The humble pull-up. An exercise that in theory anyone could do, and that is a measure of physical fitness, but in reality, most of us struggle to heave our bodyweight to the bar. Maris Slezins, founder and chairman of the World Street Workout and Calisthenics Federation, says, ‘Simple pull-ups can change, inspire and motivate.’ And it’s with that philosophy that Slezins also founded World Pull-Up Day, which takes place on Saturday September 12.
It started in Latvia in 2011 and spread to 60 countries by 2013. Local street workout and parkour specialist Against Graviti has signed up to organise the event this year in Dubai, with the aim of inspiring the city to get into fitness. Khatereh Abdullah Teymoori, community manager at Against Graviti, believes that World Pull-Up Day can reach out to everyone, regardless of how bulging (or not) their biceps are. ‘It doesn’t matter if you can do one or 100 pull-ups, everyone can get involved, register and do as many as they can.’
The first World Pull-Up Day event in Dubai was held last year at Dubai Marina Mall, with just one pull-up point. This year, organisers are hoping to have a greater presence. ‘Last year, Dubai was ranked 27 out of 56 participating countries, which was great for our first year,’ says Teymoori. ‘But this year, we’re hopefully going to have a better ranking.’ Participants can sign up on the day and take part at Ahdaaf Sports Club in Al Quoz or at ANTA sportswear store in Al Ghurair Mall, Deira.
Teymoori says that the country of the event’s founder, Latvia, is currently king of the pull-up. ‘Latvia always comes in at number one. They have guy who is amazing and can do about 70 pull-ups without stopping. The other people who rank after him are members of his family.’
Teymoori and the team at Against Graviti hope that Dubai will steal the crown from the Latvians this year, and that a winning result sparks people to get moving in the right way. ‘What we believe in is that people move for the betterment of others. We have the second-highest rate of diabetes in the world and it’s great to teach people to move. Against Graviti is all bodyweight focused – we don’t work with weights, we’re always working around bodyweight – pulling, pushing and jumping.’
But we can’t help but wonder why the pull-up of all the exercises. So we ask Teymoori, why not a sit-up? ‘With sit-ups or push-ups, you’re not managing your whole bodyweight. With a pull-up your hands are on a bar and you pull your entire bodyweight up. That’s not easy to do.
Some people try it with a band, like a big elastic band that you put your legs into, but it’s harder that way,’ she explains.
Anyone who wants to help Dubai get onto the leader board on the day can turn up, register and take part. ‘So many people think that they can do a pull-up… they think it’s easy. Once they participate in this event, they might come to realise that they can’t deal with their own bodyweight and for some, that will be a real
Free to participate. Sat September 12, 9am-11.30pm, Ahdaaf Sports Club, 18B Street, Al Quoz; 10am-midnight, ANTA sportswear store, Al Ghurair Centre, Deira, www.worldpullupday.com (no number).
Pull-ups for first-timers
According to Olivier Lamoureux, Head Coach and Operations Manager at FAST Sports Performance, the pull-up is by far the most efficient exercise to develop general upper body strength and muscle mass. Here are his three top tips to help you progress to the perfect pull-up
1. Perform eccentric reps
Stand on a box with your hands firmly gripped on the pull-up bar. Jump up as high as you can and lower your body back down following a count of ten seconds.
2. Spotter at the ankles
Have someone stand behind you and hold your ankles while you bend your knees. When pulling yourself up, push your ankles down against your spotter’s hands. This will remove enough bodyweight to help you perform the exercise.
3. Spotter at the waist
Have someone stand behind you and lightly push your waist up while you pull yourself up. Inform the spotter to help you only when necessary.
FAST Sports Performance, Level 6, City Tower 2 Car Park, Sheikh Zayed Road, www.trainwithfast.com (04 355 5181).