There are three baseline exercises I believe everybody should be able to do – and do properly. A pull-up, a push-up, and a squat.
Today we’re going to cover the pull-up, and how you can start working to get there from whatever your starting point is right now.
The first thing you need to understand is that your body is currently – and will always be – a work in progress. Your body is constantly rebuilding and changing according to what you feed it, and what you ask of it.
If you feed it a good amount of nutrients and good quality foods – you’re going to look and feel great. If you feed it junk – you’re going to look and feel like crap.
If you ask it to be strong and flexible – it will gradually make you that way. If you ask it to sit on the couch, be inactive, and not need to be strong or flexible – it will gradually make you that way.
What we’re going to do is ask it to start making you a little bit stronger than you are right now. Then tomorrow, ask it to make you a little bit stronger again. And again. And again. Until eventually – you’re doing things you thought were impossible for you before.
“Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you’re doing the impossible.” – Francis of Assisi
What’s necessary is reading this article – then getting off the couch and trying it. What’s possible is for you to work at it a little bit everyday. What’s impossible soon won’t be.
Let’s get started.
Level 1 – Doorframe Pulls
Also known as the Vertical Pull. The purpose of this exercise is to start rewiring your brain to understand the movement pattern of pulling – and to start increasing your grip strength. Both of which are very important if you want to make any progress with pulling exercises.
Stand inside your doorframe looking at one of the edges. Touch your toes and nose to the frame so you’re right up against it. Hold on tight with your fingertips to the edge of the frame (with your hands at about nipple height), and slowly lower yourself backwards as you straighten your arms. Then pull yourself back to the frame.
Note: it’s important to keep your body in a nice straight line (i.e. don’t arch your back). Squeeze your abs and your butt muscles to keep a nice straight line from your shoulders to your hips to your toes.
Aim to do 3 sets of 20 reps. If you don’t hit that the first time – don’t worry. This is where your journey of progress begins. Tomorrow, try and do just one more rep, and if you can do two more – then do them!
If it’s easy to get 3 sets of 20 with your toes touching the frame, move your feet further forward so they go past the frame like mine are in the video. This will make it a little bit harder.
Again, work up to 3 sets of 20 reps. Once you can do that and you can’t move your feet any further forward – it’s time to level up to the next exercise!
Level 2 – Table Pull-ups
Firstly – well done for reaching Level 2! Give yourself a pat on the back if your arms and back aren’t too sore. If they are – don’t worry, that’s totally normal. It just means you’ve been working your muscles harder then they’re used to. So go you!
Now that your pulling pattern and grip strength have massively improved – it’s time to step the game up. This one can take a bit of getting used to (and confidence that your table won’t fall over) but once you get the feel for it, you might understand why it’s one of my favourite exercises!
Get yourself under your kitchen table or a bar that’s approximately hip height. You basically want to be looking just past the edge of the table if you’re flat on your back looking straight up.
Now, place your hands on the edge of the table, bend your knees, squeeze your shoulders back and pull yourself up until your chest touches the table. Then lower yourself back down. Again, don’t arch your back. Squeeze your abs and your butt muscles to keep a nice straight line from your shoulders to your hips to your knees.
Important note: DO NOT push back with your legs. This is what will make your table fall onto your face. Keep your knees soft. This exercise is about your arms and back pulling you up, not your legs pushing you back.
Work your way up to doing 3 sets of 15 reps. If you’re coming to Table Pull-ups from just having worked on Doorframe Pulls – you’re not going to be able to do 3 sets of 15 right away. And that’s okay. Just work your way up again just like before. And when you’re ready – it’s time for Level 3. Which we’ll cover in another post.
Have fun! And let me know how you get on.