My family and I spent a bit of time in the mountains around Independence Day. It was a great trip and we were blessed to have friends and family for guests most of that time.
One of my favorite young people, my 11 year old niece, came along for a few of those days. When she walked into the cabin, she saw my pull up bar in one of the doorways and asked what it was for. I told her it was what I used for one of my exercises and demonstrated pull ups using different grips so she could see what I was talking about. She looked at me for a minute and said “I can’t do pull ups.” I told her she most certainly could and that the only reason she couldn’t is that she thought she couldn’t.
I explained that she probably only tried to use her arms to accomplish the task and explained that what she should be thinking about is using her back muscles (which are much stronger) to help her get her chest up to the bar. I could tell she was contemplating that for a while.
The next day, my younger son and I were doing a workout. We’ve been concentrating on compound, large muscle group exercises to help him make an easy transition into his upcoming football season and she asked to join us. I told her that would be fine but pull ups were part of the routine and that she had to try. She agreed and did a great job keeping up with what we were doing. I modified some of the exercises for her (like having her do bent knee push ups) so that she’d be successful and before long, it was time for pull ups. I told her once again that she absolutely COULD do pull ups and reminded her to visualize using the muscles in her back.
Lo and behold, she did not one, not two but three complete pull ups! They weren’t consecutive but each one was perfect. I gave her lots of praise and made sure that everyone knew about her little victory. I was very proud of her and she was proud of herself. I joked with her about getting her a pull up bar for Christmas and turning her into a workout phenom.
When it was time to go home, she looked at me very seriously and said, “Auntie Lynn…I really DO want a pull up bar for Christmas.”
…and a pull up bar, she shall receive! There’s nothing I like better than passing on my love for fitness.
Things are on track. I ought to have a happy bikini body by the end of March when I’ll be strolling on the Jamaican sand. Weather has been dreary at times lately so I cheer myself with thoughts of the beautiful warm beach I’ll be visiting. There’s something about the water, sand and sunshine that I find relaxing and invigorating at the same time and I can’t wait to get there. As usual I’ll take workout gear along and as usual it will probably stay right there in the bottom of my suitcase until I get back home. Vacations are for doing as you please and vigorous workouts don’t often make the schedule when I’m busy lolling around pretty places.
I’m pleased with the progress I see from the pull ups I’ve been doing. I have definitely gained a bit of muscle mass on my upper body which is certainly welcome. I still can’t pull up that much extra weight (I’m stuck at 25lbs) but since it offers my body a challenge its had the desired effect. A few more weeks and I’ll be able to fully assess the results.
This week I’ve added some extra cardio and will keep it in place until my trip. My goal is 45 minutes to an hour a day. I switch between the recumbent bike, the rower and power walking outside. All fluff must go!
Keep working hard out there!
Like the shirt in my Ranger photo? It’s one of a kind. The design was created by Rocky Ball for some Rangers who wanted a flag ……I saw it, thought it was great…a unique and handsome image. I contacted him to see if I could use it for a tribute photo. He liked the idea and allowed me to make this shirt out of it. He’s a great guy and a great designer. If you need someone to do graphic design please consider giving him a call! www.rockyball.com
It’s steady as she goes with my pull up program. I’ve made a few modifications, specifically adding more of the weighted pull ups on the days that I do them. 25 per session just didn’t seem like enough so I doubled the number and now do 50. I’m comfortable making that change. I’ve been at this long enough to know when my body is being challenged sufficiently to force changes in my physique.
I took this photo last night. I’m still a little on the fluffy side but I’m feeling strong and the little bit of muscle I’ve gained seems to be sticking. I’m the ultimate hardgainer so that makes me happy.
Wishing you a great Friday and a wonderful weekend. GO BRONCOS!!
This is the week I started the weighted part of my chin up program. The first day, I did my chin ups with an 8lb dumbbell between my knees. I didn’t think it was quite challenging enough so I switched to a 12lb dumbbell. I put that one in a backpack since it was heavy enough to be awkward when I tried to hold it between my knees. I have to say I was feeling pretty good about my strength and then I saw this!
Oh goodness! Now that’s what I call a serious weighted pull up! I think I’ll just pretend I never saw this. Now hand me that pink dumbbell and my Hello Kitty backpack and let me get back to work!
On Saturday I ended the first phase of the chin up program I’ve been on (if you want to see the program detailed please refer to my December 31st, 2013 blog entry). Hard to believe it’s already been four complete weeks but it has. I already documented my first week in the blog post on December 31st and here is the documentation for the subsequent three weeks. As you can see I was able to increase the total number of chin ups I did each week which was the goal. The last week I managed to bang out 100 chin ups a day (Monday – Friday) That was a psychological milestone of sorts since I picked that number precisely because it seemed intimidating. I was quite sore when I began my chin ups in the morning on some days but found that after that first awful set, my body adjusted pretty well and sheer determination kept me stuck fast to my goal. I was able to increase my number of chin ups in the 5 minute challenge each week until I got to week 4 when I got one less than I had the week before (44).
I found that the number of chin ups I could turn out over the course of the day increased quickly but the number I could do in a 5 minute span did not. Nevertheless, over the span of the 4 weeks I did 1,140 chin ups and that certainly has to count for something.
I can’t say that I see a dramatic difference in my physique but I can say that I think I see small changes. On the good side my whole upper body appears to be a bit thicker/more muscular which I love. I don’t think my biceps in particular look very different however. I’m anxious to start this next phase of weighted pull ups to see what happens next. As I did with the first phase I will modify the program a little. I will do the weighted chin ups twice a week over a 6 week period. This will help keep my elbows from getting sore. I think doing weighted chin ups the recommended three times a week for four weeks would put too much strain on them.
It should be interesting to see what the next six weeks brings in terms of my physique. I’ll let you know! In the meantime, keep chipping away at your own fitness goals. Let’s make good use of these first days of 2014!
I read an article a few days ago that boggled my mind. It took me a long time to decide whether or not to write about the subject. Everybody knows I have a soft spot in my heart for our military folks. They volunteer to do an often difficult job and I’m proud of the work they do. After finishing the article, however, I wanted to offer up some thoughts about training requirements specifically for female recruits.
Apparently in the Marine Corps, there was a requirement that was to go into place this month for women that requires that they be able to do three pull ups (males must do three or more). This requirement has been postponed for at least another year because they’re finding that too high a percentage of recruits can’t do even one.
Now mind you, women (in accordance with their wishes and those of men who took up the banner) will be allowed into combat in 2016.
So let’s see, the powers that be want women to be able to go into combat but they think requiring females to be able to pull up their own weight is too much to ask of them?!? As I said, it boggles the mind.
The following videos show me putting my money where my mouth is! I always walk the talk!
It so happens the article I read was specifically about the Marine Corps. Although I haven’t done any research, I’m willing to bet that the requirements are similar across all the armed forces so Marine or not, military or not, I’m here to tell you women can (and should) learn to do pull ups! It just takes a little concentration and a little work!
There are myriad good articles you can find to help you learn to do pull ups. I chose to include this method by Stew Smith. I picked it for several reasons. One, when I’m searching the internet for workout information I often run into his articles regarding fitness training and I’ve used some of his suggestions successfully. Two, he’s a former Navy SEAL and now dedicates a significant portion of his time to training people who have their eyes on a military career, specifically in the special ops realm. He’s had a long time to experiment and refine his programs. He gets immediate feedback regarding the efficacy of his teaching and can tweak things continuously to make his programs even better. Three, I once had a question that only a Navy SEAL could answer and since I don’t happen to know any I took a chance and sent him an email. He answered within the hour. I’m always happy to find those few people who will bother to respond to a stranger particularly when there’s nothing in it for them.
Tips for Better Pull-ups by Stew Smith
(You can find this article at the following address (http://www.military.com/military-fitness/workouts/tips-for-better-pullups)
Of all the exercises, the one with the largest mind game attached to it is the PULLUP. One thing I have learned is that women AND men CANNOT do pull-ups IF they do not PRACTICE pull-ups.
On the flip side, the common denominator among those men AND women who can do dead-hang pull-ups, are those who practice pull-ups.
In my personal opinion, one of the worst things we ever developed in physical fitness classes were the “girl pullup” or flexed arm hang. At an early age, we have been telling young girls, that they cannot do regular pull-ups because they will never be as strong as boys. Well, part of that statement is true – the strongest woman will NEVER be stronger than the strongest man – but I have seen 40-50 year old mothers of three do 10 pullups. How is that? They practice pull-ups as well as the auxiliary exercises that work the muscles of the back, biceps, and forearms – the PULLUP muscles! Anybody can do pull-ups, but it helps to not be 40-50 lbs. overweight and to follow a program that places pull-ups and the following exercises in your workouts at least 3 times a week.
The Proper Pull-up (Regular Grip)
Grab the pull-up bar with your hands placed about shoulder width apart and your palms facing away from you. Pull yourself upward until your chin is over the bar and complete the exercise by slowly moving to the hanging position.
If you cannot do any pull-ups, you should try “negatives”. Negatives are half pull-ups. All you have to do is get your chin over the bar by standing on something or having spotter push you over the bar. Then, you slowly lower yourself all the way down – let your arms hang grasping the bar fully stretched. Keep your feet up and fight gravity for a count of 5 seconds. This will get your arms used to supporting your weight.
This is the first step to being able to perform pullups. Using the bar that is 3-4 feet off the ground, sit under it and grab with the regular grip. Straighten your back, hips, and slightly bend your knees while your feet remain on the floor and pull yourself to the bar so that your chest touches the bar. Repeat as required. This is a great way to start out if you cannot do any pull-ups at all. You can also do this on a pair of parallel bars that are used for dips. These are also great to do after you can no longer perform anymore dead-hang pullups. This is a good replacement for the Lat Pulldown machine as well.
Using a pulldown machine, grab the bar, sit down and pull the bar to your collar bones. Keep the bar in front of you. Behind the neck pulldowns are potentially dangerous to your neck and shoulders.
Bend over and support your lower back by placing your hand and knee on the bench as shown. Pull the dumbbell to your chest area as if you were starting a lawn mower. Muscles worked: Back, forearm grip, Bicep muscles.
Place dumbbells or bar in hands with your palms facing upward. Use a complete range of motion to take the weight from your shoulders to your hips by bending and straightening the elbows. Keep it smooth. Do not swing the weights.
You can build up your strength and within a few months of this workout, you will have your first pullup in years – maybe ever! If weight loss is needed, naturally find a plan that incorporates cardio vascular exercise, diet and nutrition tips and weights and calisthenics if your next goal is to do a pullup one day! Good luck and always remember to consult with your doctor before starting any fitness program.
Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. If you are interested in starting a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle – check out the Military.com Fitness eBook store and the Stew Smith article archive at Military.com. To contact Stew with your comments and questions, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This week I started my heavy lifting phase. My overall goal is to get nice and cut without losing the muscle mass I’ve worked so hard for. This is a balancing act but I’ve found over the years that if I combine increased cardio with heavy lifting I get good results. Lifting in this way helps keep the muscle on my bones as I whittle away the bit of fluff I acquired over the late fall/winter months.
Monday was leg day and my concentration there was on squats and traditional deadlifts. I did Romanian deadlifts too and calf raises but the squats/traditional deadlifts were where I put my emphasis. Those are great compound exercises and will play a big role in getting me where I want to be.
Tuesday was back day which is one of my favorite days in the gym. I did a bazillion pull ups of all varieties (overhand, underhand, wide grip and neutral grip). I also did some lat rows and straight-arm pull downs but the pull ups were where I put the greatest energy. I did some holding a barbell between my knees to add to the weight I had to pull up. It’s surprising how much difference 15lbs can make in the number of consecutive pull ups you can do.
Today is chest day and I’ll focus on just two exercises. I’ll be doing lots of push ups (wide and narrow, incline and decline) and bench presses.
Suffice it to say I’m sore all over which is just fine. I love this feeling. It lets me know I’ve been working hard and I can definitely feel the particular muscles I’ve been focusing on. I’ll stick with the heavy lifting and extra cardio for a few more weeks and little by little I’ll get those pretty cuts I love so much.
I love pull ups for a variety of reasons but I particularly like they way they help your back muscles develop so you end up with a nice V-taper. A V-taper describes the look when your torso forms the shape of the letter “V” meaning you have broad shoulders and lats that taper down to a narrow waist. It makes for a pleasing physique.
I do pull ups in the gym but I do them at home too using a pull up bar that is attached to the top of my guest room door. I play games with myself that encourage me to complete a certain number of pull ups in a particular amount of time or to see how many I can do over the course of a day. Sometimes I make a rule that I have to stop and do 10 if I walk down the hallway (which I end up doing MANY times in a day) I try varied grips to hit all the big muscle groups in the back a little differently. My little games are designed to amuse me and serve to get me to complete more pull ups than I might otherwise. They are tricks to help me reach and maintain the goal of keeping my physique in good form. No matter how you get yourself to do them, make sure you include pull ups in your exercise program. The results are worth it!
Now and again when I get bored with my normal routine, I like to take on new challenges. Yesterday I decided to see how many pull ups I could do over the course of several hours. I remember a couple of summers ago I had a bodybuilding.com friend who was deployed on a ship in the Mediterranean Sea. He told me he had a challenge going with a couple of buddies to try to get in 1000 pullups, 1000 push ups and 1000 crunches every day for a prescribed period of time (a month, I think). I gave the idea of doing a max number of pull ups, push ups and crunches in a day about 16 seconds of thought then settled on just the pull-up part.
Now, just for the record, I used a neutral grip the entire time. Before I started, I gave myself permission to change grips as I saw fit…thinking that if I started to fatigue, changing my grip for a few sets might help me. As it turned out, my left elbow started giving me trouble and any grip other than the neutral grip made it worse. I kept strict form….all the way down and all the way up…full, complete pull ups. No kipping or kicking my legs for “helpies.” This summer I had pull up contest with several other women. I managed to get 18 in a row with perfect form. The woman who officially won got 19 but she kicked her legs the whole time which makes the reps MUCH easier. I didn’t complain but in my mind, I crowned myself the winner.
I got to 100 (in a few sets of 10, some of 7, many of 5 and some of 4) and thought that was a good number but I had more in me and decided to keep on going. I thought I would stop at 150 but changed my mind and kept it up. Around 160 I was getting tired and apparently made some sort of sound while doing my set which sent my boys into hysterics. According to them, it was something like a bark…yeah, not like a dignified big dog bark but “like a chihuahua” according to my sweet darlings.
Barking aside, I was determined to forge ahead, however for the rest of my sets I had to hear repeated imitations of myself and was treated to gales of laughter from the peanut gallery. I asked them how many of their friend’s moms could do even ONE pull up let alone 160 but that only made it worse. I stopped talking to my
rotten spirited children and concentrated on the task at hand. Eventually I got to 200, then did an extra two for good measure (just in case I had a bad count, which I didn’t and in case a couple of my pull ups lacked proper form, which they didn’t). I’m precise like that and will always do a couple extra to make sure, absolutely sure I’ve met my goal.
All in all I was happy with my effort. I managed to do a pretty decent job at a new task (I always do a few pull ups on back day but usually not more than 30 in a day) and inadvertently provided some comic relief for my boys. I don’t think they’ll forget the day I barked but I can’t help but hope that one day in the future they’ll remember the context. Not every mom can do 202 pull ups and nobody told them about it…they witnessed it themselves. Maybe they’ll take away a teensy lesson in meeting goals and doing your best from the now infamous Chihuahua Tuesday.
I firmly believe that we don’t do enough celebrating, especially when it comes to our exercise and fitness lives. So many of us set a goal, grit our teeth and sweat, strive and sweat some more to get to it. Setting goals IS important. It keeps the game interesting and goodness knows there’s always something to work on or improve but sometimes the very way we approach it is our downfall. Goals are there to guide us, to pull us forward, not to make us crazy. The all or nothing attitude isn’t always best. Yes, we should reach the goals we set but we should also celebrate all the incremental improvements along the way. We ignore the small steps that get us to our ultimate goal at our own peril. A little reflection as we go…a little pat on the back…an acknowledgement that we’re better than we were is the key to keeping it positive and makes us willing to persevere.
I set a goal a few months ago of being able to do 20 pull ups in a row. I gave myself until the end of June to accomplish the task. When I started my best was 11 in a row. I researched ways to improve my pull ups on the internet and asked my fit friends their opinions. I’ve done a bazillion pull ups since…wide grip, narrow grip, neutral grip…I’ve done weighted pull ups and slow negatives. I’ve tried to improve my tricep strength which in turn is supposed to help my ability to tackle lots of pull ups in a row and I’ve done some fancy supersets designed to do the same. Last time I checked, I could do 15 pull ups in a row! I say YAY FOR ME! It’s not the 20 I’ve set as my goal but it’s sure an improvement. I couldn’t do 15 when I started so I’m saying it’s celebration time! HOORAY! I’m delighted…and I’m still going to work for my 20 by the end of June. I feel good knowing I’m making progress in that direction.
If you click on this link, you can see me do the 15.
I’m getting closer to my goal each day and I remind myself of that as I go. Don’t forget to give yourself the thumbs up as you work towards those bigger goals. Remember…all progress is GOOD!