In this article we will compare three (3) pull-up regressions (jumping pull-ups, banded pull-ups, and ring rows) to determine which one is best for your muscle development, upper body strength, and gymnastic/fitness skills.
Jumping Pull-Ups vs Bands vs Ring Rows
In this section we will breakdown each of the three exercises to provide you with some background information on the benefits and proper technique to complete the exercise.
In a recent article we discussed the jumping pull-up, covering in detail the training benefits and why some athletes can benefit from including them into their bodyweight training and metabolic circuits. You can read the entire article here.
Jumping pull-ups offer us a way to regress the strict pull-up to help those who struggle with upper body strength and gain valuable experience “on the bar”. This is done by using a jump to gain upward momentum to assist in the pull-up. This can increase upper body strength, pull-up skill, and body awareness. It also can improve grip and back strength and endurance, both critical for more advanced bodyweight workouts and movements like kipping, climbing, and higher rep bar-based workouts (like this guy, who did 67 kipping pull-ups in one minute).
The banded pull-up is another pull-up regression that has an individual place a resistance band on the bar, then placing their knee or foot in to assist in the pull-up movement. The band, when stretched (at the bottom of the pull-up) decreases the amount of resistance the lifter must overcome, helping them move their body weight.
As the lifter gains mechanical advantages in the pull-up (as joints flex the lifter is able to overcome resistance easier) the band decreases it’s assistance (less stretched). This can be a valuable training exercise for increasing strength across the entire range of motion, and is referred to as “accommodating resistance”.
The ring row, also called an inverted row (which can be performed on rings, bars, or any other stable surface) is a bodyweight movement that is often used in group settings as a regression for pull-up movements. This exercise can increase grip strength and back development, both critical to pull-up performance and progressions.
Which exercise is best for…?
In the below section we will breakdown four training goals to determine which of the three movements above (jumping pull-ups vs bands vs ring rows) is the best option, and why.
Muscle Hypertrophy and General Development
All three movements can be used to increase overall muscle development and fundamental movement, however the banded pull-up and the ring row may be slightly more applicable to muscle gain and strength. Due to the ballistic nature of the jumping pull-up and the near exclusion of an eccentric muscle contraction (unless the lifter purposefully flowers themselves slowly from the bar), the time under tension (TUT) is very short, which limits that muscular damage that often takes place with longer TUT durations (45-90 seconds). That said, I suggest that beginners master the above lifts before going into the jumping pull-up, or at least understand that the jumping pull-up will offer slightly less hyperparathy benefits than the others at this stage (however, it is important to note the jumping pull-up can increase muscle endurance, body awareness, and grip strength).
Upper Body Strength
As mentioned above, the banded pull-up and ring row are two great movements for increasing muscle hypertrophy, which is step one of getting stronger. All three movements (including the jumping pull-up) can be used to address upper body strength limitations. Integrating all three movements into a program where rep schemes are lower and the amount of force that must be generated are higher can help to improve overall upper body strength.
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Application to Bodyweight Pull-Ups
Since the pull-up movement occurs within the vertical plane (frontal) the ring row (while beneficial) does not offer similar joint mechanics that translate directly to pull-ups. The jumping pull-up and the banded pull-up can increase a lifter’s ability to promote force at a specific joint angle/movement, which has been shown to be key for progressing in any movement requiring a specific range of motion and movement pattern (once again, this is not to say the ring row cannot help, as it surely can, but when looking at the angles of the pull-up, the other two movements are better suited for direct movement translation).
Gymnastic and Functional Fitness Skill
In gymnastics and functional fitness sports, all three movements are key to the development of upper body strength, muscle hypertrophy, and movement skill. Things like muscle ups, ring work, and bar skills require a wide degree of movement coordination, angular specific strength and skill, and body awareness, which can all be learned when combining these three movements into a training regimen. These exercises can also be used to progress towards other movements like kipping and strict ring/bar exercise like pull-ups, muscle ups, and more.
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