I’m sure you’ve seen somebody do pull-ups with such an ease and grace that you were simply amazed. And, you probably thought, I’d love to be able to do pull-ups like him.
And, that thought made you feel bad because you are painfully aware that you can’t do even one pull-up.
Okay. Here is the thing: If you have two arms you can learn to do pull-ups. Period! I don’t care if you are a female or male, small or large, young or old. All you need to do is learn the skill.
And, I say “learn the skill” because the pull-up is not an innate capability, like the push-up – push-ups are fairly simple: go down, go up. All you need is the strength. The pull-up is a learned skill, which goes way beyond just being strong.
Think about it this way: To hit a tire with a sledgehammer you have to have two arms and the ability to swing a sledgehammer. That’s your push-ups.
To play the piano you also have to have two arms, right? But, that’s not enough – you also need to acquire the skill. So, think of the pull-up as learning the piano, only learning the pull-up is much, much easier.
Ok, then, but why is it so difficult for us to learn to do the pull-up?
Here are the two main reasons why:
- We do the wrong exercises
- We use assistance instead of gravity
In the first case here is how we think: “To learn to do a pull-up I have to train my biceps and my lats.” And, we end up doing isolation exercises.
The problem is the pull-up is a complex movement pattern and it requires that we train the entire body exactly the way the pull-up is done. Which simply means you have to train the pull-up by doing pull-ups. There is no other way around it!
In the second case, we use pull-up assist machines and rubber bands instead of gravity. There are 3 big problems with assist machines and bands:
1) they provide too much help and at the wrong times;
2) they don’t train some of the muscles we need for unassisted pull-ups – like the core muscles for example; and
3) transitioning from assisted to non-assisted pull-ups is even harder than starting from scratch.
So many people have told their stories of being able to do 8-10 pull-ups with minimal assistance but as soon as they try unassisted pull-ups they feel like their muscles are frozen.
Ok. So, this is why you can’t do the pull-up, but how do you fix that? Here’s how…
- Train pull-ups by doing pull-ups. This is called Specificity – meaning train the skill you want to learn. If you want to learn to play soccer you are going to sign up for soccer, not for tennis – that’s specificity.
- Do pull-ups using gravity and your own body weight. The only techniques you’re going to need are static holds and negatives. That’s it. Nothing fancy. At the end of this article, I’ll link to a video I made a few years back that demonstrates these techniques in a fun way.
- Train the pull-up often – that means 3-5 times a day, every day. When you watch the video that I just mentioned, keep in mind that it’s a fun video and it says train every other day. You should train every day, several times a day. And, don’t worry about overtraining. Just practice the skill like you’d practice the piano.
I personally have a pull-up bar on the door to my home office. Several times a day as I go through the door I do a few pull-ups.
This is it. If you do these 3 things there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that you will learn to do the pull-up.
Anyone can learn to do pull-ups – ANYONE! And, that includes you. You just have to commit to it, be diligent, and put in your time and effort – just like I did.
I’m leaving you with this message. There are two types of people in the world:
those who talk about things,
and those who make things happen
Which type of person are you?
If you are still reading, I think I know the answer. And, I know you know it, too. So, get to work and make this happen. And, I’m here to support you every step of the way!
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