How to use…

The High Bar Station (#15)

As mentioned in the post intro, the High Bar station is the most commonly included station in any fitness park. By design, it demands the biggest effort of any station in the park as you pull, lift, elevate, and propel your suspended and isolated body weight upwards and opposite the full-pull of gravity. The High Bar is an unforgiving but honest test of strength, always letting you know how strong or weak you are. Try the “chin up test” when you first begin to exercise at WCFP. Hands facing you on the bar, hang passively, dangle a moment and then see how far you are capable of pulling-up your body weight. There may only be a small amount of movement at first, arms barely flexing, but don’t worry, as time goes on, the distance you are able to pull yourself upwards will improve, week after week, until your chin reaches the bar. Envision that moment. It’s not too far off 🙂

The High Bar station consists of two bars set at two heights, one taller, the other shorter. There is a convenient step stool built into one of the station’s supports so you don’t have to jump up to grab a bar. Nice.

Besides exercising directly on the High Bar, you can also use it as an anchor for your suspension training device.

How-to Animations:

The how-to animations below provide snippets of exercises demonstrating proper form, posture and positioning. 

1. Scapular retraction

Notes:

Clearly not the most exciting movement at the fitness park, but developing stronger “scapular retraction” is a precursor to performing a chin up or pull up. Why is this so? Retracting the shoulder blades; that is, getting good at pulling them down towards the mid spine and anchoring them, opens the shoulders, preventing the impingement that can occur in the shoulder girdle when you are suspended under your body weight.

Muscles used:

Shoulders – posterior deltoids as stabilizers
Back – lower trapezius, rhomboids: as scapular stabilizers
Arms – biceps, forearm group: minimal involvement
Mid section – abdominals, external obliques, erector spinae: as stabilizers
Lower body – passive

Difficulty:

2. Chin up

Notes:

What’s the difference between a “chin up” and a “pull up”? The chin up is performed with palms facing you. This grip allows for greater biceps leverage, allowing the biceps to play a big part in pulling you upwards. Both chin ups and pull ups are tough, but persist and be rewarded!

Muscles used:

Shoulders – medial deltoids as stabilizers; posterior deltoids as assistant to the prime movers
Back – latissimus dorsi as prime movers; lower trapezius, rhomboids: as scapular stabilizers
Arms – biceps as prime movers, assisted by the forearm group 
Mid section – abdominals, external obliques, erector spinae: as stabilizers
Lower body – passive

Difficulty:

3. Pull up

Notes:

Pull ups are performed with palms facing away from you. This eliminates the mechanical advantage of the biceps, something you’ll feel when comparing pull ups to chin ups. The pull up sits atop the apex of difficulty among the myriad of fitness park exercises.

Muscles used:

Shoulders – medial deltoids as stabilizers; posterior deltoids as assistant to the prime movers
Back – latissimus dorsi as prime movers; lower trapezius, rhomboids: as scapular stabilizers
Arms – biceps as prime movers, assisted by the forearm group 
Mid section – abdominals, external obliques, erector spinae: as stabilizers
Lower body – passive

Difficulty:

4. Assisted pull up (or chin up)

Notes:

If you are new to these difficult exercises, learn proper mechanics and form for both the pull up and chin up by using stretchy bands to offset some of your body weight.

Stretchy bands are inexpensive and lightweight alternatives to traditional weight training gear, and they’re extremely useful all around the fitness park for a variety of purposes. It’s way easier to throw a few bands of different thicknesses (increased loads with increased thickness) into your backpack than it is to schlep around 100 pounds of dumbbells!

Muscles used:

Shoulders – medial deltoids as stabilizers; posterior deltoids as assistant to the prime movers
Back – latissimus dorsi as prime movers; lower trapezius, rhomboids: as scapular stabilizers
Arms – biceps as prime movers, assisted by the forearm group 
Mid section – abdominals, external obliques, erector spinae: as stabilizers
Lower body – passive

Difficulty:

5. Alternating close-grip chin up

Notes:

Alternating close grip chin ups, like regular chin ups and pull ups, is a tough exercise requiring you to pull your entire body weight off the ground and up to the bar. The grip –hands close together, facing each other– makes the exercise seem marginally easier due to the leverage factor.

Like with other pulling exercises, use stretchy bands to offset your body weight so you can learn proper form without overwhelming your muscles and joints.

Muscles used:

Shoulders – medial deltoids as stabilizers; posterior deltoids as assistant to the prime movers
Back – latissimus dorsi as prime movers; lower trapezius, rhomboids: as scapular stabilizers
Arms – biceps as prime movers, assisted by the forearm group 
Mid section – abdominals, external obliques, erector spinae: as stabilizers
Lower body – passive

Difficulty:

6. Offset chin up

Notes:

Here is an interesting variation on power-pulling that is a hybrid between the chin up and the pull up. Watch closely as Brad’s “active” arm grips the bar chin up style. His other arm grips the bar pull up style. Then, he pulls upwards towards the chin up grip hand, the arm with the extra leverage. Pull up, chin up or hybrid – welcome to the world of difficult fitness park exercises that will challenge and ultimately reward you.

This pulling variation works great with the help of good ol’ stretchy bands!

Muscles used:

Shoulders – medial deltoids as stabilizers; posterior deltoids as assistant to the prime movers
Back – latissimus dorsi as prime movers; lower trapezius, rhomboids: as scapular stabilizers
Arms – biceps as prime movers, assisted by the forearm group 
Mid section – abdominals, external obliques, erector spinae: as stabilizers
Lower body – passive

Difficulty:

7. Negative pull up

Notes:

For those looking to make some gains in performing pull ups, try negatives! Step-up so your as close to the bar as possible. Grasp the bar with elbows fully flexed (the elbow joint closed) with either palms facing outward or towards you. You are basically starting in the fully flexed position and –slowly, slowly– lowering yourself down to a straight arm hang. The graphic shows a speedier descent but try to lower slowly! Step-up and repeat as many times as desired.

Muscles used:

Shoulders – medial deltoids as stabilizers; posterior deltoids as assistant to the prime movers
Back – latissimus dorsi as prime movers under eccentric contraction; lower trapezius, rhomboids: as scapular stabilizers
Arms – biceps as prime movers under eccentric contraction, assisted by the forearm group 
Mid section – abdominals, external obliques, erector spinae: as stabilizers
Lower body – passive

Difficulty:

8. Hip flexion

Notes:

Don’t worry if you’re not a huge fan of chin ups or pull ups: the High Bar has more to offer you! One of the most engaging and beneficial movements you can perform in a fitness park is hanging hip flexion. Hang and lift your knees to your chest. It’s not easy and will require you to be able to hold your body weight for 15 seconds or more.

If you want to develop your grip strength and improve you capacity to hang for longer and longer periods of time, then work on the exercise (two below), passive hangs.

Muscles used:

Upper body – shoulders, chest and back as stabilizers
Arms – forearm group as prime grip muscles engaged
Mid section – abdominals, external obliques as stabilizers
Lower body – hip flexors (iliopsoas, rectus femoris) as prime movers

Difficulty:

9. Hip flexion, advanced

Notes:

Biomechanically, this exercise approximates the hip flexion variation above. But look closely to see the extra range of motion the lower body travels through as the feet move up and over the bar. At the same time, the legs are extended outward, amplifying the load effect on the hip flexors and abdominal stabilizers. Meanwhile, the shoulders, lower chest and lats engage powerfully to stabilize the upper body and generate the pivot at the shoulders.

Muscles used:

Upper body – shoulders, chest and back as stabilizers
Arms – forearm group as prime grip muscles engaged
Mid section – abdominals, external obliques as stabilizers
Lower body – hip flexors (iliopsoas, rectus femoris) as prime movers

Difficulty:

10. Passive hang

Notes:

This is the simplest yet most profoundly effective exercise in the entire Windermere Community Fitness Park! Here’s the reasons. 1) You’re not actually doing anything except holding on to the bar until your fingers peel off the bar from forearm fatigue; 2) your entire body from head to toe benefits from the deep stretch; 3) the strength gain in your grip muscles you’ll experience over time will transfer to many other real-life activities from opening jars to throttling your kids; 4) you’ll eventually be able to travel the length of the Peg Travel station!!

Muscles used:

Upper body – shoulders, chest and back as stabilizers
Arms – forearm group as prime grip muscles engaged statically
Mid section – abdominals, external obliques as stabilizers
Lower body – hip flexors (iliopsoas, rectus femoris) as prime movers

Difficulty:

11. Front lever

Notes:

The front lever move seems to defy gravity. Also referred to a reverse or hanging planche, this movement requires a high degree of upper body and core strength, and is a standard among a gymnast’s repertoire of training exercises. Working towards being able to hang straight and then pull a front lever involves a progression of increasingly challenging exercises to prepare. So, don’t feel too bad if you can’t nail it first time like Brad, who is clearly super-human.

Muscles used:

Shoulders – posterior deltoids, medial deltoids
Chest – pectorals (particularly lower pecs) as assistant movers
Back – Latissimus dorsi as prime movers; serratus anterior, rhomboids, scapular muscles as stabilizers
Arms – forearm group as prime (grip) muscles engaged statically
Mid section – abdominals, external obliques engaged statically
Lower body – hip flexors (iliopsoas, rectus femoris) engaged statically

Difficulty:

12. Windshield wiper

Notes:

Get good at this movement an expect to gain well-paying employment as a human chamois at a mining vehicle truck wash in northern Alberta. If moving out of town isn’t your thing, you’ll at least save big by becoming your own chiropractor.

Joking aside, this is a difficult exercise requiring upper body and core muscle strength, Be careful and use a spotter!

Muscles used:

Shoulders – posterior deltoids, medial deltoids as stabilizers
Chest – pectorals as stabilizers
Back – Latissimus dorsi as prime movers engaged statically; serratus anterior, rhomboids, scapular muscles as stabilizers
Arms – forearm group as prime (grip) muscles engaged statically
Mid section – abdominals and external obliques as prime movers
Lower body – hip flexors (iliopsoas, rectus femoris) engaged statically

Difficulty:

13. Muscle up, modified

Notes:

It goes without saying that is a complex move requiring familiarity, strength, an awareness of body position, and some confidence. Make sure to have a partner as a spotter when working up to complex movements where you’re high above the ground! Below is a gallery showing a detailed analysis of the animation on the left.

Muscles used:

Shoulders – posterior deltoids, medial deltoids
Chest – pectorals as prime movers
Back – Latissimus dorsi as prime movers; serratus anterior, rhomboids, scapular muscles as stabilizers
Arms – forearm group as prime (grip) muscles engaged statically; biceps as prime movers; triceps as prime movers
Mid section – abdominals, external obliques engaged as assistant movers
Lower body – hip flexors (iliopsoas, rectus femoris) as prime movers

Difficulty:

14. Muscle up, assisted

Notes:

In the modified version of the muscle up above #13, Brad mounts the bar by using an alternative to the true muscle up action, a skill requiring rarified power and coordination and gymnastics experience. Brad demonstrates the true muscle up action in this version through the use of a stretchy band to offset some body weight. As always, if you’re new to this movement, please use a spotter!

The muscle up requires you to swing your legs, generate some momentum and when ready, using a massive recruitment of upper body muscles, pull yourself upwards and powerfully towards the bar. The momentum continues as the arms and chest drive the body skyward beyond the bar to end with arms extended, body straight.

Muscles used:

Shoulders – posterior deltoids, medial deltoids
Chest – pectorals (particularly lower pecs) as assistant movers
Back – Latissimus dorsi as prime movers; serratus anterior, rhomboids, scapular muscles as stabilizers
Arms – forearm group as prime (grip) muscles engaged statically
Mid section – abdominals, external obliques engaged statically
Lower body – hip flexors (iliopsoas, rectus femoris) engaged statically

Difficulty:

Additional resources: