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  • Getting that first pull-up: question

    Hi all,

    So I've searched the forum and have found some good information on pull-up training, but not an answer to my specific question. I hoping some of the more experienced folks can chime in with some suggestions.

    First, some background. I'm 45 years old, female, 5'4" and 150 pounds, and 23.8% bodyfat. In December when I started weight training, I was 161 pounds and 33% bodyfat. So as you can see, while I haven't lost a lot of scale weight I've made some nice progress on getting more lean - my ultimate goal is to wind up somewhere around 20%, though I will know when I get there I suppose.

    I do weight training 1X/week with a personal trainer, and 2X per week using routines he had made for me. He's really good about switching up the training to keep me challenged, but one thing that has always been constant is working towards an unassisted pullup. Primarily through lat pulldowns and negatives.

    So yesterday, we tried to do dead hang pullups (palms facing each other) in 3 sets of 5 as part of the supersets we were doing. We both noticed that he had to give me a LOT of assistance to get from dead hang to midway, but once I was midway I could complete the pullup on my own. It's just getting from the bottom to that halfway point that seems impossible, right now.

    Right now I can do 120 pound lat pulldowns. I can do 4-5 negatives in a row (8-10 sec descent).

    Are there any specific techniques, or maybe new exercises I could try to work on this? Or should I just keep trying to do more volume of the same? I go to a globo gym and almost never see women doing pullups, and when they do, they weigh about 100 pounds! I am determined to get this though, and welcome any advice.

    Thanks,
    gempdx
    "For the great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie—deliberate, contrived, and dishonest—but the myth—persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic ... we enjoy the comfort of opinions without the discomfort of thought."
    ---John F. Kennedy

  • #2
    What you are describing is very common - most beginners find the hardest part of the pull-up to be the first few inches of the ROM. Though I'm personally not a huge fan of lat pull-downs, it sounds like you are doing most of the right stuff. It's just a slow process for women. And as you mentioned, dropping more body fat will definitely help. I wrote a guest post for MDA about pull-ups a few months back that you may have seen. Here's the link in case you missed it: The Importance of Pull-up Bar Training | Mark's Daily Apple

    And here's another article I wrote that's specifically directed towards females: Pull-ups For Women

    Be patient and keep training hard!
    "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: http://www.AlKavadlo.com

    sigpic

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    • #3
      Thank you Al, I have read some of your stuff before and am a fan. I will check out the post you wrote for us girls, too.

      I have never been able to do a pull-up in my life, even in junior high school, so acheiving this at the age of 45 would be HUGE!
      "For the great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie—deliberate, contrived, and dishonest—but the myth—persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic ... we enjoy the comfort of opinions without the discomfort of thought."
      ---John F. Kennedy

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      • #4
        Good luck to ya gempdx44. Prior to being Primal , I could barely do a clean pull-up. I'm now 70 lbs lighter and have focused more on body weight exercises than in the past with dumb bell curls, bench press, etc. I can now do 10 pull ups with some left in the tank. Al is definitely a pull-up monster and did a great job on his article he referred to above. Good luck and stick it!
        Primal Journal of a Filipino Cherokee Grok
        http://www.marksdailyapple.com/forum/thread53103.html

        SAD weight: 250
        Current Primal weight: 183.2

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        • #5
          That is impressive, and so inspiring, rccrsphil! I will not give up and when I get that first pullup I will definitely be bragging about it here - ha ha!
          "For the great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie—deliberate, contrived, and dishonest—but the myth—persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic ... we enjoy the comfort of opinions without the discomfort of thought."
          ---John F. Kennedy

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          • #6
            Agree on body weight being a factor. Granted, if you're big because of all the muscles you got from doing chin-ups, that's a whole different story. But if I bury my abs with a couple pounds of fat, my reps suffer. I can feel the burden on my elbows. When I lean out, my reps go WAY up and it feels easy and light. Not as easy as walking, mind you, but I could imagine life in the canopy.

            And during those first few inches of the rep, I'd say use your whole body, feel your back muscles going into it. Don't try to do it with just the isolated biceps. Keep that shoulder stabilized with all the complementary muscles and use your whole body!
            Last edited by Knifegill; 07-20-2012, 01:45 PM.
            Crohn's, doing SCD

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            • #7
              I agree with Knifegill, recruiting the full body is important. I think the real difference for me when I got my first strict pullup was that I used all the muscles through my back, chest, and core along with the arms. Along with the pull, I sort of feel a push up from my core (not like kipping--it's an internal sensation).

              For me, chinups came far easier than pullups, but now I try to do sets of both plus ring pullups when I go play in the park so that I am working all the different muscles. They are definitely doing my arms and back some good!
              “If I didn't define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people's fantasies for me and eaten alive.” --Audre Lorde

              Owly's Journal

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              • #8
                Here's the thing, I *feel* like I am recruiting the whole body (my trainer stands there and watches my muscles work to make sure I do, LOL) but when I try to pull myself up ... NOTHING. He has to assist me to the mid point and I take it from there.

                Like a lot of women, I carry most of my fat/weight in my lower body. When I look at my transformation pictures I look rather lean up top but not a lot of change in the hips and thighs. I think it is going to take a lot of strength and work to heft my bubble butt up!
                "For the great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie—deliberate, contrived, and dishonest—but the myth—persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic ... we enjoy the comfort of opinions without the discomfort of thought."
                ---John F. Kennedy

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                • #9
                  Wow, that is really weird. I have almost the exact same stats as you, so kind of cool to be able to compare a little bit

                  My problem is the other way around. I can get up halfway on the pullup, and I can't do anymore. Is there a specific muscle that I should think of recruiting more for those last few inches?
                  My chocolatey Primal journey

                  Unusual food recipes (plus chocolate) blog

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by sakura_girl View Post
                    Wow, that is really weird. I have almost the exact same stats as you, so kind of cool to be able to compare a little bit

                    My problem is the other way around. I can get up halfway on the pullup, and I can't do anymore. Is there a specific muscle that I should think of recruiting more for those last few inches?
                    Sakura_girl, obvs I'm not the one to ask, but how cool that together we can do an entire pullup!

                    But yeah, I'm still wondering, is there a specific area to focus on for the first few inches (my problem) vs. the last few (yours)?
                    "For the great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie—deliberate, contrived, and dishonest—but the myth—persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic ... we enjoy the comfort of opinions without the discomfort of thought."
                    ---John F. Kennedy

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by sakura_girl View Post
                      Wow, that is really weird. I have almost the exact same stats as you, so kind of cool to be able to compare a little bit

                      My problem is the other way around. I can get up halfway on the pullup, and I can't do anymore. Is there a specific muscle that I should think of recruiting more for those last few inches?
                      How funny! I'm this way too. I can do a pull up to the point where my elbows are bent just past 90 degrees and then thats it unless I use a band for some assistance!

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                      • #12
                        Have any of you ladies had any success since this thread kinda died off? I'm desperately trying to pull off my first unassisted pull up by the end of 2012. I too have the problem of the first few inches, the starting off movement. I am down to my smallest resistance band and can do 4-5 in a row with it but cannot get going at all without the band. I can sort of do chin ups. At least I can get a more full range of unassisted motion with a chin up. I thought I would get stronger faster by only focusing on the pull up way of holding on. Would I be better off going back to the chin up hold to build up strength first?

                        Also, not sure how to explain but should I be "dead holding" in a more "flexed" position rather than in the kind of "shoulders pulled out of sockets" way? Hope you all know what I'm trying to explain by that. It feels impossible to recruit any muscles at all from that position from comment in some other thread I wondered if I was going to injure myself trying to move out of that.
                        Breathe. Move forward.

                        I just eat what I want...

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                        • #13
                          I am currently doing jack knife pullups. Using a pullup bar that mounts in the doorway, I rest my feet on the back of a folding chair, so that my legs form an 'L' with my torso. This yields the same movement as a regular pullup, but reduces the effort.

                          I am at the point now where I can do a regular pullup or two, but I am still babying my joints and tendons, so I do the less stressful version. By the time I am strong and durable enough to tackle regular pullups, I will also be lighter.

                          eta: Oops, just noticed this is a rather elderly thread.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by excursivey View Post
                            Would I be better off going back to the chin up hold to build up strength first?
                            Probably.

                            Originally posted by excursivey View Post
                            Also, not sure how to explain but should I be "dead holding" in a more "flexed" position rather than in the kind of "shoulders pulled out of sockets" way?
                            Yes!

                            I linked a couple of articles on the first page of this thread that are worth checking out if you missed them. Keep training hard and don't give 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: http://www.AlKavadlo.com

                            sigpic

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Al_Kavadlo View Post
                              Probably.



                              Yes!

                              I linked a couple of articles on the first page of this thread that are worth checking out if you missed them. Keep training hard and don't give up!
                              Thanks Al! I did look at both your links before I posted my question. (Plus read about a million other comments and threads about this topic.) Is it bad for your shoulders to move between that out of socket feeling and the flexed feeling? If you know what I mean? And if I'm on the band is it ok not to go all the way down to the pulled out of socket feeling and still consider it a real pull up? And cool tattoos!
                              Breathe. Move forward.

                              I just eat what I want...

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