Improving Pull-Up Scores

By Baumgartner, Ted A.; Espinosa, Dana et al. | JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, September 1995 | Go to article overview
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Improving Pull-Up Scores


Baumgartner, Ted A., Espinosa, Dana, Montgomery, Joan, JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance


When students in this study practiced performing modified pull-ups for four weeks before testing, they improved their scores significantly.

Regretably, many children can not execute even one traditional pull-up (TPU). Physical educators assume this is because of lack of arm and shoulder girdle strength and endurance. However, it could be that these children have not mastered all the techniques for taking the test.

Baumgartner (1969) described how a group of children took a physical fitness test, were retested two to five days later, and scored significantly better the retest day. This improvement occurred because the students had more experience taking the test, not because of an increase in fitness. Allowing children to practice a test before taking it is advocated in the Chrysler Fund-AAU Physical Fitness Program Manual (1992). Authors of measurement books stress that children must be experienced with tests or their test scores will not be valid. Children's test scores will not change drastically if children have prior experience with the test and if testing is performed a few days apart. If scores do change, the test is not measuring ability, but how quickly children learn a new skill.

Many physical educators believe the TPU is too difficult for children. Baumgartner (1978) developed a modified pull-up so that most children can execute at least one. Baumgartner and Wood (1984) studied the Baumgartner pull-up (BPU) as a training device with third through sixth grade boys and girls. All subjects participated in a physical education program three days a week for 12 weeks. During each physical education class the experimental subjects (N = 91) did one set of as many Baumgartner pull-ups as possible, whereas the control subjects (N = 92) did not do Baumgartner pull-ups. Both groups significantly improved from the beginning to the end of the study, but the experimental group improved significantly more than the control group.

Researchers have found that training two to three days a week for eight to 12 weeks may increase muscular strength and endurance because of muscle hypertrophy, but training four to five weeks may increase muscular strength and endurance because of neurological adaptions. Practicing a test for one to two weeks and, thus, becoming more skillful in performing the test may improve test scores.

The purpose of the following study was to determine whether four weeks of training/practice with TPUs and BPUs would improve scores on these two tests. It is expected that any improvement in scores would be primarily the result of practicing the test. Considerable improvement in scores after a short training/practice period has great implications for fitness testing, particularly arm and shoulder girdle strength and endurance testing.

The experimental group (N = 86) and the control group (N = 84) consisted of third, fourth, and fifth grade children. The groups were matched in terms of grade and gender of the subjects. The TPU and BPU were explained and demonstrated to all subjects, and they were allowed to practice the two tests that day. Several days later, both groups were pretested within one day on the BPU and then the TPU so that the order of tests was the same for all subjects. Then both groups received the same physical education program two days a week for four weeks. In addition, during the physical education program the experimental group trained/practiced doing one set of the maximum number of pull-ups possible using the BPU each class day and both the BPU and TPU every second class day. The number of pull-ups executed each day was recorded. Finally, all subjects were posttested within a day on the BPU and then the TPU. All data collection was conducted by the teacher or the authors, using standardized test procedures.

The BPU equipment is shown in figure 1. When doing a BPU, the subject lies face down on the scooter, grasps the pull-up bar with an over-handed grip, and does as many pull-ups as possible by pulling himself/ herself up the inclined track to the pull-up bar and lowering himself/ herself down the inclined track to full arm extension.

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