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Biceps Weak Link in Pullups?
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coach-jeff

Louisiana, USA

Do you believe the biceps are the weak-link in multi-joint pulling movements such as pulldowns, pull-ups, etc?

I tend to think not, because my biceps NEVER get sore from such exercises. Only my back muscles do.

But since that is only my subjective experience, I thought I'd risk the wrath of the board's thought-police by soliciting other's opinions on this matter.

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frostyF

Arkansas, USA

From my experience,weak link=hands,forearms.
Leon
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Waynes

Switzerland

Here is part on what John showed me on the biceps not being the weak link on the pull ups and pulldowns and rows. Hope this saves you a little time John, and do hope its ok to put thgis down.

BIO-FORCE wrote;
When these exersices are performed correctly, the bicep "is not" a limiter, in these exersices. In fact, the elbow is flexed no more than 90 degrees at the finish of the action. The biceps is well involved in the initial pull when both it and the latissimus are at their strongest and most powerful positions for this movement.

This is a very common "beginners" mistake of trying to use the bicep to do exercises like rows and pulldowns.

While it is involved to a significant degree, as the humerus adducts, the forearm from the elbow to the hand, becomes more of a "hook", simply to hold the weight, and the action is completed by the larger and stronger latissimus and associates. In fact, much of the biceps tension at the top of the action is antagonist to the long head of the triceps action on the humerus.

The biceps' action in that position is rather ineffective, since the shoulder joint is travelling in the direction that reduces its effectiveness. It's tensioning is also an adjunct to the "motor cascade" of the chain, since the muscles of the forearm are also required to hold the weight.

I do rows every week, and find this "bicep" myth, to be the residual figment of what beginners "feel".

Go ahead and get out your Olympic bar and do a few rows, without using your bicep as the primary mover. Focus on simply using the lats to move the upper arm and make the forearms simply "hooks" to attach the weight to the elbow. You'll see what I mean.


The more I do these exersices, the more I can see hope John was so right. I did dissagree with him at the time.

Wayne


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coach-jeff

Louisiana, USA

I always tell my PT clients to "drive the elbows back" rather than pulling with arms. It's a subtle distinction, that I think helps people get the right effect.

John's post seems to be about using the traditional overhand and wide grip. Curious what his take is on underhand, shoulder-width grip for pullups and pulldowns?
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DownUnderLifter

frostyF wrote:
From my experience,weak link=hands,forearms.
Leon


I have to agree with Leon. Personally I find my forearms/grip to be the weak link.

DUL
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Paul Marsland

What I've found extremely effective on back pulling movements is to start them with a lat shrug for the first few inches and then concentrate on pushing down and back from the elbows, this helps keep biceps involvement to a minimum...
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HSDAD

This is something I, like you, found Jones to be incorrect on. At least not accurate to my own experience. But then I think the answer is in Jones' writings as well. He spoke of how he easily put mass on his arms and legs, but found it difficult to do so on his torso.

I have the opposite problem. My lats fatigue long before my biceps. Interestingly, I have no trouble adding mass to my torso muscles but can't get relatively big arms easily. Perhaps it's a "wiring" difference.

Perhaps some folks just use one group of muscles first, either because they are more developed (or conversely those muscles are more developed because we use them first). Either way, on the chins, I'm the opposite of Jones and the opposite on development (torso vs. limbs) as well.

I've had success recently doing chins in a 5-5-5 fashion. That is 5 seconds up, 5second static hold with elbows straight back, then 5 second descent. Since doing this, I actually get soreness in my biceps comensurate with the soreness in my lats.

As to whether this will translate into gains of strength or size, the jury is still out. But I definitely feel much more pump and stimulation to my arms doing them this way. Here is a video of them. It's the second exercise, so scroll in about 90 seconds.

http://www.youtube.com/...h?v=zr9qjWtWDf0
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Michael Petrella

Ontario, CAN

I find there is a different answer depending on the individual. Mind muscle connection from one person to the other varies a great deal. Also everyone has different leverages. On top of that if I do a slower rep 4/4 I can't help but feel it in my arms, but moving it faster allows me to put the tension where I want it.

Michael
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HeavyHitter32

I do find the biceps more involved in chin ups as compared to pulldowns.
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coach-jeff

Louisiana, USA

HSDAD - I will say that I have also noticed much more biceps involvement doing very s-l-o-w pullups. Darn near turns it into an arm exercise for me, as opposed to back exercise.
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theHITman

Whether the Biceps are the weak link depends entirely on why and how you're doing pull ups, and of course strength in other muscles (such as the forearms as mentioned).

Depending on the technique used, the bicep involvement becomes greater or smaller. If you use a technique which is bicep (or more generally elbow flexors) dominant, then they can very well be (assuming your forearm strength is sufficient for it not to be a factor) - but in that case, wouldn't that be the point of doing chin ups that way?
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stevecollins33

Regardless of what chin/pull-up variety I employ I always get great fatigue in the lats, as opposed to the biceps. In fact, at times I've had more post-workout fatigue in the abs area as opposed to arms following chins.

That said, I enjoyed good arm growth without ever touching a direct arm exercise for nearly two years. Relying instead on compounds such as chins for arm work. So, all in all, Dr D's description of the chin as an upper body squat is pretty accurate in my opinion.
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mpx

Try using a pullover machine for a month and don't train biceps directly during that time. What do you think will happen when you go back to close grip chins/pull-downs? Stronger or weaker?

There's your answer.
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southbeach

If (HYPOTHETICALLY) the biceps were injected with a paralyzing drug that would render them completely incapable of contracting even in the slightest how would this affect the chin?

Could you even do A chin? I don't think so, that's how important the biceps are to chin performance.

ps i refer to REAL chins not 'kip-ups" which as we know is just another parlor trick :|

What do you think? Could you still do chins without a biceps muscle?
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BennyAnthonyOfKC

Missouri, USA


BY THE WAY GUYS... I DUSTED OFF SOME WRITING THAT I HAD BEEN PLANNING TO RELEASE, BUT I WAS INSPIRED TO FINISH IT YESTERDAY AFTER READING THIS POSTING. SO, IF YOU ARE INTERESTED, SEE MY POST ABOUT SQUATS AND FLYES, although I do go into detail about the complimentary nature of pulldowns and low-rows, except I use the term compound-row (if I remember correctly) in the article. Anyway, the person with questions under this topic might find it helpful to read my article.
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coach-jeff

Louisiana, USA

mpx wrote:
Try using a pullover machine for a month and don't train biceps directly during that time. What do you think will happen when you go back to close grip chins/pull-downs? Stronger or weaker?

There's your answer.


Not sure it's that simple.

I assume you're suggesting that biceps would weaken on such a program, and that therefore pullup performance would suffer?

However, simply not doing pullups for a long time would tend to cause a decrease in pullup performance since pullups are a specific "skill" that would deteriorate without "practice."

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bamiller

Forearms / grip in my opinion
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mpx

coachjeff wrote:
mpx wrote:
Try using a pullover machine for a month and don't train biceps directly during that time. What do you think will happen when you go back to close grip chins/pull-downs? Stronger or weaker?

There's your answer.


Not sure it's that simple.

I assume you're suggesting that biceps would weaken on such a program, and that therefore pullup performance would suffer?

However, simply not doing pullups for a long time would tend to cause a decrease in pullup performance since pullups are a specific "skill" that would deteriorate without "practice."



Yes that is my conclusion based on personal experience. I've tried both experiments using a pull-over machine and straight arm pull-downs with no direct bicep work for a month. Same result. Although I made great progress in size and strength in my lats I could not chin/pull-down the prior poundage used.I then focused on heavy curls for a while and voila...pull-up/down performance returned.

Your biceps are the limiting factor; especially in the top 3rd of the exercise. Hence why it's considered a better exercise for biceps than curls.


... "skill"? ...this isn't like a clean and press,dead-lift,squat etc.


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mpx

bamiller wrote:
Forearms / grip in my opinion


I use straps...can pull more weight!

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HSDAD

southbeach wrote:
If (HYPOTHETICALLY) the biceps were injected with a paralyzing drug that would render them completely incapable of contracting even in the slightest how would this affect the chin?

Could you even do A chin? I don't think so, that's how important the biceps are to chin performance.

ps i refer to REAL chins not 'kip-ups" which as we know is just another parlor trick :|

What do you think? Could you still do chins without a biceps muscle?


Absolutely you could. With your pecs controlling the lateral abduction of the humerus and the lats pulling back, you would rise through exactly the same path as if your biceps were firing.

But I believe you would stop a few inches short of the top. I think that last few inches, where you bring your clavicles to the bar is mostly biceps. That is why, I believe, that doing slow reps and holding at the top does more for my arms than fast reps do. Emphasizing that last few inches really changes the focus.

But back to your question, I'd bet the ranch that a chin is quite possible without biceps. I'm not volunteering for the injections though.
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johnbhoy

Armed Forces - Europe

Do a very hard set of barbell curls then jump straight onto the chin up bar and see if your performance is affected.
I am pretty good at chins myself but the first time i tried a pullover my lats responded almost as if they were new to exercise ie soreness and rapid growth.
So i would say for a full range chin, yes the bicep is the weak link.
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BIO-FORCE

California, USA

HSDAD wrote:
southbeach wrote:
If (HYPOTHETICALLY) the biceps were injected with a paralyzing drug that would render them completely incapable of contracting even in the slightest how would this affect the chin?

Could you even do A chin? I don't think so, that's how important the biceps are to chin performance.

ps i refer to REAL chins not 'kip-ups" which as we know is just another parlor trick :|

What do you think? Could you still do chins without a biceps muscle?

Absolutely you could. With your pecs controlling the lateral abduction of the humerus and the lats pulling back, you would rise through exactly the same path as if your biceps were firing.


I have a tendency to agree, but they would be VERY difficult, since the biceps in most strongly involved in the "INITIAL" pulling action.

Both the Lats and Biceps are in the fully stretched positions and the joints are in a biomechanically deficient starting point. BOTH are fully involved in the initial action.

HSDAD wrote:
But I believe you would stop a few inches short of the top. I think that last few inches, where you bring your clavicles to the bar is mostly biceps. That is why, I believe, that doing slow reps and holding at the top does more for my arms than fast reps do. Emphasizing that last few inches really changes the focus.


Actually that is not true. Once the elbow is bent to 90 degrees, and the humerus is past a certain point, the long head of the triceps contributes to the final part of the movement and the "tension feeling" you will in the biceps is one of stabilization with the long head of the triceps.

I know it "feels" like the biceps is heavily involved, and IT IS, it is now a stabilizer in concert with the triceps. In that fully shortened ROM it is very ineffective, but does feel great.

This might be slightly like "Lombards Paradox" in the knee bend where even though it seems "strange" the KNEE FLEXORS (hammies) contribute strongly to KNEE/HIP EXTENSION in the SQUAT.

I bet many didn't even realize that the Triceps can be rather involved in some chinning/pullup actions.
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southbeach

BIO-FORCE wrote:
HSDAD wrote:
southbeach wrote:
If (HYPOTHETICALLY) the biceps were injected with a paralyzing drug that would render them completely incapable of contracting even in the slightest how would this affect the chin?

Could you even do A chin? I don't think so, that's how important the biceps are to chin performance.

ps i refer to REAL chins not 'kip-ups" which as we know is just another parlor trick :|

What do you think? Could you still do chins without a biceps muscle?

Absolutely you could. With your pecs controlling the lateral abduction of the humerus and the lats pulling back, you would rise through exactly the same path as if your biceps were firing.

I have a tendency to agree, but they would be VERY difficult, since the biceps in most strongly involved in the "INITIAL" pulling action.

Both the Lats and Biceps are in the fully stretched positions and the joints are in a biomechanically deficient starting point. BOTH are fully involved in the initial action.

HSDAD wrote:
But I believe you would stop a few inches short of the top. I think that last few inches, where you bring your clavicles to the bar is mostly biceps. That is why, I believe, that doing slow reps and holding at the top does more for my arms than fast reps do. Emphasizing that last few inches really changes the focus.

Actually that is not true. Once the elbow is bent to 90 degrees, and the humerus is past a certain point, the long head of the triceps contributes to the final part of the movement and the "tension feeling" you will in the biceps is one of stabilization with the long head of the triceps.

I know it "feels" like the biceps is heavily involved, and IT IS, it is now a stabilizer in concert with the triceps. In that fully shortened ROM it is very ineffective, but does feel great.

This might be slightly like "Lombards Paradox" in the knee bend where even though it seems "strange" the KNEE FLEXORS (hammies) contribute strongly to KNEE/HIP EXTENSION in the SQUAT.

I bet many didn't even realize that the Triceps can be rather involved in some chinning/pullup actions.




you have no proof that biceps are not involved to a sig degree throughout the chin movement.





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