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Fitness & Health

16th May 2018

Russian Forces pull-up challenge: the bodyweight test you need to try

How do you match up?

Alex Roberts

pull up

The Russian Forces pull-up challenge well and truly separates the men from the boys

Pull-ups often fall foul of the Marmite factor – you either tend to love them or hate them.

There are many measures of muscular strength and endurance – including free weight lifts such as the bench press, deadlift and squat, and bodyweight moves such as the pull-up.

When judging where your fitness levels lie, bodyweight strength is as important as what you can bench or squat.

You’ll go far to find a better example of pull-up performance than the challenge undertaken by new recruits to the Russian Special Forces.

It will make you feel weak at the knees, even if the exercise is relatively simple to understand.

What you’ll need:

  • Pull-up bar
  • A 10kg weighted vest, 10kg kettlebell or 10kg weight plate
  • If you don’t have a weighted vest, you’ll need a dipping belt to attach the kettlebell / weight plate

Don’t be fooled by what seems to be a simple task. This is tough going.

In addition to testing your strength, endurance and fitness, you’ll also completely blast your biceps, forearms and lats.

You will need to smash out 18 full pull-ups, all with the correct technique. If your form goes, it can’t be counted as a rep.

Oh, and by the way – that 10kg weighted vest, kettle bell or weight plate you had? You’ll need that strapped to you throughout.

While designed for the Russian Forces, this pull-up challenge is not too dissimilar to the level of strength and muscular endurance the fire brigade and other armed forces have to exhibit.

Need some pointers on your technique? Here’s how to perform a proper pull-up:

  • Grip the pull-up bar with a pronated (overhand) grip, hands shoulder-width apart
  • Straighten your arms and keep your back straight
  • With a slight bend at the knees, cross your lower legs
  • Retract your shoulder blades (reduces stress on shoulder joint)
  • While keeping your core engaged, pull your body up until your chin becomes aligned with the bar
  • Pause for 1-2 seconds at the top. Then lower to the start position.

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