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Cpl. Sarah Alsip, a fiscal clerk at the Wounded Warrior Regiment aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico, performs scapula retractions, which helps with the first pull of pull-ups by using a Suspension Training band during Semper Fit’s first pull-up clinic Jan. 7, 2014. The program will offer pull-up progression training on the first Tuesday of every month.

Photo by Ameesha Felton

Semper Fit launches pull-up progression clinics for Marines

16 Jan 2014 | Ameesha Felton

Even though the Marine Corps delayed their scheduled pull-up requirement for women, Semper Fit trainers at Marine Corps Base Quantico, said demand to improve performance remains high.

“We get tons of questions asking ‘how can I improve my pull-ups’ on our ‘Come Ask a Trainer’ bulletin board at the gym,” said Melanie Ellis, personal trainer at the Barber Physical Activity Center.

To help Marines meet their challenge, a monthly clinic launched Jan. 7, 2014, at the High Intensity Tactical Training Center that teaches participants various pull-up progressions and offers plans to help reach their goals. The one-hour sessions, which are walk-ins, are held on the first Tuesday of every month at 6 a.m., 11 a.m. and 5 p.m.

The workouts include strength training but primarily focus on injury prevention and technique, which Ellis said are often overlooked.

“Technique is very important because, if you’re not training correctly, then you’re not strengthening the right muscles and you can possibly cause injuries,” Ellis said.

Additionally, participants learn that boosting upper-body strength requires more than strengthening biceps and triceps.

“We see a lot of females Marines [at the gym] just doing band-assisted pull-ups, but it’s important to also do exercises that work all of your [upper-body] muscles,” Ellis said.   

That means incorporating isolated workouts like scapula retractions. This exercise helps set the shoulder girdle, which consists primarily of the scapula bone and collar bone. She said by setting the shoulder girdle properly an individual will be able to use larger muscles to perform the exercise rather than smaller stabilizing muscles.

“Scapular retraction helps with the first pull of a pull-ups and it also can prevent one of the most common injuries that we see among Marines, which is a rotator cuff injury,” Ellis said.

Cpl. Sarah Alsip, a fiscal clerk at the Wounded Warrior Regiment, who attended the first clinic, said the training was informative and a great jump-start to her ultimate goal.

“The class was helpful because I had one-on-one training and I learned a lot of exercises that I didn’t know existed,” Alsip said. “I want a 300 PFT [Physical Fitness Test] but not just to get a first class score but to be back in shape to be the best I can.”

Program trainers hope more Marines like Alsip take advantage of the clinic.

In a released statement Semper Fit states their mission is “to educate and ensure Marines are equipped with the knowledge to develop strength, prevent injury, and ability to perform pull-ups to meet the demands of an evolving PFT.”

In addition to the monthly classes, participants are given workout plans that can be performed at the gym or the HITT Center.