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Attackpoint - performance and training tools for orienteering athletes

Discussion: The Pull up Debate

in: Orienteering; Training & Technique

Jan 24, 2013 1:12 AM # 

I may have to look at the pull- ups specifically but they are in place until I can show others how to do weights appropriately and not get injured. This link is a video of Galen Rup the Silver medalist in the 10k at the Olympics, and an incredible runner. Now this is track we are talking about, and there is a lot of validity to training what you are doing such as running and running through the woods. However we are in a time of athletics, were to compete at a world class level you have to be strong you have to be able to hold form at a high level over hours of training. I have personally played with doing strength work and not doing strength work while racing in college and every time I did consistent strength work I was faster and stronger especially at the end of a race when it counted that includes orienteering. You have to look at body type but I think this video is a good example of if you are doing the endurance training with the weight and strength training your muscles stay lean and you do not get bulky. Again this video is for track but I think a lot of the stuff applies generally to developing strength for running anywhere its just a matter of also getting in woods to run and doing orienteering type running. One fact I bet if you looked at the top 20 people from the mile to the marathon in running all of them would have some kind of strength and conditioning routine. Again I think people are getting caught up on the pull up thing its just a stepping stone for more stuff like is shown in this video. The reality is if you have not lifted weights and you don't know how to do it correctly injuries can happen easily. Its hard to get injured doing minimal amounts of pull ups.
Jan 24, 2013 1:31 AM # 
Thanks again Erin.

The workout depicted in the video hardly seems controversial or novel. In my mind, it is a sensible and intuitive complement to your other training.

In proportion, that workout and/or pull-ups, is not going to turn anyone into an endomorph. It might help performances, however.
Jan 24, 2013 1:44 AM # 
Endomorph? Do you mean mesomorph, j-man?
Jan 24, 2013 2:36 AM # 
I am totally in agreement with Erin. I also think learning new stuff a bit different is cool and fun.

However, if you didn't want to use it as an assessment, I would suggest something like max plank hold could replace it as a good indicator of the type of strength we want to see.

Becky, never done a dead hang pull up, but almost there now. Really enjoying trying. Best orienteering result 13th Junior European Cup. (Could have been third, but made a doozy of an error at the last minute). Best road - 3.15.26 marathon , despite an definitely no average runners body type.
Jan 24, 2013 2:38 AM # 
Hee hee - Max Plank hold :) You have to hold it for E/nu
Jan 24, 2013 3:10 AM # 
OMG Eddie.
Jan 24, 2013 4:01 AM # 
If only I were clever enough for that one! You're too cool for school Eddie!
Jan 24, 2013 5:26 AM # 
Do you consider "chin ups" of any value?
Jan 24, 2013 7:10 AM # 
Bloody paragraph returns missing again, I hope the verbal communication is a lot easier to understand than the written... ;-)

Max plank... I disagree. For some reason a great many people assume that plank = core. Nup. Core certainly has a role to play, but plank can also be done by people with rubbish core muscles as they simply rely on quads, hams and the 'movement muscles' instead - which only reinforces some of the faulty movement patterns that they already have.

However, if someone is trained to use their 'core' musculature appropriately - and not by default preferentially engage hip flexors, rectus abdominus etc - then the plank is one way of looking at a one facet of strength. Horses for courses though.
Jan 24, 2013 8:43 AM # 
He he he. I can still outplank most people and my core is garbage...
Jan 24, 2013 10:11 AM # 
Again I think people are getting caught up on the pull up thing

Hi Erin! As one of the early commenters on the pull-ups I think I should explain why they caught my eye. I thought the document was a list of pre-requisites, not things to work towards, and the number of pull-ups seemed extreme compared to the trivial number of sit-ups (seriously, you need to up that bad boy) and easily trainable number of pushups. I thought it would be very sad to keep a girl from the team even though they could run fast, do 100 situps and 50 pushups, but no pull-ups. That's all.

I absoutely agree that strength conditioning is really benefial for orienteering, and certainly a lot (most or all?) of the top European orienteers incorporate it into their training. No problems there, and if I were a parent of a junior I would absolutely defer to your expertise in this area as far as designing a program for them.
Jan 24, 2013 3:46 PM # 
@Tooms - thanks for insight regarding planks. I am one of those who assumed that I am getting excellent core workout by doing planks
Jan 24, 2013 7:33 PM # 
Just going to put it out there that I have never been able to do a pull-up but have easily upped my weights over the last few years in S&C sessions and feeling that benefit now. But like cristina read that as a pre-req and therefore possibly at the age of 16 -17 would have thought it was only a shot that I would get on the team. I went to JWOC at 17 and did not tooo badly.
Jan 24, 2013 8:09 PM # 
I would like to say that all 3 of my kids have taken on the pull up challenge with enthusiasm. Elina was happily surprised that she could already crank out 1.25 pull ups.
Jan 24, 2013 9:17 PM # 
Good job Elina! That is impressive.
Jan 24, 2013 10:00 PM # 
As several others have also mentioned, I read the wording to be, if not absolute requirements, as goals which were being missed by small amounts. Maybe it could be clarified in the application text that if there were a significant gap in one or two of the goals that a serious ongoing effort at remediation might suffice, as long as the other goals were being met. My personal experience starting at a 0 on pullups as a teenager required over two years of a pretty intensive effort on my part to get to a level that is still below the minimum listed for boys on the standing team, and required an additional ten years or so (and an intervening considerable interest in rock climbing) to reach mid-range on those expectations. In that same ten years, also with an increased training intensity, my speed picked up by perhaps 5 sec/mile over the relevant distance range, putting me at almost exactly the same road-running speed as my son currently runs (in both cases respectable for a small local running club, but very far from the top within the club, and very, very far from competitive for straight running on a more global scale). One big difference between Ross and me is that he has quite a lot more jumping ability (I would never have been able to run steeplechase without knocking over all the small hurdles and climbing over the bar at the water jump), and perhaps things like the pullup test are a surrogate measure for the presence of a significant amount of fast-twitch muscle, and a tip-off that the strength for really fast running in terrain is never going to be there. I've generally had the (perhaps mistaken) belief, however, that up until the last ten years or so my orienteering performance was completely dominated by deficiencies in vision, visualization, and multi-tasking, and that running speed was a pretty secondary consideration. This is obviously not the case for anyone good at the sport!
Jan 25, 2013 3:25 AM # 
Pull-ups? If the kids are old enough to wear pull-ups, they are certainly old enough to toddle around a string O'. Start 'em young!
Jan 25, 2013 3:33 AM # 
Erin, elsewhere you mentioned that a lit bit of arm strength from pull ups is beneficial for power transfer on the arm swing when running. Are pull ups specifically better for this than chin ups?
Jan 25, 2013 4:52 AM # 
Or seated row, or stretch cords, or swimming, or anything else that should (a) stabilise the scapula and allow lats to extend the upper arm and (b) pecs to flex the upper arm at the shoulder. Guess what, mimicking the running gait. Pull-ups are, I admit, a simple specific test of ability to do pull ups - and yes you can infer that if you can do 9 chin ups (or whatever) that the athlete has good bicep strength and some lat strength. As for extrapolating to running - nup, a better comparison (and I'm being faceitous now) would be doing seated row exercises for 9mins (if you were a 3000m runner, or 30mins if you were a 10km runner). Pull ups are simply a field test of upper body Strength. As can be a myriad of other non-specific to running exercises.

Don't start me on 'core' strength as it applies to the shoulder girdle instead of the pelvis - conveniently forgotten by even high level coaches sometimes.
Jan 25, 2013 12:06 PM # 
Orienteers probably use arm swing a lot less than other runners do, because of that whole keeping-the-map-steady thing. On the other hand, that does mean that we are using our arms for something.
Jan 25, 2013 1:57 PM # 
Ah but all the stumbling about means they're used a lot more for balancing a body going hither and thither... Got It - deltoid exercises now!
Jan 25, 2013 2:17 PM # 
Canadian, Tooms is clearly way more knowledgeable about this, but I think in chin ups more of the focus comes on the bicep, where as it's almost all shoulder stability in a pull up. Could be totally wrong. That's what it feels like when I try to do them both. Perhaps that's why I'm so rubbish!
Jan 25, 2013 2:58 PM # 
It's also subtler than I think we're considering. My elder daughter, silver medalist at the NACAC U-23 is headed into what should be a great Race Walking season. Why? Because she's been spending 2 days a week in the weight room (free weights).

The added strength helps stabilize her body and gives her the endurance to continue with proper-fast-form longer.

And there's no springing, leaping, grabbing, or climbing in the race walk;-)

She has mentioned the looks she gets from all the guys there - and is quite buff for an endurance athlete. She doesn't talk about pull ups specifically...
Jan 25, 2013 3:15 PM # 
Article on why women can't do pullups
Jan 25, 2013 5:06 PM # 
Best training for hips to date along with strength and conditioning is Latin dancing works the small fine muscles which give the hip swing and support the larger muscle groups. In term of pull up vs Chin ups I think they both work the shoulder muscles with a differentiation in the arm between the biceps and triceps. Just my personal experience.

Pull ups will probably come off the application and out of the routine after this year, but isn't it exciting the kids area actually doing something, misguided or not its pretty cool, and most kids who I have gotten applications from have met the physical standards or far exceeded them. Just saying when in orienteering USA history have we had 40 kids applying to train more pretty cool.
Jan 25, 2013 5:17 PM # 
Agreed, it's really spectacular to see 40 kids applying for the program. I am really looking forward to seeing what happens this year! And beyond! So exciting!

ps imho, don't keep the kids from working on pull-ups. just don't keep a kid from the team just because they can't do a lot of them...
Jan 25, 2013 5:22 PM # 
OK, it would be great if we could get a Latin dancing lesson some Saturday night at an upcoming A meet.
Jan 25, 2013 5:26 PM # 
A bunch of orienteers Latin dancing... please film.
Jan 25, 2013 5:57 PM # 
@schirminator - I agree 100% with your intent of developing and fostering complete runner/athlete.

Instead of removing pull-ups from application I would consider it enhancing by introducing point system instead where athlete gets 0 points for 0 pullups, 1 point for 1, 2 points for 2, etc graded by gender. Similarly use point system to score running results where faster times get more points compared to slower times. Point system would allow very fast runner to quality without pull-ups. I think that is the whole argument that some talented runners would not make team with pull-up requirement. My concern if you remove pull-up requirement from applications there is going to be less incentive for applicants to work on overall strength.
Jan 25, 2013 6:33 PM # 
Thanks Gill, If I remove pull ups they will be replaced by something of equal measure, and it may be they are replaced by multiple things which focus on strength. I imagine it developing into a full strength routine, with squats, light lifting, etc. Ideally five years down the road clubs will have programs were the kids will be doing it anyways like two days a week at the gym with a trainer or something. Everyone take note you can start this now.
Jan 25, 2013 6:41 PM # 
Backing up what Gil just said, I'm a fan of something like the Canadian strength test, which relies on a series of exercises, but if you can't do any of one exercise, you aren't immediately out of the running. You get one point for every situp, pushup, dip, etc done in the allotted minute, and three points per pullup, though obviously you can avoid that multiplication since pullups aren't as applicable to orienteering as they are to skiing. Just yet another metric...
Jan 25, 2013 7:45 PM # 
@acjospe - that's exactly what I was thinking. Actual results from multiple exercise sets gives better picture of who are you dealing with. Box-Jump exercise is a good one to add to o-list in my opinion. To encourage friendly competition between qualifying juniors I would post their test results for everyone to see.
Jan 25, 2013 9:09 PM # 
+1 for Alex.
Strength endurance and aerobic strength are much more relevant to running and orienteering.
Having timed tests, or excercises that can be done for 30, 50 or more reps before exhaustion is the way to go. There is no need to stick to canned fit tests. And those 2, 5, 8 rep targets test maximum strength and fast twitch muscles, which have some relevance for lower body muscles, but not for shoulders and arms.

Also core as in lower back and abs should be focused too. Burpees or some dynamic plank excercises for time like Plank-to-pushup
Jan 26, 2013 3:15 AM # 

Although not a devoted orienteer, Tetyana occasionally participates in local meets in B'ham.
Jan 26, 2013 8:25 AM # 
Very nice.
Jan 26, 2013 9:34 PM # 
Terje Mathisen:
I'm an old orienteer (H55) and rock climber, over the last 10-15 years I have noted that my best orienteering seasons seems to have occurred when I have had the time to climb indoors in a gym a couple of times per week.

I.e. building maximum strength does at least seem to help me. :-)
Jan 27, 2013 2:50 AM # 
There are many very positive points to note about the program, among which:

1) Erin has a lot of juniors that have signed on and seem really enthusiastic about the program!

2) From a standpoint of running time for a mile on a track, Erin most likely is the fastest orienteer in the US, and his concepts of what aspects of his training have been most important are not to be taken lightly! If he sees results from other things that have been added into the training of some of his juniors that seem to help a lot, he can add those in the future.

3) Lots of juniors haven't had much of any regular year-in-year-out training plan in the past. Committing to a regular program of a minimum of 5 hours a week should be making a big difference over a few years time, Having lots of direct peer comparison on this part of their activities should help a lot to keep up on the program.

4) A real effort is being made to get the program going all around the country, while most previous efforts have turned out to effectively have concentrated on a regional population.

I think it is going to be pretty exciting to see what results are showing up in the next few years!
Jan 27, 2013 6:25 PM # 

How impressive is it? only 2.5sec behind Hicham El Guerrouj, and taking Gebrselassie's 1500m indoor time corresponds to around the same time. Thats pretty awesome of Galen.
Feb 2, 2013 11:26 AM # 
Feb 2, 2013 2:34 PM # 
So we should send all our Juniors to USMC boot camp to prepare them for JWOC?
Feb 2, 2013 3:43 PM # 
I don't think it would help. They don't train fast running, also their strength is focused inappropriately for distance running.
Feb 2, 2013 3:46 PM # 
But they'd be able to do lots of pull-ups!
Feb 2, 2013 6:10 PM # 
The thing I got from the article is that if you train to do pullups you can learn to do pullups. Like a lot of things. Not a bad thing to learn to do.
Feb 2, 2013 6:43 PM # 
I couldn't find any statements in this thread that indicated that anyone thought that you couldn't train to do pullups, or that that was a bad thing to do. We all agree. Can we put this thread back to sleep?

Feb 3, 2013 1:05 AM # 
The usual motivation
Feb 3, 2013 4:10 AM # 
I was expecting that to be a link to how many pull ups Ali can do.
Feb 3, 2013 4:29 PM # 
Feb 4, 2013 12:33 AM # 
I kind of skimmed the article, but it did say that the soldiers could do the pull-ups using either overhand or underhand. Is that our pull-ups/chin-ups distinction? And, does that matter at all?
Feb 4, 2013 1:34 AM # 
Peggy, a lot of people call both overhanded and underhanded "pullups", and a lot of people call both styles "chins." When people make a distinction, underhanded are called chinups and overhanded are called pullups.

My experience has been that doing them underhanded can add one or two to your max when your max is in the 7-12 range. It probably won't get you from 2 to 3, though. Not wrapping your thumb around the bar can add another one to your max in that range. Ymmv, but I think it has to do with the leverage of your back, wrist, and bicep.
Feb 4, 2013 1:50 AM # 
I can do two chin ups on a good day but no pull ups. I think there is a difference, though I'm not quite sure what it is!
Feb 4, 2013 2:05 AM # 
I like pullups better, but I think I can do more chinups. Probably because the biceps comes into play. If I have to do multiple sets, switching back and forth definitely helps.
Feb 4, 2013 2:33 AM # 
You use more biceps underhanded and more of the back of your shoulders overhanded.
Feb 4, 2013 2:34 AM # 
Underhand grip is easier and has the biceps involved more than the overhand grip. Both use lats as the Big muscle generating the force, but in the overhand grip the forearms are rotated to what I understand to be a position that is less effective for the biceps to generate force. Additionally, the muscles on the 'top' surface of your forearm just aren't up to it in that overhand position.

Overhand grip very much used by paddlers as it's closer to the position of one's hands on a double-bladed paddle.
Feb 4, 2013 2:39 AM # 
These days I do them on rings, and my hands rotate as I rise, so that's kind of a third kind.
Feb 4, 2013 3:39 AM # 
Rings are my favorite, too.
Feb 4, 2013 9:58 PM # 
How come aren't we talking about Galen Rupp? I thought that's what the thread was originally about.
Feb 4, 2013 10:04 PM # 
Well, Kip, because he didn't do any pull ups in the video.
Feb 5, 2013 8:12 AM # 
Came back to this thread just to say that Galen is kinda cute, in that dorky, XC team kind of way.
May 30, 2014 12:49 AM # 
Here I am resurrecting an old thread again. Have any of you folks tried the Armstrong Pull-up program? Some of my family and I did this program many years ago. My wife is still doing pull-ups, and she does five sets of pull-ups of 5-6 reps each.
Jun 4, 2014 11:25 PM # 
"As you might have heard, Sam Bennett, who is NHL Central Scouting Service's top-ranked North American prospect for the upcoming draft, could not perform a single pull-up during last Saturday's NHL combine in Mississauga. The pull-up was a new element of the fitness testing. The Windsor Spitfires' Joshua Ho-Sang was the leader with 13; four others players did a dozen."

This discussion thread is closed.