Full-Blown Pull-Up Machine

I don’t know about you, but one of the absolute hardest things for me to do in the gym are pull-ups.  I can squat almost twice my own body weight, but ask me to do one measly little pull-up, and it probably won’t happen.  In fact, there’s a really good chance it won’t happen… 

My back is definitely something that I often overlook, and clearly that weakness is showing now.  Not only does having a strong back help you do pull-ups better, but it’s also really important for doing a lot of other things, and it needs to be focused on just as much as any other muscle groups. 

With that in mind, I’ve decided to add inverted rows to my workouts to try and help my back, chest, and arms get stronger.  Inverted rows are a great progression to use in order to build the strength needed for mastering pull-ups, and I plan on incorporating them regularly from now on.  Check out this article for more information on what they are and why they work.

I worked on inverted rows the other night, and then I used the Smith machine to do them during my workout yesterday morning.  They are definitely challenging, but that’s a good thing, in my book!

Here’s what yesterday’s workout looked like:

  1. Warm up: 10 minute walk on treadmill
  2. Front squats:
    1. 15 @ 45lbs
    2. 12 @ 65lbs
    3. 8 @ 95lbs
    4. 6 @ 115lbs
    5. {3 @ 135lbs} x5
  3. Workout (5x; Row 100 M less each time):
    1. Row 500 M
    2. 5 Bench press @ 65lbs
    3. 10 DB swings @ 25lbs
  4. 50 Crunches
  5. {5 Inverted rows} x10
  6. Landmine circuit @ 45lbs (4x):
    1. 10 Hammer jammers w/squat (each arm)
    2. 10 High pulls (each arm)
    3. 20 Overhead squats
    4. 20 Rainbow presses
  7. 50 Swiss ball sit-ups
  8. 50 Weighted side bends (each side)
  9. Cool down: 5 minute walk

When I get something in my head that I want to do, I usually don’t stop until I make it happen, and I don’t foresee this going any differently.  That said, it has pretty much become my mission to turn myself into a full-blown pull-up machine… or, at least be able to do a couple good ones in a row.

And if I can sculpt a stronger back and learn how to do cool stuff like Camille in this video (scroll to 16:00 and watch the girl in the yellow), well then that’s just an added bonus. 


What’s a move that you can’t do and would like to be able to? 

Is there anything you are working on right now?  I am also working on handstands because I really, really also want to be a handstand machine. 

Can you do pull-ups?

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2 Comments on “Full-Blown Pull-Up Machine”

  1. Tim says:

    Solid blogging per usual Meg. I think you are definitely well on your way to becoming a pull-up machine. I started really doing pull-ups more this year and I try to do a few sets every time I’m in the gym. They are very difficult, but you will be surprised at your development if you do even one set a day consistently. The good thing is you have a goal. My goal was to be able to do 20 pull-ups in a row. I started out with like 10, then 15, and actually just recently I was able to get 20. Am I anywhere near as savage as the girls in that video? Absolutely not. I’m not a fitness expert obviously, but what helped me was doing different variations of pull-ups. My gym at work has the bars with several grips, so I try to do a set of each grip then move on. Also, they have a belt that you can hang weight from. Even though this makes you look like a huge hardass, I try to do some weighted pull-ups every once in a while to make normal pull-ups easier. Don’t worry, you will be there soon I promise. I would recommend just hanging from the bar even if you can’t do one. Sometimes when I just can’t get that last pull-up I’ll hang there and try to flex up as much as possible.

    There is one move that I really would love to be able to do. I don’t know if you’re into yoga, but I recently tried out the hot Bikram yoga downtown in Nashua. First of all there are several moves that are ridiculously hard, but there is one that seems like it should be easy and for me it isn’t. http://www.desertsociety.com/picts/yoga/P2168126.jpg
    For some damn reason I just can’t seem to get my foot to go behind my calf muscle, and my palms are nowhere near facing each other. It’s bullshit. Meanwhile there are people around me just having a grand old time slipping into this pose like they do it in their sleep. Help ME!!
    If you haven’t tried that hot yoga I suggest you do because its kicks ass. Thanks Meg.

    • Thanks, Tim! Everyone keeps telling me they will get easier… I’ll be patiently waiting for that day, haha! That’s great that you hit your goal!! What’s next, 50? I totally agree that working on all different variations helps. There are so many muscles that need to work in order to do a ton of pull-ups, and it’s hard to hit them all with just one type of move. I can’t even dream of doing weighted ones yet… but maybe one day! I agree and I have also been working on just hanging because I’ve noticed that it seems to feel like it helps. I think it’s natural to want to be able to just crank them out on your first try, but I know that doing inverted rows, and hanging, and all that other stuff will get me there eventually. I have also been working on swinging and kipping and doing chest-to-bar pull-ups like the girls in that video, and those are tons of fun. If you haven’t tried that, you should.

      I don’t do yoga; I’ve tried it a few times and just couldn’t get into it, but I think it’s more because the particular classes/instructors I’ve tried weren’t a good match for me. I did go to that Bikram place with my mom once, but it was so many years ago that I can barely remember what I thought of it at this point, so maybe I will have to try it again! That said, I can’t really help you with that pose, but I’m sure you’ll get it eventually, so keep at it! My general advice would be to try to get into it and isolate which muscles feel tight – and are thus preventing you from getting there – and which muscles are working hard while you’re doing it. Then, focus on stretching the tight ones, and strengthening those that help you hold the pose. Over time, I’m sure it will be easy for you too! Good luck! :)

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