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Close-grip pull-ups (or chins) were probably forced on you in gym class, perhaps by an overweight PE teacher (who had not done pull-ups in many years). If this was the case, you may not have developed much affection for this exercise. However, it turns out that this old-school exercise is really a very good tool for blitzing most of the muscles of the middle and upper back, shoulders, chest and arms.1,2 It also turns out that close-grip chins are great to use if you are traveling and not near a gym, and also as an addition to your back- or arm-training day.

Muscle Structure and Function

Many muscles are recruited to accomplish close-grip 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 especially the upper arm muscles that help in the pull upwards, and the deltoid and upper back muscles to continue the pull-up.

The latissimus dorsi muscle is a major upper back muscle that is activated by close-grip pull-ups.1 This muscle connects the vertebrae in the thorax and lumbar regions and the iliac crest of the hip bone, to the humerus bone of the upper arm near the shoulder.3 The muscle fibers of the latissimus dorsi muscle adduct the humerus (bring the arm toward the center of the body), and extend the humerus (pulls the arm backward) to pull the body upward toward the bar. The close-grip pull-up keeps the humerus in an adducted position. The upper fibers of the latissimus dorsi muscle are most completely activated when the 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 inferior angle of the scapula (shoulder blade), and it attaches to the humerus bone of the upper arm. It assists in arm extension, and adduction of the arm at the shoulder joint when the arms are over the head in close-grip pull-ups.3 The short head of the biceps brachii muscle begins on the front part of the scapula bone.4 The long head of the biceps brachii muscle attaches on the scapula near the shoulder joint. The long head sits on the lateral part of the arm, and its fibers mesh with the short head on the medial side of the arm to insert into the bicipital tendon, which attaches to the radius bone of the forearm. Both heads of the biceps flex the elbow joint.4

The brachialis muscle is also a major elbow flexor.4 It begins on the distal half of the humerus and it inserts on the ulna bone of the forearm. Even the pectoralis major muscle of the chest is activated in close-grip pull-ups.1 The sternocostal head of the pectoralis runs from the manubrium (the top portion of the sternum or “breast bone”), and the upper six ribs and converges near the head of the humerus.4 The pectoralis major muscle adducts the humerus in the close-grip position. It is most active at the beginning of the pull-ups, and it has less of a role as the chest is pulled close to the bar.

The upper fibers of the large trapezius of the upper back attach along the posterior base of the skull and the cervical vertebrae of the neck. These fibers attach to the lateral part of the clavicle (collar bone) and along the spine of the scapula. They pull the clavicle upward in the pull-up. The middle fibers of this muscle begin on the upper thoracic vertebrae, and then run to the spine of the scapula. They pull the scapula toward the vertebrae at the top of the pull-up.5

Close-Grip Pull-Ups

If you cannot do bodyweight pull-ups, use an assisted pull-up machine, as this will allow you to get the benefit from the exercise without requiring you to initially have the strength to pull up your entire bodyweight. After a couple of weeks, you will be able to reduce the amount of weight on the assisted machine, and in a few months you will be ready to tackle the exercise without any additional resistance on the assistant machine.

1. Follow the instructions for your assisted machine pull-ups for setup (kneel or stand on the platform as appropriate) and select desired weight. If you are not using the assist machine, step up on a box that will allow you to grab a pull-up bar.

2. Take a narrow grip4 (shoulder width or slightly narrower) on the bar overhead, just above your head. The hands should be pronated (palms facing away from your face).

3. Pull yourself up (flex the elbows and extend the arms) until the bar is adjacent to the upper part of the chest (just above the chin). Attempt to 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) and the elbow flexors (biceps and brachialis).

4. Slowly (3-5 seconds) lower yourself until your arms, upper back and chest are completely stretched at the bottom position. Start upward and repeat the sequence to finish the set.

The pull upward extends the humerus bone and activates the latissimus dorsi, teres major, part of the pectoralis, trapezius and deltoid muscles.1,2 The elbows, however, must flex so the biceps brachii and brachailis muscles are strongly activated.3,4

Don’t get bummed if at first, you find it difficult to do the pull-ups without some assistance. With some consistent effort and time invested into the training program, you will be able to reduce the assistance and pull your body up multiple times and without any help. The hanging position on the close-grip pull-up causes a traction gravitational load on the spine2 that safely carves out a strong, hard-as-granite look to your upper body. Not a bad result for such a basic old-school exercise.


1. Youdas JW, Amundson CL, Cicero KS et al: Surface electromyographic activation patterns and elbow joint motion during a pull-up, chin-up, or perfect-pullup rotational exercise. J Strength Cond Res 2010;24:3404-3414.

2. McGill SM, Cannon J, Andersen JT: Muscle activity and spine load during pulling exercises: influence of stable and labile contact surfaces and technique coaching. J Electromyogr Kinesiol 2014;24:652-665.

3. Tucker WS, Bruenger AJ, Doster CM et al: Scapular muscle activity in overhead and nonoverhead athletes during closed chain exercises. Clin J Sport Med 2011;21:405-410.

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

5. 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.

The post Upper Body Blast: Get a Bigger Back, Shoulders and Arms appeared first on FitnessRX for Men.

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By: Stephen E. Alway, Ph.D., FACSM
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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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Mens Health

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.

556494762 fullsizerender 4


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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