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Nights at the Bar

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By Nathan Carter

First things first, the rig isn’t just for racking barbells and a convenient place to hang a jump rope. It is in fact the platform for some of the most effective movements for building upper body strength and burning massive amounts of calories that have ever graced a gym. The beauty is in the simplicity: no moving parts, no cables, pedals, clamps, or plates, just a frame and a bar either free standing or anchored to a wall. For the most part the movements are similar. You grab the bar and pull yourself to or over it. It’s a seemingly simple concept but one that is also challenging and effective enough that entire fitness programs can be built around that one group of movements.

What makes a rig movement like a pullup so effective is the same thing that makes the big Olympic lifts like the clean and snatch effective: they all require the use of multiple groups of muscles in order to accomplish them. Movements like these are called compound movements because they utilize multiple muscle groups and multiple joints in order to move a load. In the case of rig movements the load is the athlete’s body. So why are compound movements beneficial? Using the pull up as an example, in order to pull your chin over the bar you will use nine different muscles in the arms, shoulders, and back. That’s not including the muscles that you use to actually grip the bar or the muscles in the abdomen and the pelvic floor that hold the body ridged as it travels to the bar. This requires a great deal of energy to sustain for even a short time and results in burning large numbers of calories. Wait! There’s more! Doing extended sets of any rig movement quickly elevates your heart rate and can be incorporated into cardiovascular training.

So rig movements are great for building upper body strength, strengthening the core, and burning tons of calories. On top of all that they can be used to create heart pounding cardio workouts all by using our bodies and a bar. So, what if we are unable to do a rig movement with our body weight? Not everyone is going to be able to do ten strict pull ups or a bar muscle up because it takes significant upper body strength to do even one. This is where athletes can become apprehensive about jumping on the rig. Luckily for us rig movements are easily modified to suit athletes of all skill levels either by modifying the movement or by using resistance bands. If we’re not quite able to do toes to bar we can do knees to elbows. If we can’t do the prescribed number of pull ups, grab a band and go to town. Strict pull ups not challenging enough? Try a weight vest and see how that feels. The point is everyone who can wrap their fingers around a bar will benefit from incorporating rig movements into their fitness program, see you at the bar!

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