Austin, Texas –– More than 100,000 Americans regularly use band assistance when performing pull-ups in their daily workout routines. Yet a new study indicates that bands, which have been prescribed for years to help trainees develop pull-up strength, are a dangerously addictive modification. The study, published last month in the British Journal of Medicine (BJM), compared the addictive properties of the banded pull-up to heroin, morphine, and methamphetamine.
“Coaches suggest banded pull-ups for good reasons,” said chief researcher William Murry. “The problem is they are notoriously difficult to overcome. Upper body strength-building exercises can take a great deal of time and energy, and withdraw from the band gives an immediate sensation of weakness and inability comparable to withdrawal from opioids.”
Murry’s team is not the first to describe the addictive properties of band-assisted pull-ups. Kara Werner, a CrossFit affiliate owner in Texas, experienced addiction firsthand.
“When I started CrossFit, I couldn’t quite do a pull-up, so I used a red band to assist me. I loved the way my hands didn’t tear, and I felt like I was doing the real thing.”
Werner found that moving toward unassisted pull-ups was nearly impossible. When the workouts got harder, Werner didn’t want to slow down or cheat the range of motion, so she just moved to the green band.
“It just got worse from there. Pretty soon I was doing weighted pull-ups with a black band. That doesn’t even make sense,” Werner admitted.
“Athletes say, ‘Coach, I want the strongest thing you’ve got,’” says Murry. “But athletes don’t always understand the risk the strongest assistance band can create. Athletes don’t appreciate that until it’s too late.”