Coaching Gym Movement Patterns
THE UPPER BODY PULL
How to Perform the Upper Body Pull
WHY IS THE UPPER BODY PULL IMPORTANT?
Upper body pulling patterns refer to a group of movements that obviously all involve an upper body pulling pattern. There are several ways these pushes can be categorised, however we generally like to group them according to direction of pull relative to the body (horizontal vs vertical), and laterality (unilateral vs bilateral). Upper body pulling patterns will train a variety of muscles depending on what variation you're completing. Generally speaking, all upper body pulling variations will train the biceps, forearm/grip musculature, and middle or posterior deltoid. Horizontal and vertical pulling patterns train fairly similar muscles with slightly different biases due to the significant overlap between the muscles responsible for scapular depression and scapular retraction (rhomboids and trapezius), and the muscles responsible for shoulder adduction, extension, and horizontal extension (posterior deltoid, infraspinatus, teres major and minor, latissimus dorsi). All rowing patterns will also train the biceps and forearm/grip muscles. Additionally, depending on how the rest of the body is organised there is frequently core/trunk stabilisation required to allow for the production of heavy pulling forces through the upper limb, with some pulling variations requiring core/trunk/kinetic chain action too. Training an upper body pull pattern transfers to few sport specific tasks, with some transfer to batting, tackling, and marking/catching. Upper body pulling movements are more important for balancing the upper body pushing forces required in sport such that athlete's shoulders are kept healthy!
KEY TECHNICAL CHARACTERISTICS OF A SUCCESSFUL UPPER BODY PULL:
Very movement-specific, with identical recommendations to the upper body push, hence general recommendations are as follows.
- Elbow stacked over wrist/hand
- Minimises instability and maximises efficiency of movement and force output
- Appropriate shoulder blade movement
- We generally encourage protraction/retraction or elevation/depression of the shoulder blade
- Some exercises require a fixed shoulder blade (bench press), however this is not sport-specific
- Appropriate organisation of the trunk/lower body
- Generally we want a braced/stable trunk and lower limb, in a relatively neutral position
- Some more sport-specific patterns may require more sport-specific positions
MOST COMMON UPPER BODY PULL EXERCISE VARIATIONS:
- Dumbbell Rows
- Reverse Flyes
- Prone T Raises
COMMON TECHNICAL ISSUES IN THE UPPER BODY PULL AND HOW TO FIX THEM:
Very movement specific. Often athletes have better upper body awareness than lower body awareness, and upper body movement patterns can be corrected via cuing quite easily. Additionally, make sure that the movement pattern is not too challenging such that the athlete is unable to execute it with good technique. Common example we see is athletes who lack the strength to complete a full range chin-up, who cheat by swinging their body or only doing half range reps. These need to be addressed before bad habits are developed by using band assistance, or focusing on the negative portion of the movement.