Some people have to have fresh flowers. Others can’t live without the perfect linens in the bedroom. Some girls swear by fresh manicures. Many guys won’t leave the house without their best wrist watch. Then there are those who don’t function without coffee.
I care about my pull-ups. They matter to me. Keeping and improving the skill is a must.
A lot of people see this exercise as impossible, daunting, or reserved for the physically fit, extreme peeps out there #crossfit.
I am here to tell you otherwise.
Pull-ups are not exclusive. Anyone can learn how to do one. It is a skill not too advanced, but one which requires a lot of strength.
Thus, if you want to learn how, you absolutely can. You just have to feel passionate about your goal (and read below).
So how do you do a pull-up?
a) Pull on a bar everyday until one day you are looking over it?
b) Wear magic gloves?
c) Drink protein shakes?
d) Oh! I know! You wear really light-weight clothes and put lots of chalk on your hands, right?
I was walking down Newbury Street the first week of September and ran into one of my spinners, Helena. She asked me what I was training for, referencing my instagrams.
I told her I was building my strength for the SFG certification.
“Someday I just wish I could be able to do a pull-up.” She said, out of nowhere.
Her tone was like she wished she could be 5’2″ instead of 5’5″.
I told her, “Of course you can! Seriously! There are ways to learn!”
Again, she looked at me like I just told a kind-of funny joke.
“You seriously can– anytime you’re ready to learn I’ll teach you.” I re-iterated.
It IS possible. Read below.
Here are the three best ways to get a pull-up and KEEP your pull-up.
1. Get StrongFirst
Before my first pull-up, I did zero “attempts” or “practice pull-ups.” In my experience, grabbing the bar every day and pulling, pulling, pulling, hoping to get one inch or millimeter higher each time was not the recipe for success.
In fact, I didn’t touch a bar.
Also, I only started using a bar with a band for assistance to clean-up form later on, once I was capable of one clean pull-up. Then, I would use the band to complete higher rep sets.
Work on your overall strength. This is the number one tip. This is how I achieved my first pull-up.
But how do you get strong? What does strong mean? What does strong look like?
Strong means doing a pull up, squatting heavy, pressing heavy.
It doesn’t mean single digit body fat and it doesn’t mean aches and pains. (general soreness, does occur initially).
It also doesn’t have to mean building large, obnoxious muscles.
I spent three months doing heavy presses with kettlebells, lots of push-ups, planks, sea-saw presses, handstand push-ups, and some deadlifts.
Overall I spent time getting stronger.
My presses were typically with weight I could do 7-11 reps with. Nothing too heavy–it was more endurance based and moderate volume so I could work on form. From that I also learned muscle memory.
What the heavy presses and planks did was teach me how to fire up my lats.
This is key. It is your sturdy base and foundation. Power comes from here with good breathing.
Learning how to use these muscles is crucial because these will get you up above that bar.
One other movement that definitely played a part in pull-up quest was the TRX row. I never did any renegade kettlebell rows, just basic TRX rows. Not cable rows, no dumbbell rows. TRX bodyweight rows and batwings. As I gained strength I later added single arm rows with a kettlbell.
Sample workouts for one week:
10 kettle bell dead lifts
80% max push-ups (any variation–using a box, your knees, a racked bar)
7-10 TRX rows
5-7 double kettlebell cleans (skip if too advance or do single bell cleans)
10 sec hard style plank
8-12 sea-saw presses (basically a strict press, wherein you alternate arms)
5-10 push-ups or hand stand push-ups
5-10 knee raises or toes to the bar
6 heavy split squat single arm kettle bell rows
10 rep descending ladder double KB presses
10 rep descending ladder rows on TRX
5 rep descending ladder heavy push-presses (use heavier bells than the strict presses)
15 sec flexed arm hang
**Do 10-9-8-7-6 reps for presses and rows; do 5-4-3-2-1 reps each round for heavy push-presses
2. Start adding in flexed-arm hangs.
If you have the strength to hold yourself above the bar with good form– practice this. It is important to work on holding yourself well over the bar, but don’t practice the final step with bad form. That is how you will finish your pull-ups. Practice, practice, practice, always using impeccable form.
If you are someone that already has a pull-up, before you can do more than two reps– work on adding these, holding for 8-15 seconds, and then come down slowly, stepping onto a box nearby, take a breath and begin again. Do this three times and then rest.
3. Always practice clean reps.
My favorite way to get in a lot of volume with my pull-ups are 3-2-1 style. You can do this with or without a band.
I will add in 3-2-1 ladders in various circuits I do because it allows me to do numerous rounds, and always give clean, perfect reps.
For instance if you do 6 rounds of a circuit you will complete 36 pull-ups.
Or, let’s say give yourself 20 minutes for the circuit and add this ladder in the circuit. If you complete four rounds, you’ve done 24 reps– lots of volume. But what’s cool is you can maintain your good form.
I try and do high volume pull-ups once a week. I love this especially because it does not take long. I can run down to my gym and do 3-2-1s, followed by 15 sec L-holds, and handstand push-ups, barely sweat and go back to my business at work.
The bottom line is that it is important to train with good form from the very beginning and build the strength so you literally never struggle.
The first time in my adult life I got up to the bar from a dead hang, came after strength training for three months and I did an almost perfect pull-up. I hadn’t been doing the flexed arm hang practices to feel the strong, high finish position, thus my pull-up did not reflect the best ending.
Even now I work on it constantly.
With a good foundation of overall strength comes the strength to pull yourself up on a bar. It is a skill to be practiced for sure, but not until the foundation is built.
Get strong first– it doesn’t happen over night.
#daretomove #pullpullpull #pullupsforlife
This month I will be posting videos on these exercises: kettlebell deadlift, sea-saw press, kettlebell row, so if you have questions–stay tuned.