Your First Pull-up: Simple, Not Easy

Your First Pull-up: Simple, Not Easy

I love pull-ups. All types of pull-ups. The pull-up is a wonderful drill to improve the strength of your vertical pulling pattern (back & biceps for those who still speak the lingo of Frankenstein training), but having the strength to do pull-ups is also indicative of a favorable strength-to-bodyweight
ratio in the athlete. But what if you can’t do a pull-up yet? Should you do crappy half-reps in the hopes that you’ll one day magically hit a full rep? Nope. You should use progressive overload. Here’s how:

Fundamental Concepts

  • Never train to failure. All of your reps should look as good as the reps I’m doing in the videos. This is both for safety and to make sure that you effectively training the neurological “groove” of the movement. You DO NOT need to train to failure to get stronger.
  • Train 2-3 times per week, with 1 rest day in between. You can add these drills into whatever day you’re working upper body pulling in your training plan. You do have a training plan, right?
  • Don’t forget to do pushing exercises as well (we’ll cover this in the future)—don’t just train one side of the body!

TRX Row (Bent Knee)

This is where we start everyone for bodyweight pulling exercises. The angle is different than the pullup, but you’ll be able to work your pulling muscles with enough volume (reps) to make progress.

  • Start with 3 sets of 5-10 reps.
  • Add a 4th set the next training session.
  • Add a 5th set the training session after that.
  • Then go back to 3 sets, and see if you can do more quality reps than before (spoiler: you probably will).
  • Carry on with this cycle—3 sets, 4 sets, 5 sets—until you can reliably do 5 x 10. Then repeat the same process with your legs.

Watch Video: TRX Row - Bent Knee

TRX Row (Feet Elevated)

Same story, just elevate your feet on a plyo box (not a bench — they’re expensive).

  • Start with 3 sets of 5-10 reps.
  • Add a 4th set the next training session.
  • Add a 5th set the training session after that.
  • Then go back to 3 sets, and see if you can do more quality reps than before.
  • Carry on with this cycle—3 sets, 4 sets, 5 sets — until you can reliably do 5 x 10. Then progress to the next level.

Watch Video: TRX Row - Feet Elevated

Negative Chin-up

Time to hit up the bar! Do not skip to this step until you’ve completed the requirements for the previous level. At this point you should start alternating sessions of Negative Chin-ups with sessions of TRX Rows. Don’t stop doing the rows!

  • Make sure to use a chin-up grip (palms facing you)—it’s easier on the elbows.
  • Start with 3 sets of 1-5 reps.
  • Add a 4th set the next training session.
  • Add a 5th set the training session after that.
  • Then go back to 3 sets, and see if you can do more quality reps than before.
  • Carry on with this cycle—3 sets, 4 sets, 5 sets —until you can reliably do 5 x 5. Then progress to the next level.

Watch Video: Negative Chinup

Negative Partial Chin-up

Same as negative chinup, but once you’ve lowered a little, pull yourself back up. The distance you’ll be able to lower before pulling back up will be different for everyone; find yours. Keep alternating sessions of Negative Chin-ups with sessions of TRX Rows.

  • DO NOT let your shoulders come out of the socket at the bottom of the rep.
  • Start with 3 sets of 1-5 reps.
  • Add a 4th set the next training session.
  • Add a 5th set the training session after that.
  • Then go back to 3 sets, and see if you can do more quality reps than before.
  • Carry on with this cycle—3 sets, 4 sets, 5 sets—until you can reliably do 5 x 5. Then progress to the next level.

Watch Video: Negative Partial Chinup

Negative Partial Chin-up (Extended Range of Motion)

Same as the previous drill. Increase the range of motion a little at a time. Keep the reps clean.

  • Start with 3 sets of 1-5 reps.
  • Add a 4th set the next training session.
  • Add a 5th set the training session after that.
  • Then go back to 3 sets, and see if you can do more quality reps than before.
  • Carry on with this cycle—3 sets, 4 sets, 5 sets—until you can reliably do 5 x 5. Then progress to the next level.

Watch Video: Negative Partial Chinup Extended ROM

Chin-up (palms facing you) or Pull-up (palms facing away from you)

  • Finally! Once you get your first pull-up, it’s time to start “greasing the groove.”
  • Do 1 pull-up in between every set of every exercise you do. Just 1!
  • If you have a pull-up bar at home, do 1 pull-up every time you walk by.
  • When 1 feels pretty easy, try doing 2.
  • Repeat until you can do 5 reps.

Watch Video: Pullup

Assistance Exercises

Do these at the end of the session to practice the proper body position and core strength necessary to do a proper pull-up.

Hollow Hold: this is the same body position held during the pull-up. Build up to 30 second holds. Keep your shoulder blades off the ground and drive your low.

Watch Video: Hollow Hold

 

Hollow Hang: same as hollow rock, but hanging from a bar. Build up to 30 second holds. Keep your shoulders DOWN.

Watch Video: Hollow Hang

 

The above progression might take awhile to get through. It might be boring—that’s fine. Training is not here for your entertainment. It’s here to make you stronger. If you want entertainment, check out The Mandalorian (after your training session). Update me on your progress in the comments! Email [email protected] with any questions (really, I like to talk about this stuff).

Shri Studios Yoga Teacher Spotlight: Gina Matranga

Shri Studios Yoga Teacher Spotlight: Gina Matranga

One of the unique things about LCC & Shri is that we have a wonderful community of climbers, fitness enthusiasts and yogis all in one place. You know what, you don’t even have to pick one of those – you can try it all. With the expert guidance of our amazing coaches, teachers and instructors you can explore all the aspects of your body, mind and spirit.

Want to know more about our stand-out teachers? We asked yoga teacher and Rock Climber Gina Matranga a few questions about herself, her practice, and her teaching. Get to know a little more about Gina here on the blog, then join her for practice on the mat.

How long have you been practicing yoga and why did you start practicing yoga?

I started practicing yoga as a teenager with my mom around 2002 and have been practicing yoga ever since then. We went to yoga classes at an independent yoga studio near my house. I started practicing yoga for a few reasons. I was an athlete, and I thought stretching would be a helpful complement to sports. I was also very interested in Asia as a young person, and I learned through countless trips to the Field Museum in Chicago and through my Asian Studies class in high school that yoga was an important part of Indian history, philosophy, and culture, so I was in part drawn to yoga to learn more about its origin. But my mom, one of my brothers, and some of my girlfriends also practiced yoga, so it was a normal thing to do. I continue practicing yoga because of the mental, spiritual, and physical benefits it provides, and the overall sense of wellness I feel on and off my mat from the practice. I still very much enjoy learning from the philosophical and spiritual teachings of the yoga tradition.

How did you feel after your first yoga class and how do you want students to feel after they practice with you?

I think my first yoga class was a Hatha yoga class, a slower-paced but still physically challenging practice. I remember feeling so relaxed afterward which was a welcome feeling for a busy and overwhelmed teenager. I had a sense of being at ease and at home in my body, although I don’t think I had those words as a sixteen-year-old. I remember thinking “everything is ok…I’m ok”. I want students to feel connected to their bodies and their spirit after practicing with me, and I hope students feel revitalized. I also want students to feel like their yoga practice is always with them and that yoga isn’t just a movement practice we do on a mat. It can be a mindful way to live.

What impact has yoga had on your life? Who were you before you started practicing and how have you changed, evolved and transformed?

Before yoga became a regular part of my life, I was very self-conscious and worried about my worthiness, especially as that related to body image and self-esteem. I felt like I wasn’t good enough. Although I was a happy kid with a lot of friends, I often felt like I just wasn’t smart enough, skinny enough, pretty enough, or cool enough. I think part of that was related to being a teenager and a young person, but my feelings of self-doubt traveled with me into adulthood in different ways. I have learned so much through my yoga practice and I have been able to love myself and accept myself. I no longer measure myself against others and instead, I try to appreciate all that my life teaches me. Although I wouldn’t say I have it “down”, I do feel like I can get through challenging times with more ease now because I recognize that nothing is permanent. Yoga has also helped me become a more mindful listener both to myself and to others I engage with.

Why did you decide to start teaching yoga and what makes a good yoga teacher?

I originally pursued a teacher training program because I wanted to learn more about the practice and philosophy of yoga, and I hadn’t given much thought to actually teaching yoga. But partway through my program, I realized I enjoyed sharing the practice with others and connecting with others through yoga. My undergraduate degrees were in elementary education and psychology, and teaching felt natural to me. Now I love seeing people have some of those “ah ha” moments I have had, and I love seeing people learn something new about their mind, body, or spirit through their practice. I feel a good yoga teacher is a person who creates rapport with students, offers options in the movement components of class to accommodate different needs, and blends yogic philosophy, a bit of silence, and humor into class.

What’s your favorite yoga quote or mantra?

My favorite mantra is the Sanskrit mantra lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu – “may all beings be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and freedom for all”. I think this is a beautiful message to live by.

I also appreciate the quote “find joy in all things” that I found in a quote book as a kid – I think it was ascribed to Ralph Waldo Emerson – because it reminds me to do just that. Life can feel hard sometimes, and when I fall into a cycle of complaining or worry, I remind myself to find the joy.

How do yoga and climbing support each other in your experience?

Through yoga, I’ve acquired mindfulness, breathing, and body awareness techniques that I apply to my climbing. The ability to take deep breaths during challenging climbing moves and stay centered when I feel the mental hurdles of climbing creep in has been extremely important to my relationship with climbing. I love it, but sometimes the ego-mind takes over, and through yoga, I’ve learned to balance the inner critic. Because of my yoga practice, I have learned to enjoy the process of climbing just as much as the outcome.