Horizontal pull-ups are a multi-joint exercise, seen frequently between Calisthenics exercises and perhaps a little less in the gym.
In this article, you will learn what they are for, correct execution, and how to use them in your workouts.
What Are Horizontal Pull-Ups?
The horizontal pull-ups are also called “ body row ” or “ Australian pull-ups “: they are an exercise in which the body is held horizontally while pulling towards a bar or towards some rings.
You can use them to make a volume if your goal is hypertrophy or in preparation for real pull-ups – if you are interested at this link you will find an article to learn how to do the first pull-up on the bar.
Horizontal Pull-Ups: Correct Execution
Grab the bar or rings and stretch your body horizontally, feet forward. Keep in mind that the more horizontal your position the more difficult the exercise will be.
Fully horizontal body pull-ups can be even more challenging than real pull-ups.
An important aspect that you can take into consideration if you use the rings is that you will be able to shift more focus on the various flexor muscles of the elbow, depending on the grip you will use.
However, the idea is to always start the movement with the prone grip, that is with the palms of the hands facing forward and the back facing you.
You can then close the movement and approach the bar using a supine grip which will give more focus to the biceps muscle and at the same timeless stress to the elbow joint.
Muscles Involved In Horizontal Pull-Ups
The bar or the rings, in fact, tend to flex the shoulder joint, and to oppose this movement you will have to go to the opposite side, thus using the great dorsal, large round, long head of the triceps and posterior deltoid.
However, the support (bar or rings) is not limited only to bringing the arms upwards but also tends to bring them out.
If you are inactive and stay “dead weight” you will notice how the shoulder blades move outward and the arm is “pulled” towards the support itself.
To avoid this you will have to prevent the shoulder blade from being pulled out using its adductors: rhomboids and middle trapezius.
To facilitate muscle activation and the right motor pattern you will need to stay active in ” depression “, that is, keep your shoulders down away from your ears.
You will be able to give more emphasis to the grand dorsal if you pull up by bringing the support down, and you can instead focus the stimulus on the scapular adductors by bringing it to chest height.
A last but not least muscular involvement in this exercise is the intervention of the elbow flexors: brachial, brachial, and brachioradialis biceps.
Indeed, in inactivated conditions, the support keeps the elbow straight. To bring your body closer to the support by pulling you will also need to allow the elbow to bend for example by using the bicep which will intervene to bring you towards the bar.
Benefits of Horizontal Pulls-Ups
As you will have read at the beginning of this article, one of the purposes that the horizontal pull can have is to prepare us for the vertical pull, usually performed on the prone grip bar in its most classic version.
In fact, it often happens that those who approach tractions are not able to do even one. The horizontal pull allows you to prepare your muscles for the vertical pull later on.
Not only that, maybe you are already able to do some vertical traction but after some time from the start of your training, your muscles get tired and no longer allow you to work on the pull.
You can thus “downshift” and use horizontal pull-ups, continuing your workout and grinding more volume into your target muscles.
You can also use horizontal pull-ups in the gym to alternate stimuli over the period. The exercises most used in this context are perhaps the lat machine and the rowing machine with dumbbells or barbells.
It can also be interesting to integrate the “in body row” pull-ups, both as a new exercise and as a complement to the exercises you usually perform.
This will allow you to vary the stimuli and to insert a possibly new motor pattern, which can become a contributing factor in the search for hypertrophy.
Pull-Ups Workout In The Gym
If you have wondered how many repetitions you have to do or how many sets, as always, you will have to consider that there is no magic number that is valid for everyone.
The best thing you can do is start small and add over time. In the world of training, underestimating, rather than overestimating pays off more in the long run. Remember that you always have time to add.
How Many Sets And Reps To Do?
To give very general tips in terms of series, 4 to 6 can be a good average, but a lot depends on what else you train during the session.
For the repetitions, we usually merry-go-round based on the maximum number that you can perform. For example, if you can do a maximum of 8 horizontal pull-ups you will not use that number in training.
You can then use 4 or 5 (keeping yourself so far from your max) and total a total of 24 horizontal pull-ups in the session (6 × 4) or 30 (6 × 5).
This one just seen can already be an example of progression use the 6 × 4 and when you close it easily you can switch to 6 × 5, and so on.
How Many Times To Train Them Per Week?
If you are new to it to get your body used gradually you can do horizontal pull-ups 3-4 times a week.
If you prefer a few sessions you will have to concentrate more work on a single day, risking tiring yourself too much and then having to go “with the handbrake on” in subsequent workouts.
Try to train more frequently you can be more “forgiving” in individual sessions, have less stress, and take home more qualitative work over the course of the week.
Also in this case a good starting point can be to start with a little of everything and add a little at a time.
Examples Of Card With Horizontal Pull-Ups
- Week 1 (2 workouts) – 5 × 4 (5 sets, 4 reps)
- Week 2 (3 workouts) – 5 × 4
- Week 3 (3 workouts) 5 × 5
- Week 4 (3 workouts) 5 × 6
- Week 5 (3 workouts) 6 × 5
- Week 6 (3 workouts) 6 × 5 (body a little more horizontal)
In short, progressing a little at a time gradually adds a little bit. However, it is always important to make sure that you are not too overwhelmed with one pattern before moving on to the next.
You only progress when the amount of work you are facing has been well tolerated.
Variants Of Horizontal Pull-Ups
You can perform horizontal pull-ups on a large number of supports and there are many variations of pull-ups from the bar, through the TRX, to the rings.
As you have seen previously the execution on the free supports such as the rings or the TRX, allows the elbow to move a little according to its physiology, starting in pronation ( palms out) and ending in supination (palms in).
Supine, Prone Or Neutral Grip
You can also do further variations such as using a supine grip giving more emphasis to the biceps, a prone-only grip giving emphasis to the brachialis, or a neutral grip giving more emphasis to the brachioradialis muscle.
But keep in mind that you won’t be able to completely isolate one muscle by excluding another.
One-Arm Horizontal Drive With Assistance
A variant for the more experienced is the ” Australian pull-ups ” or horizontal pull performed on one limb, with one arm as assistance.
In this variant you pull towards the hand of the arm you want to use, keeping the other arm extended (the rings are very suitable for this variant).
With Feet On A Rise
Instead, you can make horizontal pull-ups more difficult by using a foot lift. Also in this case you can adjust the rise according to your level, always respecting the general principles of progressive overload as already observed in the example on progressions.
Pull-Ups At Home With The Table
You may have already seen some athletes on the internet who perform horizontal pull-ups at home only with the use of the table. It is a ruse that in the absence of equipment you can definitely use.
However, you will have to be more cautious in the dosage of the training as, although not direct protagonists of the gesture also the flexors of the fingers and the hand are very involved, especially if you use the table.
In fact, not having a bar or support that you can wrap your fingers will be forced to remain almost completely extended to allow you to remain anchored to the table and this certainly causes the flexors of the fingers and hand to work overtime.
This will expose you to a greater risk of injuries and discomfort such as the golfer’s elbow.
Conclusion On Horizontal Pulls
As you may have noticed the horizontal pull-ups are an extremely multifaceted and modular exercise that when set up at its best can give many benefits on several fronts.
It will be enough to use it wisely within a training program and it will not struggle to bear fruit.