TRAIN: Pull-Up Progress

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It’s now just over a year since I wrote Practising Pull-ups, describing the regime I was doing to help me get that coveted upper-body strength that would enable me to do pull-ups. I’ve noticed a lot of interest on social media recently, especially from girls, focusing on pull-ups, which firstly is totally awesome. I love how so many have made upper body strength their goal when it’s all too easy as a female to think that we’re weak in the upper body, and that’s something that’s set in stone.

Getting into that mindset is no good for our fitness, though, as we will never progress if we just give up after finding we can’t do something. I recognise it’s easy to think that way; I remember all too clearly standing with my hands wrapped around a bar, pulling, and absolutely nothing happening. I’d think, how can I work on this? How can I improve if nothing happens?! It was only when a PT gave me a set of exercises to do to strengthen my core, shoulders and back, and introduced me to negative pull-ups that I started to see progress. As the weeks passed I jumped up a little less and pulled myself up a little more until I found I could pull myself up the entire way. It took a long, long time – we’re talking seven months here – for me to get that first elusive pull-up.

As with anything, it may come quicker to some and slower to others. That was with me training upper body and core fairly consistently the entire time, and although I was only making marginal strength gains I convinced myself to trust in the process and that eventually my pull-up would come.

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I’m still nowhere near where I want to be – eventually I’d like to be able to do ten pull-ups, with full extension, without stopping – though right now strength training has taken a back seat as my marathon approaches. Once or twice a week, though, I do pull-ups to failure, touching down on a step every two or three pull-ups. I find it much easier to do them on the functional trainer (pictured) due to the flip-out step and there’s something about the hand positioning that I find easier, so if you’re struggling on the bar I’d recommend having a go on one of these. I do try to do them on the monkey bars too, though, to really challenge myself, and recently I found I could pull up straight from my feet touching the ground, even though I was reaching up high with full extension. Funnily enough, another time after that I tried and couldn’t do it at all. But never try, never fail, never learn – so I recommend if you are one of those strong ladies out there who is desperate to do their first pull-up, follow a strength training programme similar to my first pull-up post (or tell your PT your goals for their tips) and just keep going. One day you WILL be strong enough to pull up your own body weight and you will feel like an absolute BOSS!

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