Featured Assistance Movement of the Week #1: McGill Pull-up

By: Brian Carroll

I’ll be covering an obscure or special assistance movement each week that I feel is important and should potentially be considered as an addition to your programming at some capacity.

The McGill Pull-up

This is an exercise Dr. McGill explained to me while I was in Canada for a follow up on my back in October 2013. He was showing me the best way to improve my back strength, and overall development, while minimizing injury.

You may not know that doing sets of 10 of pull-ups at 290lb can be risky for our pecs, lats and biceps tendons, not to mention that how many 290 pound lifters are really doing to 10 pull-ups per set. Fatigue is typically the culprit with these types of injuries. What Dr. McGill advocates are sets of 1 or 2 reps at time, but with maximum force and explosion with each and every rep.

Grab the bar and hang; retract your shoulder blades and squeeze as hard as you can. Pull your body to the bar explosively and contract as hard as you can at the top. Lower back down and take a rest from 10 to 20 seconds. Start with 6-8 reps, and progress up each workout. Everything is controlled and methodical, not sloppy or like a fish out of water.

As Dr. McGill states in the video; he has seen tremendous improvements in many athletes’ ability to do reps on the pull-up in as little as a month or two (please see video as Dr. McGill explains this). Some athletes are tested by their pull-up count, so this is a good way to build up your pull-up volume and have it ready for test days when you need it and for those that don’t need a pull-up test, it’s a great way to add volume to the movement. I’m currently at about 20 sets of 2 at this point and feel great.


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Brian Carroll

Owner and Founder at PowerRackStrength.com
Brian Carroll is committed to helping people overcome back pain and optimizing lifts and movement. After years of suffering, he met back specialist Prof. McGill in 2013, which led to a life-changing transformation. In 2017, they co-authored the best-selling book "Gift of Injury." On October 3, 2020, Carroll made history in powerlifting by squatting 1306 lbs, becoming the first person to break this record. He retired with a secure legacy and a life free from back pain.
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