Back in the summer when Mike was telling me about the 20 hour principle (which I used for my skiing challenge), I came back from the holiday deciding I’d put it to the test and I wanted to learn how to do a pull-up.
I hit the gym super excited and did my first set of exercises. I’d done a little research and apparently the best way to ‘learn’ is to start with a ‘slow negative chin up’ – basically you jump up to the chin up position (fingers curled towards you) and slowly descend.
I did 3 sets of 8, with a break in between each set, and by the end I was literally flopping straight back down.
What I didn’t expect was the excruciating pain I was in for the 5 or more days. It literally stopped me sleeping! I hurt from my wrists to my waist. I kid you not, I couldn’t even raise my arms.
So, that was my one and only training session – 10 minutes of my 20 hours and I was finished.
Why a pull up?
5 months later and I believe I am fully recovered (ha!), so I’m ready to start my challenge again.
I mentioned in my Resolution Revisited post that the reason I want to learn to do a pull up is because it would satisfy my resolution to Restore Healthy Habits – you have to go to the gym regularly and you have to watch what you eat (it’s easier to lift something lighter after all!).
So it’s a nice, challenging goal to get me back into the swing of things (swing is about all I can do at the moment).
Also, according to Grace Kavadlo in “Ladies: Bring Pull-ups to the Forefront of your Training!”, pull ups are amazing for women because we are generally much weaker in our upper body, but the overall effect of a pull up can do wonders for your lats (essential for the hour-glass shape), upper back, arms and shoulders.
Even just hanging by your arms is amazing for your posture – and very important for us computer loving mamas! Hear Tim Ferriss promoting hanging (not to be confused with the capital punishment) here in “5 Morning Rituals that help me win the Day”.
So, I’m pumped for this…but I need a much better approach. I do not want to be in the same level of pain I was back in September! What to do?
Learning to do a pull up
Firstly, I highly recommend reading Grace’s post, linked above. It gives a great intro and she suggests the following moves to get you started:
1. The Australian Pull-up – 2 or 3 sets of 10 reps. Rest between each set.
You lie under a bar, which is around waist height, and lift yourself up until your chest is within an inch of the bar whilst keeping your body rigid, heels on the floor.
2. Bar hang – Start with a few seconds and work up to more time (30 sec and then 60)
As mentioned above, hanging is great for your posture and will strengthen your grip. This can be incorporated into the warm up and also done anytime if you have something you can hang from (I don’t).
3. Flexed-arm hang – Same as Bar hang
This is the same as the Bar Hang but this time you flex your arms so your chin is above the bar…and hang. I wonder how long it’s going to take me to get to this!
4. Slow Negatives – start with 1 and work up to 10. Rest for a minute or two between each rep.
Now we get to the slow negative and note: it’s step freaking 4. You shouldn’t even start on this until you have mastered the other 3!
For this you should start in the flexed-arm hang position and then lower yourself very slowly. Aim to make it last 10 sec.
5. Chin Up – 3 to 5 sets of 1 rep. Rest for 2 mins between each set.
A chin up is the pull ups easier sibling – with hands curled over the bar towards you, you hang and pull yourself up. In theory. Getting to this stage is a major accomplishment!
These are the 5 steps I will be concentrating on for the next month
And to be honest, I’ll be surprised if I can do a single Chin up by the end of the 4th week but I’ll get there in the end as long as I remember the following…
Rules for Pull up training
1. Be patient – Don’t try and do too much too soon, training for pull ups can overexert your joints so it’s important to take your time as this will prevent injuries like tendinitis.
2. Be consistent – consistency is key, little and often. Grace suggests every other day, say Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and to start small.
3. Other training – include other upper body exercises such as push ups and lat pull downs. Bicep curls are also important for strengthening your elbow flexors (essential for the start of the pull).