That First Pull-up
By: Rachel Wenholz, CPT
Some of you may know that in place of a New Year’s Resolution my husband and I entered 2015 with a 3 month fitness challenge. My challenge was to do 1 pull-up while my husband’s challenge was to double his consecutive (single set) pull-up count (with professional massages on the line if we met our goals!). The ability to do a pull-up is in my opinion one of the most empowering displays of one’s physical strength and mental will; the task being to lift one’s body weight off the ground high enough to get your head over the bar. So what exactly is a pull-up and how is it different from a chin-up? Good question!
A pull-up involves using an overhand grip on a bar high enough to reach with arms completely straight and pull oneself up so that one’s chin is higher than the bar. A chin-up is different in that it requires an underhand grip on the bar. Due to the differences in grips on the bar each of these exercises actually uses very different muscle groups! A pull-up relies primarily on your back muscles as well as shoulders, chest, and arms, whereas a chin-up primarily recruits your biceps and chest muscles as well as back and shoulders. So these exercises differ by much more than just the grip alone. It is for these reasons of primary muscle recruitment that women tend to have a high amount of difficulty with the pull-up. Women tend to have weak back muscles, which contribute to their inability to perform a pull-up, however, many women (and men for that matter) find the chin-up much easier to perform because they are able to engage their biceps and chest muscles which are usually more developed.
When I began this challenge I was unable to pull myself even halfway up when attempting a pull-up. At about 2 months into our challenge when I tested myself to see my current progress I was surprised that it just happened and suddenly my chin was above the bar (pictured above, my first pull-up!). It was a daunting goal because I was not sure that the workout plan I had made would work or the frequency of workouts would be enough and I was afraid of putting in all of the hard work to end up failing at the end of it all. After all, how does one prepare to do a movement they cannot do?
“The harder you work, the harder it is to surrender.” - Vince Lombardi
The accomplishment I felt on that day from what I had achieved through all of my hard work though was well worth it. I will continue to push on and aim higher: 2 pull-ups here I come!
I cannot emphasize enough the importance of dedication to your goal and just as important if not more so, an accountability partner, which for me was my husband who kept me going on days when I didn’t want to do my workout. At this time of year when summer is approaching you may be making new goals to get fit for summer or you may be feeling stuck and unaccomplished with new year’s goals that you haven’t yet achieved, let me encourage you to TELL someone about your goal. Find a friend to help keep you accountable or talk to a trainer today to help you come up with a routine to meet your goals and keep you accountable to stick to it!
Are you interested in following a workout routine to get to your first pull-up or increase your pull-up count? You can find a workout titled Pull-up Prep in the workout folder by the magazines courtesy of myself to get you started!