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Pull-ups, chin-ups, and their many varieties are great for upper-body strength and development. One of the least seen varieties is the horizontal pull-up and it is a good one. In some ways it may give you even more bang for your buck than vertical chinning.
Doing pull-ups from an almost horizontal position requires keeping your abs and lower-back muscles very tight as you pull with lats, rhomboids, biceps, and forearms. And the beauty is that all the equipment you need is a sturdy horizontal bar and a bench or box on which to elevate your feet.
Here’s how they work: Go beneath the bar and grip it with both hands at slightly wider than shoulder width; extend your legs and place your feet on the bench; straighten your body, keep it taut, and pull your chest to the bar. Later, you might try using an underhand grip.
If at first you are not strong enough to do them with your feet elevated, keep your feet on the floor and bend your knees. As you grow stronger, gradually straighten your legs. Once you can get 8 or 10 reps with straight legs, start putting your feet on higher objects, gradually working toward being horizontal.
Bonus tip for advanced trainees: For a rugged upper-body workout, try super-setting horizontal pull-ups with dive bomber push-ups. Only the strong survive!
* To see dive bomber push-ups, click on "August 2006" in the "Archives" column.