Exercise of the Week: Thick Rope Pullups

Posted on by Ben Bruno

The Exercise of the Week this week is nothing new, but it’s a great exercise that I feel warrants special attention. I’m talking about Thick Rope Pullups. If you read my blog regularly, you already know that I’m a HUGE fan of pull-ups. I’m not really one to rate exercises, but if I had to, pull-ups would definitely make my top 5. They are super basic yet super effective. I do them at least twice a week, sometimes more, making sure to employ several different variations to avoid hitting plateaus. One such variation involves using a thick rope. If you do not have thick ropes, you can use common household towels and it works just as well. Both of these variations are great to put extra emphasis on grip strength, which is essential for strong pull-ups among many other things. I have never been a huge fan of doing a lot of direct “grip work” because I do not feel it is the best use for my limited time in the gym, but I do like to include compound movements with an added emphasis on grip strength from time to time to kill two birds with one stone.


Be careful though not to overuse these techniques though; any time you use a thick rope, towels, Fat Gripz, or any other devices that emphasis grip strength to a high degree, your grip becomes the limiting factor in the exercise, meaning your grip will give out first. While this is great for getting a strong grip, it is not as great for the other muscles involved in the pull-ups since they will not be allowed to work to their full capacity. Moreover, it is pretty easy to overwork the forearms since they are involved in nearly every exercise in the gym and are also used constantly throughout the day. I make standard grip chin-ups and pull-ups my staple movements and use the ropes from time to time as an accessory movement.

With that said, while these may be an accessory movement, I definitely recommend doing these early in your workout. The grip demands are so high that your forearms really have to be fresh. Otherwise, I have found that I can’t really even do them at all. I will usually do 2 sets early in my workout and that’s it. It may not sound like much, but trust me, after a few sets of these you will feel like someone took a blow torch to your forearms.


Here they are in action. This set is a personal best for me, 5 reps with 100 pounds added. To put it into perspective, my best with a regular grip is 10 reps with 100 pounds, so as you can see, the grip is certainly the limiting factor, but doing these has increased my regular pull-ups because I am no longer limited by my grip strength. Try em’ out and see for yourself.

If you missed my Good Reads post yesterday, be sure to check it out. We’ve got over 50 awesome articles and podcasts from last week.

If you are looking for a way to improve your weighted pullups, you may want to reference this older blog post.