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(failed) pull ups and forearm pain

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  • (failed) pull ups and forearm pain

    My goal for last month was to do one pull up. I failed, though I got pretty close. I can pull myself about halfway up and hold for a bit and let down slow, so i'm doing that, but I find that after I do a small number of those my forearms hurt a lot. it's a sort of on-the-bone pain that rides the outside of the forearm and into the wrist.

    Any ideas? It doesn't 8feel* like muscle pain, but it may be.

  • #2
    Pain is weakness leaving the body.

    What are your stats (body weight, height)? Sounds like your just putting a lot of stress on your forearms. Work on some grip and forearm strength also. And keep at it, you'll get that pull up.
    My weak attempt at a journal:



    • #3
      are you trying to use your wrists? that could cause a lot of stress. Part of learning pull ups is proper muscle recruitment. Until you build foundational back strength you will be using all those little fucker muscles to try and get the job done - and yeah it will be hard.

      Until you can get at least one pull up done your time will be better spent doing rows, negative pull ups (slowly), scapula pull ups (and push ups) and using a resistance band. you want to be doing the exercise in a full range of motion in order to reap maximum benefit and growth.

      another thing that might be helpful as progression are jumping pull ups. Exactly as they sound - using momentum and then pulling yourself up also. Sounds easy - try doing twenty. now twenty more. etc the back of your shoulders will definitely be feeling it. That means they are getting broken down to be built up again, stronger.
      Last edited by TheFastCat; 03-02-2011, 10:25 AM.
      ad astra per aspera


      • #4
        You might be trying to do too much, too soon. Maybe lay off the pull-ups for a bit and practice Australian pull-ups in the meantime. Have you seen my article on learning to do a pull-up?
        "In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they couldn't be more different."

        "You can have anything you want, but you can't have everything you want."

        My blog:



        • #5
          Originally posted by Monty View Post
          Pain is weakness leaving the body.

          What are your stats (body weight, height)? Sounds like your just putting a lot of stress on your forearms. Work on some grip and forearm strength also. And keep at it, you'll get that pull up.
          This is probably it. I'm 6'0" and 295 (down from 340 before I started paleo, though). it was probably a longshot goal, and I never have been good at pull ups, but I'm eager to get there. I didn't think one would be a hard goal. guess it shows what i know. I'm just wondering if the pain is muscles, tendons, or what. As long as it's normal (for a veritable giant with weak forearms) then I'll suffer through it, but I don't want to do myself any harm trying when i should have stopped.


          • #6
            @TheFastCat: I had never seen scapulla pull ups before. that will help a lot!
            @Al_Kavadio: I did. I actually referenced your article a lot this month. I'm getting pretty good at Australian pull ups, jumping pull ups, and negatives. I guess there's still just too much of me to pull up for now!


            • #7
              Thank you, for answering. But this method works for me only with .. In all other cases I get only strange results, like those below :lol:


              • #8

                Great job with the weight loss so far! I would definitely take it easy. Work the Australians and other easier forms. At some point, your strength will increase and your weight will decrease to the point where you will get these easy. I couldn't do a single one, but with negatives, chair pullups etc. I can now do more than 10. It will come, but don't injure yourself!


                • #9
                  Listen to Al, he rocks! I'll also give my 2 cent. First - DO NOT IGNORE THAT PAIN. I have made this mistake, and got myself some kind of tendonitis that I can't get rid off. The problem is that your grip tends to be very quickly the weakest point, and I have decided to go off all pulling exercises for a couple of weeks to see whether I can shake it Updated plan: the plan is changed | Thor Falk. Just think about it: whilst for your big muscles the method you are using could be OK, you are simply too heavy for the small grip muscles to hold yourself up (...been there, done that...).

                  I'll paste below what I had just written in another thread. I would say so, apart from a progressive overload where you can do 5x5 (or even 5x8 or 5x10 to keep the weight lower and give the grip time to adjust) do some specific grip training. And give yourself one, better two days of recovery between attempts.

                  What I got myself then was one of the thick bands Westside Barbell uses (pic here: but any will do). I used the green one, that gives me 30kg support in the bottom position, with arms just reaching the bar. Then I did a simple linear progression adding a weight-belt & 2.5-4kg every session for 5x5 reps, just the way I would do on squats or deads. Improved in no time - could literally do the 2.5-4kg increase at every step.

                  Except that it did not help my tendonitis, but now my weakest link is actually my grip....


                  • #10
                    Just wanted to let you know, I have posted something on this topic on my blog Building up to unsupported pull-ups | Thor Falk


                    • #11
                      I was in the same boat. Couldn't do any pullups in January. I installed a pullup bar in my house and put one in the door of my office. Just started doing them all the time, and when I'm out of gas I hang there. I've worked up to 4 pullups (from locked elbows... I could probably cheat more).

                      I agree that the Gravitron machine is useless. For me it was mostly weight loss plus practice.


                      • #12
                        Similar boat, including tendinitis and wrist problems, but overcame them. Here's how my pull up progression went:

                        Month 1: First attempt, jumped up, grabbed the bar and like you immediately strained a wrist muscle, tendinitis, horrible weakness and pain. Couldn't type. Took the next 30 days off and just did light cardio and slowly started eating better.
                        Month 2: Tried to pull-ups again. Used Gravitron back-to-back with pull-up bar at gym intermittently. At the pull-up bar, I had someone boost me up. It was embarrassing. One day, 15 days into this month, I had a really bad day at work and was really angry. I went to the gym, took off my workout gloves, and had this surge of adrenaline and did my first unassisted pull-up. I also used the gravitron to do unassisted tricep dips.
                        Month 3: Got up to 3 pull-ups by the end of the month.
                        Month 4: Got up to 6 pull-ups.
                        Month 5-7: Still at 6.
                        Month 8: I started doing "intervals" of pull-ups, i.e. 3 pull-ups followed by a break and 3 more until complete muscle failure.
                        Month 9: 10 pull-ups.
                        Month 10: 14 pull-ups!
                        Month 11: Commando pull-ups, 1 barbarian pull-up, and pull-ups where I swap grips in the middle of the pull-up. Varied grip spacing. On good days, 6 sets of 10 pull-ups, on bad days, 3 sets. Perfectly still and straight body, zero upward momentum on pull-up motion.

                        The hardest part of the mental barrier of getting to that first pull-up. It took 2 months of continual trying to get to 1 pullup, another 2 months to get to 3 pull-ups, and after that it was easy. Initially, after month three, I had really bad form, but I backed off and started working on form for a bit with a trainer until it was perfect in the mirror. Holding my body rod-still really helped my physique. Then, it got easier and easier.

                        Along the way, I lost more than 90lbs, 13" off of my waist (30"), got a six-pack, and got into the single-digit % fat area. I can't tell you whether it was causation or just correlation. It just all happened!


                        • #13
                          A related document I put up on scribd
                          2011-03 Addressing Tendonitis (Thor Falk)