Up-hill battle: Pull-up progress

As you may have heard, I am working on doing ONE pull-up.

I created my training regimen the same way I create my food.  Go online, read 4 or 5 recipes, mash them up with a pinch of best judgement, and dive-in.  Adjust franken-recipe as necessary when things starts to smell funny.

Likewise, when I started pullup training back in January, I decided on a 4 phase program, inspired largely by this mind-boggling video.  Judge me how you will, but something about Scooby’s goofy hat and youtube-worthy-production value makes me think he knows what he’s talking about.


Since I’m only trying to do one measly pull-up (not crazy eights), I settled on a tweaked four phase program.

Phase 1: Negative Chin-ups
Chin-ups are when you hold the bar with your palms facing you.  This gives you better leverage than pull-ups (read: chin-ups are easier).

Negatives – Use a chair or a bench and start from over the bar and lower yourself slowly.

Do 5 sets of 4, with a 1 minute break between sets.  Repeat every other day.  With palms facing you, lower yourself from above the bar to full arm extension.  Tense up all your muscles when you step off of your bench.

When you can do 4 controlled negative chin-ups slowly (about 2 seconds lowering yourself down), move on to…

Phase 2: Negative Pull-ups
Same as phase 1, except now your palms are facing away from you.

Do 5 sets of 4, 1 minute break between sets.  Repeat every other day.

When you can do 4 controlled, slow, negative pullups (2 seconds lowering), move on to…

Phase 3: First Real Chin-up
This is where it gets a little complicated and artsy-fartsy.  First, attach a resistance band to your bar to assist you.  Step into the loop, and adjust it such that you can barely do 2 chin-ups at that resistance level.

5 sets of 4, 2 minute break between sets: Do as many assisted chin-ups as you can, and then complete your set of 4 with negative chin-ups.  e.g. If you complete 1 assisted chin-up, then finish the set with 3 negatives.

When you can do 2 assisted chin-ups at a certain level, loosen the resistance so it will be harder next time.

Repeat every other day.

When you can do 1 real chin-up, move on to…

Phase 4: REAL PULL-UP!!
Same exact process as phase 3.  Use the resistance band to assist you, making it looser and looser until eventually you don’t need any help at all.

5 sets of 4, 2 minute break between sets: Do as many assisted pull-ups as you can, then complete the set with negatives.  Loosen resistance when you can do 2 at your current level.

Repeat every other day until you do your first pull-up!

My Progress
So I have been chugging away at this program since I started this quest in January.  Where am I now?

I’m in Phase 3.

This is the resistance band I got.  Toe shoes, eek!

The real live apparatus.  It currently hangs 18.5 inches off the ground.

Adjustable length.  The longer the band, the less the assistance.

Slots for 3 resistance bands.  I’ve already graduated from 3 bands to 2, and I’m making the switch down to 1 today.

I’ve got 33 days and 18 workouts before the end of March.  I’d need to improve 1 inch with each workout to achieve my first chin-up in time for my original goal.  Piece of cake?

I’ve made a lot of progress – I can see it and I can feel it.  My resistance bands inch surely towards the ground.  My shoulders have valiantly stormed the keep, and the battle with pain has moved on to my upper arms.  But a true pull-up or even chin-up still feels infinitely far away.

On the one hand, you’d think I could adjust the resistance band just 1 millimeter a week, and in a mere 470 weeks I would have my victory.  But on the other hand, a friend of mine once told me that a friend of his friend thought that by walking up gradually increasing slopes every day, he’d eventually be able to walk up a wall.  An inspirational idea about persistance and practice to be sure, but ultimately doomed to fail (thank you physics).

Here’s hoping my own up-hill battle (literal) is not the same such folly!

3 Thoughts on “Up-hill battle: Pull-up progress

  1. I really like the walking up the wall theory – what a pain physics is. It’s almost time for another monthly check in – I hope we’ll be getting a new video of your attempts!

  2. Awesome! Hang in there girl :)
    Just keep working on it, it will happen!

  3. Pingback: Monthly Goals Check-in: Appuary Edition | Mad-Eye Maryann

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