Below, MovNat Master Trainer and Team Instructor, Bernd Reicheneder, will teach you step-by-step, the easiest technique for getting on top of a narrow, horizontal surface, such as a pull up bar, a wooden beam, or a tree branch. Not only will you learn some cool climbing skills from practicing these progressions, you’ll also build and strengthen your body all over – including some places you’re probably not used to. Enjoy!
By Bernd Reicheneder
The Sliding Swing Up is quite the MovNat technique, which is found nowhere else in the fitness world. So, the question arises: Why? Is it because it’s irrelevant to work on getting up onto a metal bar, if there is no effect on muscle-growth? Or, is it irrelevant if you don’t climb trees anymore; or if you simply sprint, jump and fly over obstacles? Fortunately, there are more and more humans who want to explore themselves, nature, and the lost connection of both; reaping many rewards in the process.
The Sliding Swing Up (SSU) is a wonderful technique for a lot of reasons:
- It brings you back to the joy and competency of moving skillfully in trees, something we once did more regularly millions of years ago.
- It’s the easiest technique to get yourself from underneath a bar/beam/branch to on top of it.
- The journey from standing on the ground until performing a Full Press Up on top of the bar/beam/branch requires conquering that obstacle with all your physical and intellectual abilities. This provides a powerful opportunity for personal growth and empowerment through the pursuit of the task itself.
- It involves the amazing use of the whole organism in a Fitness/Health perspective, with many physiological benefits delivered through a little sequence from a Position (Dead Hang), through a Transition (Sliding Swing Up), and into another Position (Full Press Up Leg Hook).
- It’s a great learning tool for understanding several useful mechanical topics in Natural Movement, or any other Movement practice.
- It provides a good introduction to a wide range of Natural Movement techniques depending on one’s preconditions and limitations, among other factors such as speed, angle, form and friction of the surface of support (SOS), condition, purpose, adaptation, competency, capability, mindset, etc.
- It offers a great start into all the other Swing Up techniques, along with Pop Ups and Power Ups on a bar/beam/branch.
- Finally, it’s a great way to hug a tree!
The Sliding Swing Up is a highly technical movement if you break it down to it’s elements, like we’ll do in this tutorial. Keep in mind there are two ways you can handle this progression to work up to the full Sliding Swing Up (which will be explained in further detail below):
- Isolation: The Foot Pinch (Isolated)
- Isolation: SSU on a low bar (Isolated)
- Combination: The whole sequence from Standing on the ground to a Full Press Up Leg Hook Over.
Regardless of where you start, the Foot Pinch needs more Conditioning* and the Sliding Swing Up needs more Technique. This is the way the progression listed below will proceed.
*See the Conditioning Plan for the Foot Pinch technique at the end of this article.
Management of safety:
- Before you begin practicing the progressions below, ensure your shoulders are healthy and strong, especially for the Shoulder Hangs.
- Wear pants and a long sleeve shirt to protect the skin on your arms and legs.
- If possible, start by practicing on a long metal bar:
- You don’t have to fear about the stability.
- It shouldn’t swing or absorb forces you need to perform the movement efficiently.
- It has low friction.
- The diameter should be relatively thin [e.g. 1.5 inches (about 3.5 cm) is a good general width].
- The space around either side of the bar should present no danger for your head and shoulders.
- Make sure you use slow and always mindful progressions while you’re practicing the Positions and Transitions.
Okay, let’s go to work!
Sliding Swing Up Progressions
Before we begin working through the sequence of progressions, here is an example of the Sliding Swing Up from the Shoulder Hang position. This is the “go-to” basic technique of an isolated Sliding Swing Up (i.e. out of context).
Next, let’s look at the complete technique, starting on the ground and getting on top of the bar via a Foot Pinch + Sliding Swing Up + Full Press Up.
If you’d like to geek out for a minute, the technical names for these various positions and transitions are: Upward Jump to Frontal Active Hang to Foot Pinch to Leg Hook Over Shoulder Hang to Sliding Swing Up to Full Press Up Leg Hook Over. In this example, they’re performed on a round 6″ / 15cm diameter horizontal climbing surface.
Now, let’s deconstruct these positions and transitions to master every step involved.
The Foot Pinch
Everything starts on the Ground! This is actually the best and most important conditioning drill, which is related to Crawling but is specifically activating the big movers here, including the Lats, Abs, and the Hip Flexors.
It is safer to know the positions (starting and ending position) to have a better plan when working in the transition between them. So, having the bar closer to the ground gives you a relaxed time to explore the Foot Pinch act itself.
A Pull Up adapted to this Transition is important for building the specific strength needed in this movement.
After getting comfortable with some isolation drills, we are now getting into the full movement practice of the Foot Pinch:
Now, let’s try some technique exploration and eccentric conditioning.
The drill above is the most related approach to the actual Foot Pinch Technique. If you can walk your feet up into the Foot Pinch Position, you can skip the Foot Pinch from hanging drill and work into the feeling of pinching the feet and also the height.
Foot Pinch Variations
The Body Weight Transfer that results from the swinging saves energy, but makes the actual Foot Pinch more difficult because grabbing the bar with the toes requires accuracy and control.
My space is a bit limited here. So, try to find something with more room to hang and swing from. While doing the swing, think about conscious competence, on the individual parts in this order: Swing – Swing Higher – Grip – Place the first foot (the better one) then the other and hold tight, just on the right spot! Don’t try it! Do it! But watch your Grip!
This is the standard form of the Foot Pinch. The strongest parts work, the weaker just hold.
This is the Combination of the Pull Up and the Knee to Bar elements. The basic progression for that are Knee Tucks – Toes to bar – Knee to bar.
This can also be called a Power Foot Pinch, because it’s the fastest way to get up. You can also integrate a powerful Knee Tuck as in the Pop Up and Power Up.
This variation is a bit more difficult, but a great progression to include in your practice.
Along with the Front Hang variation, this should be the most efficient technique; the strongest parts doing the most work during the direct and fast movements.
Sliding Swing Up
Here is a way to prepare for the Foot Pinch Position.
Using a safe support underneath you is a great way to explore the position of the body, and in particular, the new experience of using the feet in a gripping function.
The Toes and the Foot Arches are suddenly great grips that create Points Of Support (POS) to lift your Center Of Gravity (COG) and get into new possibilities, such as the the Foot Pinch (Position) to Hip Lift (Transition) to Leg Hook Over (Position).
Building up one strong Point Of Support (POS) leads to getting one foot free and enables you to perform the Leg Hook. This Transition leads into the Leg Hook Over Position.
Now, let’s explore some new sensations and conditioning of different POS.
You can play with this sequence: Isolation – Reaching – Transition – Position.
And the next new POS! Number 5!
There is a Transition – just a small one – One Shoulder Hang into Double Shoulder Hang. But again, focus on Position – Transition – Position.
Okat, that’s the decisive Position for the decisive Transition. I recommend working toward feeling safe and sound in that position, the Double Shoulder Leg Hook into the first Transition on the way into/out of the Swing and Slide. This is also the right moment to feel the pressure of the Points Of Support on the outer arm, because that’s the most important part for stability and control.
Before getting into the upward/forward/side directions, let’s try the SSU – Controlled Negative.
Keep it super-soft and mindful. You can stop at any point in the range of motion!
Now, explore the Position. Feel the different directions a reach can lead you.
Just a detail: if you position the hand like in the Graphic shown below, it is a great way to push you up/forward into the sliding transition (see explanation below). Turning the elbow over the bar is also an important part of the Rope Roll Up, which uses basically the same technique as the SSU.
On a thin bar, a swing is actually not necessary. By loading the POS on the right spots, it’s more a question of balance control. But on thicker bars/beams/branches the swing is necessary to place the POS on the right spots on the bar.
To explain, I’ve put my super graphic design skills to good use in the image below ;-)
The black spot is the bar. YOU are the star…of course! The thick curving arrow is the movement of your Points Of Support (both Upper Arms/Armpits/One Hand, Knee Pit) as you slide over the bar. And the thin straight arrow is the POS Position where force needs to be applied to pull & push you up and over the bar. So, you need to swing until the three POS are on the far side of the bar. Then apply the pressure on the bar while simultaneously extending the hips and pushing with the arms onto these POS – pushing forward, and lifting by and through the outwards slide.
This mechanical logic is essential for an efficient movement in all bar-climbing techniques except the Roll Up. It appears complex in text descriptions, but you’ll get a feel for it with practice.
Now, it’s time to practice a very important mechanical task. The timing of having the POS on the right spot of the bar. And the right timing of the Swing, to bring you up and forward.
Again, here is the Sliding Swing Up in a context-free setting…
That’s it! Step by step, understanding after understanding, feeling after feeling, competency after competency…you’ve mastered one of the greatest skills of Natural Movement.
Here is the last isolation drill; the final move to complete the Sliding Swing Up.
For safe, competent and adaptable growth in this and all Natural Movement techniques, in general, you need patience on many different levels:
- Patience to let your strength and conditioning improve – The Foot Pinch requires dynamic strength in the arms, shoulders, core and hips. Give it time. And remember, you don’t have to master the hang first. Just go into the hang with a walk up, or from a low bar where you can skip the Foot Pinch and work on the upper part of the movement.
- Patience on the conditioning of the Points Of Support (POS) – The knee-pit, the upper arms, and the side of your trunk may have never been used in this way. Give yourself plenty of time for adaptation. If there is pain or there are bruised spots appearing after the first sessions, this will disappear and those areas will eventually feel as safe as using your hands or feet as POS. Or, you could simply wear a thicker shirt and pants.
- Spend as much time as needed to feel comfortable in all Positions and Transitions. If you don’t feel competent or confident in a position, everything will work against efficiency and safety. Your energy and performance will start to work against you, blocking safe progress.
- There was once a “Female Version“ of the Sliding Swing Up technique, that uses elements of the Elbow Swing Up. But if you practice on a metal bar, the sliding movement can be done on the side, the chest-/latissimus-region which should be of no problem, I hope! If you have a problem with the slide, there are a couple methods to recommend here:
- Explore and find a way, with the explorative motivation I wanted to invoke with this article through the isolation of parts of the technique.
- Work on the Elbow Swing Up technique
- Hope for another article ;-)
There is the practice of the whole and there is the practice of it’s parts, and starting from the ground is ALWAYS the best way in the development of movement competency and capacity. This learning sequence is a Position – Transition – Position – Continuum that is the basic manner movement happens, in general. Whereas, a locomotion is in the Transition-Category, reaching and exploring POS in a Position (out of safety) is leading consequently into a Transition (freedom) that is looking for new possibilities in new Positions (into safety) again.
This approach can integrate all methods out there that work with a basic specific natural human movement approach like Spiraldynamics, Neuro Cellular Patterns, Feldenkrais, Yoga, Martial Arts, Asian Movement Systems, etc.
Finally, all these little notes and progressions should bring you not just forward in your movement practice, but should also give you a feeling for the mechanics of movement as well as insight into how the MovNat System can be used to deconstruct natural movements, making them more accessible and efficient for all who practice them.
Conditioning for the Foot Pinch
Intensity : 70-85% (Adjust with support, speed or additional weight)
Speed: Slow to Swift
Reps: 5-10 (until very fatigued)
Sets: 6-8 rounds
Pause: Between Sets/Rounds for 2-3min, and between exercises for 45sec
Circle: 3 exercises
Rest: 2 days
Conditioning Part 1 (2-3 weeks)
3-4 Rounds of these drills as stations in a circle-training:
Drill 1: Knee Hand Position Floor Pulling (5-10 reps)
Drill 2: Frontal Dead Hand to Foot Pinch Walk Up (5-10 reps) (Gripchange!)
Drill 3: Natural Sit Up (3-5 reps)
Conditioning Part 2: (1-2 weeks)
3-4 Rounds of these drills as stations in a circle-training:
Drill 1: Dead Hand to Foot Pinch Walk Up to Leg Lowering (3-5 reps) (Grip change!)
Drill 2: Low Forward Swing (5-10 reps) (Grip change!)
Drill 3: Forward Swing with Foot Pinch Attempts (4 reps per side)
Conditioning Part 3: (lifelong)
3-4 Rounds of these drills as stations in a circle-training:
Drill 1: Frontal Hand Pull Up (3–5 reps) (Grip change!)
Drill 2: Frontal Dead Hang to Foot Pinch (3–5 reps) (Grip change!)
Drill 3: Side Dead Hand to Foot Pinch (3–5 reps per side)
About the Author
Bernd Reicheneder is a MovNat Master Trainer. Team Instructor and MovNat Online Coach. He also runs his own business as a Personal Trainer, Coach and FMS-Specialist. You can learn more about his work at his website www.movnatmuenchen.com and find him on Facebook and Instagram.
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