Mobility – Strength – Skill
To maximize your potential, capacity and efficiency for Pegboards you must master the movement’s specific mobility, strength and skill demands: the three-headed monster every athlete must conquer. Let’s take on the monster one “head” at a time.
Shoulder Flexion: Obviously most hanging gymnastics require a mobile overhead position (e.g. when your hands are above your head). And at first glance, it actually appears that pegboards need less shoulder flexion since you stay in a hollow body position and never enter an arch.
While this is all true, shoulder flexion is still needed for efficient pegboards because of one key moment in the descent: pulling the peg out of the hole. At this moment, the arm is extended overhead and the athlete has to pull back on the peg (into shoulder flexion) to get it out of the hole. A lack of shoulder flexion can make this phase of the lower exponentially harder.
Hip Flexion: During the ascent of each rep, the athlete must drive their knee up at the same time as they move the hand on the same side of the body. To maximize the power and friction on each pull the athlete must drive their knee up high enough that the toe is as high as the hips. This means quite a bit of hip flexion and lateral core compression. Mobilizations like a Supine Hamstring Stretch and Forward Folds are a great starting place for developing hip flexion.
In order to quickly & efficiently move through pegboards, an athlete must have adequate strength. A good pre-requisite for attempting pegboards is five strict pull-ups.
However, the greater your strength surplus is from a pulling perspective the more easy pegboard reps will become.
The strength required for a pegboard goes beyond that of a normal pull-up because it demands more of the (1) biceps, especially the brachialis, (2) anterior midline & core, and (3) lats, due to the time under tension.
Here are some of my favorite accessory exercises to help develop the strength needed for pegboards..
As athletes focus on mastering the Pegboard this is what you should focus on…
(1) Move Fast, Then Rest.
Pegboards are similar to Rope Climbs in that both movements have multiple “pulls” within them to constitute a single “rep.”
For example, it may take an athlete 3 pulls to reach the top of a 15 foot rope. Likewise, a Pegboard will take many athletes 4-6 pulls to reach the top.
This is inherently different from something like a pull-up, where every single pull is one rep because it means that the required time under tension of each rep is multiple times greater.
Therefore, the athletes who can move quickly and then take the needed time to rest in order to perform another rep while still moving quickly will be rewarded.
(2) Shift Your Weight.
Think of the hand action of Pegboards to be similar to walking, in that in order to move one limb all the athlete’s weight must be on the other. So the moment the athlete shifts all the weight onto their one hand the other hand will move.
(3) Same Arm, Same Leg.
The moment all the athlete’s weight is supported by their left hand and anchored by their left foot, the athlete will drive up their right hand and right foot in tandem. Once the weight is supported by the right hand and anchored by the right foot, the opposite side will drive up again. In this fashion the athlete will “walk” their way up the pegboard.
(4) Pull with Both Arms.
Once subtle detail that many athletes miss is that for a fraction of a second of each pull, the athlete pulls with both arms. This allows the athlete’s momentum to be carried upward and creates a moment of weightlessness on one side of the body that makes moving the peg much easier.
Focus on pulling hard from the staggered hand position a moment before removing the bottom hand’s peg from the hole.
(5) Pull & Twist.
A common issue that people run into while doing pegboards is having the pegs get stuck in the holes. And while this certainly can be an issue with the pegs not fitting correctly because they are too big or overworn, it’s most often due to user error.
The key to minimizing the odds of a peg getting stuck on the way out of -or into- a hole, simultaneously pull AND twist on the peg.
Remember, in order for this to work there can’t be any weight supported by the peg.
(6) Keep Core Tension.
If you find your feet sliding down the wall and you feel like you are hanging underneath the pegs, you are losing core tension. Your hips should be about 18 inches away from the wall at all times.
This requires continually having pressure down with one of both hands on the pegs, but also the feet anchored to the wall by means of a rigid core.
(7) Slide the Feet.
If you find a good rhythm and timing on your way down the pegboard, descending isn’t overly complicated. You need to keep your hips back away from the wall and keep core tension and you allow your feet to slide down the wall. Then the hands follow, slowly shifting the weight back and forth between the hands as the speed of the descent dictates.