Brad Johnson's Bodyweight Training

See Saw Pull-Ups

By Brad Johnson

Author of Bodyweight Exercises for Extraordinary Strength

See Saw Pull-Ups

Rope climbing is an outstanding exercise for developing upper body and grip strength. One problem with rope climbing is that it is very difficult to find a rope to climb. I noticed that many of the new school gymnasiums don’t have ropes. I initially had the idea for Seesaw Pull-Ups when attempting to come up with a substitute for rope climbing. I know that there is no real substitute for rope climbing, but the Seesaw Pull-Up will challenge your upper body, grip, and core in a similar way.

Drape a rope or leather weightlifting belt over a pull-up bar so that the ends hang down at an equal height. Grab one end of the rope with either hand. Lift your feet off the ground so that you are hanging from the rope with both arms straight. Pull yourself halfway up to assume the starting position. Pull down with one arm until your hand is just in front of your shoulder. Just hold onto the rope with the opposite arm and allow it to rise towards the bar until it is completely straight. Reverse the role of the arms to complete the first rep. Perform as many reps as desired.

If you cannot currently perform the exercise with your full bodyweight, you can assist with your legs. Place a chair under the bar and support some of your weight with your legs. Assist only as much as necessary with your legs. Get rid of the chair when you can perform the exercise with your full bodyweight. If the exercise is too easy, you can make it more difficult by adding weight to your body. Also, if you do not wish to add weight to your body, resist as much as you wish with the opposite arm.

You cannot do a pull-up without tensing your abs (try it), so you will get a good abdominal workout doing the regular Seesaw Pull-Up. If you wish to increase the abdominal challenge, do a bicycle motion with your legs; that is, bring your opposite knee up towards the elbow of the pulling arm. If that is still too easy, put on some ankle weights.


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You'll find more bodyweight training articles by Brad Johnson in MILO: A Journal for Serious Strength Athletes.