January 22, 2023


I do only bodyweight exercises. I don’t lift weights. A popular sentiment echoed by the general public, doctors and well wishers. 

But your bodyweight is weight. And it is bound by the same rules of gravity that govern a dumbbell, barbell or any other weight that you can use on earth. Enter simple machines. A pulley is a simple machine. The idea is to make a load feel lighter to haul vertically. At least that’s how pulleys were used by most civilisations that used pulleys. Machines are built to reduce time, energy and effort taken to complete a task.

Back to exercise. There are cases when machines and ‘free’ weights can feel much lighter than your own bodyweight. Or rather it simply isn’t feasible for a lot of people to perform an exercise using their bodyweight. Pulling movements such pull ups and rows fall in this category. Pull ups involve hauling your weight in a vertical path to a ring, bar, ropes or any anchored object. Bodyweight rows do so in a horizontal plane. Both are different moves since the muscles in your upper back move in different ways when you move in different planes. 

When your bodyweight isn’t feasible, a pulley is the simplest way to train your upper back to pull. You can start with a fraction of your bodyweight and work your way up. We have seven pulleys in our facility that have helped 100’s of people work up to a pull up since 2017.

* A U shaped clamp with holes drilled in it for a hook and for a pin to hold a pulley in place.
* A pulley wheel or spindle. We machined a groove on a cylindrical block of steel and put a hole in the middle for the pin to pass through. 
* We run a steel cable on the pulley. The cable is tied on both ends. One end attaches using a carabiner to a weight stem that carries plates. The other end to two handles that were machined from 32 mm stainless steel pipe with a nylon webbing running through them. 
* The pulleys hook swivel and pivot freely attaching to hooks we welded in place at different heights for horizontal and vertical pulling movements.

It was a relatively more complicated project. But incredibly satisfying since cable rows and pulldowns are such a terrific entry level exercise that produce reliable outcomes and can be tweaked to suit people with different constraints.

About Adarsh

- I run a strength and conditioning facility in Chennai, India
- I work with my clients to make training and eating for better body composition a part of everyday life
- I coach online and in-person
- I design and manufacture strength training equipment for use in our strength training facility