in a neutral state.

Boosts Creativity: Positive emotions widen attention and allow people to think more broadly and openly. This is discussed in the “broaden-and-build theory” by Barbara Fredrickson, which suggests that positive emotions broaden an individual’s momentary thought-action repertoires.

Enhanced Team Collaboration: A study from MIT’s Human Dynamics Laboratory found that teams that communicate effectively, with members actively reaching out and connecting with all other team members, were more successful. Positive interactions contribute to this dynamic.

Reduced Employee Turnover: According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), a positive work environment and culture encourages employees to stay longer in their jobs, thus reducing turnover rates. This is KEY at where our staff has mostly been there for 5+ years!

Better Health & Well-being: A study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology found that positive work environments and low job stress are linked to better health outcomes for employees, which in turn can lead to reduced absenteeism and increased productivity.

Increased Engagement: According to Gallup, workers who are engaged and have high well-being are more likely to be attached to their organizations and are more productive.

Enhanced Learning & Flexibility: Research in the field of positive psychology has shown that positive emotions can facilitate adaptive thinking and flexibility in cognitive processing. This helps employees adapt to new situations and learn more effectively.

Higher Levels of Satisfaction: A study by BrightHR found that happiness is a key indicator of job satisfaction. Happy employees are more likely to report high levels of satisfaction with their jobs than those who report low levels of happiness.

Creates a Positive Feedback Loop: A study published in The Journal of Positive Psychology found that experiencing positive emotions leads to higher levels of resilience, which in turn leads to increased positive emotions. This positive feedback loop has a myriad of beneficial effects in the workplace.

How about parenting?

Same thing. PRAISE YOUR CHILD! Make sure they know you love them. While bad behavior should be addressed, be sure to also reward good behavior. Kid had a good day at school? Get him ice cream! Tell him you love him. Say you’re proud of him.

As my mother said, “You catch more flies with honey than with crap.”

And one can’t deny the lifelong impact of a good coach. As the sign in the office says, “A good coach can change a game. A great coach can change a life.”

Be positive and be a winner!

556494785 img 1682 2

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Instagram @marclobliner

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Panatta Super Rowing Page 1

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