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7 Reasons You Don’t Have Pull-Ups

7 Reasons You Don’t Have Pull-Ups

The pull-up is one of the most versatile exercises out there; you can do them with your body weight, throw on some chains, use wide and narrow grips, even turn your palms over and do a chin-up.  This staple movement not only develops strength and muscularity, but it carries over to any real-world scenario where you might need to…pull yourself up and over something. While the pull-up doesn’t seem all that hard to do, it’s one of the most difficult exercises to even get started with so I came up with this short list of the 7 reasons why you STILL haven’t mastered pull-ups! YOU ARE TO HEAVY Pull ups are all about relative strength. Meaning you need to be as strong as possible relative to your body weight—strong and light!! More often than not, the folks who have the most trouble with body weight movements like pull-ups are a little on the heavy side and they’ve developed little-to-no general physical preparedness (GPP).  Six-seven years from now when you’re carrying 20 more lbs. of muscle you can probably get away with being heavier, but right now, losing that fat will make a massive difference in your body weight movements.   Be honest with yourself:  if you have a lot of fat to lose and you’re out of shape, you need to tackle one obstacle at a time. Start by getting your nutrition in order so you can drop some weight. As you work to trim off some fluff, you’ll need to improve your work capacity by doing heavy resistance training with a barbell and dumbbells biking, swimming, walking, rowing, sprinting, sled dragging, and even carrying heavy stuff. So if you are carrying a few extra LBS pull ups will not be easy. Tighten up your nutrition plan, lose some body fat and watch your pull up numbers soar. Your grip strength isn’t up to par If you come from a sedentary background – i.e. you don’t play sports, work a physically demanding job, or get a lot of activity in general – chances are your grip strength is lacking. If your grip strength isn’t sufficient to hold your body weight, there’s only a slim chance that you’ll be able to do a pull-up.  How do you fix this? Contrary to what you may see at your local globo gym, doing thousands of repetitions of wrist curls with 2.5 lb. plates is NOT the ticket to a bone-crushing grip.  To improve your grip strength, you need to perform exercises that involve static contractions of the hands, forearms, shoulders and upper back.  Hang from the pull-up bar for time, grab two kettlebells & take a long walk or just load up a barbell and do timed holds for 30-60 seconds. Grip training is hard, so don’t bite off more weight than you can chew; start off light and go for endurance. YOU RELY ON BANDS TO DO PULL UPS. Bands provide ACCOMODATING RESISTANCE—-meaning the assistance or resistance they provide varies at certain points in the range of motion. But they have a major drawback! Unfortunately many folks hit a brick wall when they try and get their chin over the bar. The band provides the least assistance at the top of the pull up, where most people need it, and the most assistance in the bottom portion of the range of motion.  It’s the exact opposite of what most people need to get a pull up. This is why you watch folks fail to gain a pull up using bands–even after months of work. You aren’t practicing often enough You are what your repeatedly do.  If your form is on point, but your specific work capacity sucks and you have to jerk your body around to get your chin over the bar after the first repetition, you’re just teaching your body to express an inefficient movement pattern.  It’s much more difficult to unlearn bad form than it is to teach it, so you’re going to want to add in some specialized practice whenever possible. One of the best ways to practice pull-ups is to hang a cheap doorframe pull-up bar in a room cut your max reps in half, take that number and do sets throughout the day. Slowly add reps each week. Top Strength Coach Pavel Tsatsouline describes this as “greasing the groove” and it takes advantage of increased training frequency and specificity to perfect whatever movement you apply to it & works great I’ve had many clients drastically improve their pull ups doing this. For some of you that may just be a static hold on the top or the bottom position—but that’s OK!  THEY WILL IMPROVE! If pull ups are your goal, stop talking about it, grab the bar, and bang some out! YOU ARE A KIPPER Kipping pull ups are great in some situations & is a great skill to master especially if your preparing for a CrossFit competition, but for a lot of folks they are totally inappropriate and could lead to injury if you haven’t built up the proper strength. Kipping pull ups will not build strength they are a skill that’s used for conditioning and also can be used for hypertrophy. I never advise my clients to practice kipping until multiple strict pull ups can be done in sets. Strict pull ups build strength. Yes, they are much harder.  Don’t cheat and kip to make it easier. On the other hand, if you can do 5 strict pull ups already then your shoulder girdle is strong enough for you to kip during CONDITIONING workouts. GO FOR IT! But don’t confuse strength workouts with conditioning workouts. Or if you are seeking to build some muscle and extra wide lats do a set of strict pull ups, when you can’t do anymore, immediately bang out some kipping pull ups to extend the length of your set. Get your SWOLE on. Your back needs to get stronger. This may seem like a no brainer – that’s why you’re trying to incorporate pull-ups into your routine anyway, isn’t it?  Although pull-ups are one of the best ways to develop back strength, the fact of the matter is that staring at the rig isn’t building a single ounce of muscle. Whether you can’t do a single pull-up or you can only bust out a few ugly reps before you’re gassed, you should add a few upper body pulling movements into your back workout to ensure that you’re getting stronger each week.  Try these exercises for 3 sets of 10 repetitions each: Pull-up negatives have tremendous carryover to the pull-up.  Stand on something or jump up to the bar and get yourself in the top position of a pull-up.  Lower yourself in a controlled fashion until your arms are fully extended, then get right back up there and keep going until you’re done with your set!Ring rows are a go-to pull for building strength in your entire back and core because they get you working with your body weight and can be easily modified as you progress.  Start with your feet on the floor, then elevate your feet with a box as you get stronger.Single-arm dumbbell rows are great because they offer freedom of movement and an increased range of motion.  Support your body with one arm by leaning on a bench and explosively pull the dumbbell back like you’re trying to elbow someone in the gut.Lat Pulldowns or any vertical pull done with a cable machine can help you develop pulling strength along the same plane as a pull-up and they offer the same freedom of movement as a dumbbell. These specific physical preparedness (SPP) exercises use the same muscle groups and similar motor recruitment patterns as the pull-up.  If you improve at a number of SPP exercises, you’ll that elusive pull-up in no time. YOU DON’T STAY TIGHT If you can’t maintain relative body position throughout the pull up then you have what we call an energy leak.  What this means is that instead of using your entire body to pull, you’re relying on whatever muscles will do the work – most likely your rotator cuff which is not good. Everything should stay tight when you pull; point your toes, lock your legs, squeeze your glutes, pack your neck, tuck your chin, take a big breath, and squeeze your core out as you pull your upper chest to the bar with a vice grip around the handles.  Don’t loosen up until you’re done with the set! It won’t be comfortable at first, but will be worth it in the end.

5 Benefits of Group Fitness Classes

5 Benefits of Group Fitness Classes

If you’ve never stepped foot in a group fitness class, you’re missing out. Not only are group classes energetic and motivating, but they’re also extremely effective. Signing up for a class can shake up a monotonous workout routine and help you build different muscle groups. Plus, the certified instructors can even provide personalized coaching to improve your form. MotivationCatchy music, fast-paced moves and an Instructor with a seemingly endless amount of energy – if you’re ever in need of a pick-me-up, group training classes are your best source of motivation. Having other people exercising alongside you can also give you the boost you need to keep moving – nobody likes falling behind, right? StructureWhen you’re working out, having a consistent or well-structured plan in place is a must to see results. Combining group training sessions into your weekly workout routine will give you a structured foundation from which to build strength, lose weight or tone your body. AccountabilityJust like personal training, group training sessions hold you accountable for turning up and putting 100% effort into your workout. That sense of accountability you feel is what will prevent you from staying put inside and putting on another episode of Game of Thrones. FunExposure to a fun and social environment is why many people prefer group training to a lone gym session. The variety of exercises you undertake and the camaraderie between your fellow exercise participants makes group training  Join a CommunityJoining a community that is also committed to fitness and self-improvement can make a huge difference in your overall progress. Both your trainer and your fellow participants are there to support and assist you throughout your entire sweat session. Your community can be just what you need to power through your workout, push yourself a little bit further and reach your health and fitness goals.

Finding & Knowing Your WHY. The key to lifelong fitness and goal setting.

Finding & Knowing Your WHY. The key to lifelong fitness and goal setting.

As a coach I am constantly in contact with all different types of people, each with different goals.  New clients who want to lose weight, CrossFit athletes in search of new ways to get better, parents of students who want their young child to succeed at their chosen sport, men & women over 45 who have decided that a sedentary lifestyle is killing them, you get the point.  One thing all of these individuals must know or find out if they don't is their WHY.  Why am I coming to the gym?  Why am I doing this special programming?  Why do I come to the gym twice a day?   These are just some of the questions I hear from people on a consistent basis. Although I don't get to speak with each individual person who walks through my gyms doors, I do get to interact with a lot of them.  When a new client walks into the gym one of the first questions I ask them is "What are you here to accomplish?" or "How can I help you with your goals?"  Usually I get a generic answer that sounds something like this "I'm here to get into shape."  Well duh!!  So I pry a little further and ask what is a specific goal of theirs so that we can help them reach this goal.  More times than not I get a blank open eyed stare, because this new client has no REAL idea what they want.  But they know they want something, and they want our help. Otherwise they could have accomplished this on their own.  Now is where we get to the nitty gritty.  Lets say a client says they need to lose 30 pounds.  Most of the time that is not a random number.  But why do you need to lose 30 pounds?  Why not 25, or 35?  Maybe the answer is they have a wedding coming up, or a vacation, or 30 pounds ago they fit into a very special outfit, and this outfit represents a better time for them.  We have all heard it said "its all about how you feel."  Naturally if you look good, and feel good about yourself it will permeate into every aspect of your life.  Now THAT is a why!! Maybe one of my CrossFit athletes wants to compete in their first RX competition.  This may represent to them, all their hard work and skill training has elevated them to the level of athletes they look up to.  To outsiders it may appear the athlete is just competing to look tough, or have an "I'm fitter than you" attitude.  But to the athlete it could mean so much more.  It may represent a feeling of accomplishment they thought would never happen.  Now here is where it can get tricky for some people and coaches can lose clients over this.  What happens when you help someone achieve their WHY?  They have spent 6 months losing the weight, getting ready for the competition, acquiring a certain skill.  Now what?   The answer is they must find a new WHY?   Lets say an athlete trains for 6 months to hit a personal record on the weightlifting platform, or get their first muscle-up, or compete in their first Spartan Race.  Once they complete this achievement, they may feel lost again.  What do you do when you achieve what you fought so hard for? An important job for coaches and trainers is to always raise the bar for the athlete or client.  If they don't have a new WHY yet, you may help find one for them.  After all you should have built a rapport with them during the last 6 months.  It is up to both the client and the coach to work together to consistently push the WHY.  Maybe after losing those 30 pounds and fitting into that special outfit your client now feels confident to run a half-marathon. What can also happen is the client may lose interest.  They figure they have achieved what drove them to the gym in the first place.  If this person walks out the door they may never come back.  They may fall back into bad habits and gain that weight back and are now too embarrassed to even go back to what helped them the first time.  But by setting a new goal they can push ahead and continue on a lifelong fitness journey. Find what drives you to the gym.  Find the reason you will get up so early and sweat so much while others are sleeping.  Find your reason to belong to the fitness community.  Find your WHY.

The One Thing You Can Do Today That Will Make You Immediately Better

The One Thing You Can Do Today That Will Make You Immediately Better

I know the title of this blog sounds like “click bait” or a slogan you would see next to a thirty minute ab routine that guarantees results with just two days of work. That was my intention because we have all heard and read things which sound very similar. However what if I told you that what I’m about to talk about really IS a way to fix many of your issues and as an athlete, and if you put it into practice it can permeate into every aspect of your life. This subject has been on my mind for a while and if you’ve been coached by me long enough I may have even talked with you about it. It is something I see everyday and wish I could drive home in every person I coach. But first let me give you some insight from a coach's perspective. Everyday I coach between 50 - 70 athletes, give or take depending on what programs are running. During the day I will see people who have bad positioning, mobility issues, weak muscle groups, gaping holes in their athletic performance, etc. No this is not uncommon in ANY gym of any type around the country. But in CrossFit gyms around the country the difference is that most of these faults have been addressed by the coach probably multiple times. Now the hope is the athlete is on some form of journey to correct these issues. And to enter any gym, CrossFit or not, and start judging because there are people with issues like these, is ignorant. If a gym has 150 members each one comes with; different body types, injuries, genetics, age groups, natural abilities, and all are at different stages in their journey to be a healthier version of themselves. Now that you have a coach's perspective let me tell you one secret that will get you moving better, increase performance, let you lift heavier weights, move faster, jump higher, and be a more bad ass person (all of this done in my most perfect made for TV late night infomercial voice). YOU HAVE TO CARE ABOUT THE WAY YOU MOVE!!!!! That is it, that is the big damn secret. Not what you were wanting to hear I’m sure. If you truly care about the way you move, you will make progress like never before. Now this may require a small step backwards before moving forward again. However most of the people who need to hear this are stuck anyway and cant figure out why they can’t get stronger, faster, or better in certain areas of their training. So I will give you an example of this and how it ties into many other things. I am using CrossFit as the example because it has more of a population in its ranks. CrossFit unlike weightlifting or powerlifting also requires you to be more of a generalist and less of a specialist. So I have a CrossFit athlete who is trying to perform a front squat. We are working from the rack and when they squat their toes are turned excessively outwards, their knees then cave in, and they hunch over because they are unable to maintain a good position. This athlete has been told every time they squat to fix their foot position but alas it falls on deaf ears. Now a few disclaimers. 1. I am focusing on one single fault in this lift and as a coach feel this is the low hanging fruit which once fixed will help solve the other issues. 2. I’m not saying the athlete doesn’t want to get better…..they just don’t want it bad enough. Example #2 - An athlete is practicing cleans. When they perform their cleans, they don’t move their feet at all, they are now forced to use way too much upper body strength to muscle the weight up. This causes the back to go from a rounded position (which it should never have been in at all to begin with), to a position of hyper extension. This causes the catch to be low and the elbows cannot be where they need to be. The coach has worked with this athlete for a long time yet the athlete will always try to work at higher percentages even when it’s not programmed for that day. This athlete will also try to RX any WOD no matter the cost. Now if you are reading this and feeling guilty give yourself a break. This is certainly not about one or two athletes. As a coach you will see similar faults over and over again and the more you see them the easier they are to pick out. So how do YOU as an athlete fix this. Simple with help from a coach and an unwillingness to drop this issue till it’s solved. You have to want to fix this so bad that before warm-up you are practicing foot drills the coach taught you. You may be spending time before or after performing mobility or stability drills the coach, PT, or Chiropractor has given you. And yes that means dropping the “Bro Weight” off the bar and fixing the mechanical issues. Now for the good news. Once you fix the issue I can almost guarantee that you as an athlete will immediately improve on those lifts or movements you have been stuck on for months, maybe even years. You are also creating a new movement pattern that will transfer to so many different things. Once you take this simple piece of advice and begin to put it into practice, you will make everything better. You have to care. Your coach cares because why else would he or she tell you literally every damn time to move your feet, keep your elbows up, do this, do that. If your coach didn’t care they would let you wander through your training like cattle . Take responsibility for your movement and attempt to master it. You can’t master everything but you can give a damn about it and do it to the best of your ability. If you don’t know how to get from point A to point B, just ask a coach. It’s their job and they would be so happy to hear you take interest in your performance.

The Journey To a Better You is Closer Than You Think!

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