New Research: Loading the Hang High Pull Exercise

We have put together some neat studies using Tim Suchomel‘s thesis data.  One of Tim’s major research interests is the use of clean variations, and in particular, variations that don’t involve the catch (here’s a post all about ’em: clean variations without the catch).

Here’s a quick video to watch so that we’re on the same page-

For this paper, we examined the effect of manipulating loads on lower body kinetics. Participants did repetitions with 30%, 45%, 65% and 80% of their 1-RM hang clean (maxing out a hang high pull isn’t easy, so using a percentage of hang clean makes things much simpler).

Here’s the simple breakdown of what we found. All variables were calculated from force data:

  • 30% had the lowest peak force, but all other loads had pretty similar peak force
  • Peak velocity decreased as the bar got heavier
  • Peak power was lower at 65% and 80% than it was at 45% and 30%

This tells us that as you manipulate loads on the bar, you are influencing velocity more than you are influencing force. If you want to focus on maximum power generation, you probably want to focus on the 30%-45% loads (or at least around that range).

Another interesting finding was this: Force at peak power didn’t change much between loads (30% to 45% to 65%), and only changed a little bit from 65% to 80%. Velocity at peak power, on the other hand, did tend to change as the load got heavier (it decreased). What this may tell us is that the changes in velocity load to load might be what affected the changes in peak power.  Pretty neat! (Maybe this is more reason to track velocity? I don’t know…)

In the weightroom (I would say “real world”, but the weight room isn’t really the real world either- the real world doesn’t have nearly as much metal, loud music and awesomeness…) you probably want to focus on the lower load range if your goal is maximum power development. Number one, it was with the lower loads that we saw the higher power outputs and bar+body system velocities, and number two it is with the lower loads that the exercise is easier to be technically competent. Really heavy hang high pulls are hard to keep your form in good shape. Way-too-heavy-loads result in technique that looks like the video below. If you want to really push loads, there are other exercises that might better fit the bill.

You can check out the paper here: The effect of various loads on the force-time characteristics of the hang high pull