Trying to get my first pullup - help needed

Abraiz

Level 5 Valued Member
Hi all.

I cannot do a pullup. This is the bodyweight skill that I want to master this year. Been trying to train as per Karen Smith's guidelines that she gave in her articles. Could not do any regular training before because I guess my hands were not strong enough relative to my bodyweight. However, since I have been using kettlebells regularly, my hands have strengthened a lot. A hell lot in fact. Wouldn't have believed if someone told me that swinging a kettlebell would strengthen my grip, my forearms, my fingers and just my entire hand in general. This has made it easy for me to train for pullups.

I have a pullup bar that I bought off Amazon. I cannot grip it with the palms facing me position. It somehow feels awkward. I can grip it the other way round but it is too wide. So, the only easily accessible grip is the neutral grip. The problem with this grip is that the forearms give out first.

I tested myself and could hold a dead hang with the neutral grip for 40 seconds. I train/ed in this manner: Heavy, medium and light days. H-M-L-H-M-L in that order. For the heavy days, I would hang an 8 kg bell off a weight belt and hold a dead hang for 3 sets of 20 seconds totaling 1 minute - which is the target. On medium days, I would hang a 4 kg bell and on light days a 2 kg bell. The third set of 20 was really hard to hold on. Thus, instead of three 20 second dead hangs, I started doing four 15 second dead hangs. I thought that I would see a difference in just a week, but that was really naive of me. I tested at the end of 1st week (i.e. on the 7th day after 6 continuous days) and got a 30 sec max dead hang instead of 40 seconds. I guess I should done for at least 2 weeks, maybe 3 weeks and then taken a day or two off and then tested myself.

Should I continue doing this?

Should I change something? Perhaps my grip?

Should I train for 3 days a week instead of 6?

Should I train 3 days of weighted hangs and 3 days of unweighted hangs? Perhaps on alternate days?

Should I increase the total hang time? With different grips perhaps?

Any and all answers/criticisms appreciated. Thanks.
 

305pelusa

Level 6 Valued Member
Hi all.

I cannot do a pullup. This is the bodyweight skill that I want to master this year. Been trying to train as per Karen Smith's guidelines that she gave in her articles. Could not do any regular training before because I guess my hands were not strong enough relative to my bodyweight. However, since I have been using kettlebells regularly, my hands have strengthened a lot. A hell lot in fact. Wouldn't have believed if someone told me that swinging a kettlebell would strengthen my grip, my forearms, my fingers and just my entire hand in general. This has made it easy for me to train for pullups.

I have a pullup bar that I bought off Amazon. I cannot grip it with the palms facing me position. It somehow feels awkward. I can grip it the other way round but it is too wide. So, the only easily accessible grip is the neutral grip. The problem with this grip is that the forearms give out first.

I tested myself and could hold a dead hang with the neutral grip for 40 seconds. I train/ed in this manner: Heavy, medium and light days. H-M-L-H-M-L in that order. For the heavy days, I would hang an 8 kg bell off a weight belt and hold a dead hang for 3 sets of 20 seconds totaling 1 minute - which is the target. On medium days, I would hang a 4 kg bell and on light days a 2 kg bell. The third set of 20 was really hard to hold on. Thus, instead of three 20 second dead hangs, I started doing four 15 second dead hangs. I thought that I would see a difference in just a week, but that was really naive of me. I tested at the end of 1st week (i.e. on the 7th day after 6 continuous days) and got a 30 sec max dead hang instead of 40 seconds. I guess I should done for at least 2 weeks, maybe 3 weeks and then taken a day or two off and then tested myself.

Should I continue doing this?

Should I change something? Perhaps my grip?

Should I train for 3 days a week instead of 6?

Should I train 3 days of weighted hangs and 3 days of unweighted hangs? Perhaps on alternate days?

Should I increase the total hang time? With different grips perhaps?

Any and all answers/criticisms appreciated. Thanks.
If you can hold a deadhang for 30 seconds plus, training more deadhangs will have little, if any, effect on being able to do a pullup. Your grip and forearms are plenty strong. A pullup takes like 3 seconds so this isn't the weakness. So I would not continue doing deadhangs at all.

Grip is fine, stick with neutral.

Training pullup work 3 days a week is plenty.

I wouldn't do any weighted work. You can't do a pullup so, if anything, you'll be doing assisted work.

Here's a recipe to get your pullups the fastest way possible:
- Can you do a negative (lowering) pullup that is slow enough to take 5 seconds, for 3 consecutive reps (the set will take at least 15 seconds)? If so, concentrate only on negatives. Start at 3 sets of 3 negatives and slowly add reps and slow down the negative further. No need to do more than 3 sets.
-If you can't do negatives yet, then get yourself some resistance bands, loop them from the bar to your bent knee and do Pullups with them. Resistance-band assisted pullups get a bad rap but pay no attention, these are a fantastic way to work up to a Pullup. Start at 3 sets of 5 reps, build up to 3 sets of 7-8 reps and once you can do that, choose a lighter resistance band.
- After those 3 sets of pullups, you should do 3 sets of Bodyweight Rows. You might need rings for these. I'd recommend buying them. 3 sets of 10-15 reps here. These are hard, adjust the ring strap length so your body is more upright in order to get the reps up. Concentrate on serious scapular retraction. You should feel pumped after these.

^Complement those 6 total sets of work (done 3 times a week) with fat loss if possible. Work diligently, hard, trying to get more reps and/or using an easier resistance band/holding negatives for longer on every session , for 6 weeks and you will not believe the results. You could deload on the 7th week if you feel like it.

Also, not need to do a H-M-L schedule. This kind of weekly periodization is not necessary for a novice or beginner trainee in calisthenics. Chances are, you can still use linear progression (making each and every workout harder) just fine right now. Always pick the simplest method of programming that leas to results. Once linear progression does not work, then visit programs that program over a week (and after that over a month, multi-month, etc etc).

Good luck!
 

Don Fairbanks

SFG II
Certified Instructor
Hi all.

I cannot do a pullup. This is the bodyweight skill that I want to master this year. Been trying to train as per Karen Smith's guidelines that she gave in her articles. Could not do any regular training before because I guess my hands were not strong enough relative to my bodyweight. However, since I have been using kettlebells regularly, my hands have strengthened a lot. A hell lot in fact. Wouldn't have believed if someone told me that swinging a kettlebell would strengthen my grip, my forearms, my fingers and just my entire hand in general. This has made it easy for me to train for pullups.

I have a pullup bar that I bought off Amazon. I cannot grip it with the palms facing me position. It somehow feels awkward. I can grip it the other way round but it is too wide. So, the only easily accessible grip is the neutral grip. The problem with this grip is that the forearms give out first.

I tested myself and could hold a dead hang with the neutral grip for 40 seconds. I train/ed in this manner: Heavy, medium and light days. H-M-L-H-M-L in that order. For the heavy days, I would hang an 8 kg bell off a weight belt and hold a dead hang for 3 sets of 20 seconds totaling 1 minute - which is the target. On medium days, I would hang a 4 kg bell and on light days a 2 kg bell. The third set of 20 was really hard to hold on. Thus, instead of three 20 second dead hangs, I started doing four 15 second dead hangs. I thought that I would see a difference in just a week, but that was really naive of me. I tested at the end of 1st week (i.e. on the 7th day after 6 continuous days) and got a 30 sec max dead hang instead of 40 seconds. I guess I should done for at least 2 weeks, maybe 3 weeks and then taken a day or two off and then tested myself.

Should I continue doing this?

Should I change something? Perhaps my grip?

Should I train for 3 days a week instead of 6?

Should I train 3 days of weighted hangs and 3 days of unweighted hangs? Perhaps on alternate days?

Should I increase the total hang time? With different grips perhaps?

Any and all answers/criticisms appreciated. Thanks.
Does your new bar allow for attaching a power/monster resistance band?
 

Abraiz

Level 5 Valued Member
Does your new bar allow for attaching a power/monster resistance band?
I could I guess, but I live in India and resistance bands don't seem to have caught on here. I had ordered some but had to return them because it was not what I wanted.
 

Abraiz

Level 5 Valued Member
If you can hold a deadhang for 30 seconds plus, training more deadhangs will have little, if any, effect on being able to do a pullup. Your grip and forearms are plenty strong. A pullup takes like 3 seconds so this isn't the weakness. So I would not continue doing deadhangs at all.

Grip is fine, stick with neutral.

Training pullup work 3 days a week is plenty.

I wouldn't do any weighted work. You can't do a pullup so, if anything, you'll be doing assisted work.

Here's a recipe to get your pullups the fastest way possible:
- Can you do a negative (lowering) pullup that is slow enough to take 5 seconds, for 3 consecutive reps (the set will take at least 15 seconds)? If so, concentrate only on negatives. Start at 3 sets of 3 negatives and slowly add reps and slow down the negative further. No need to do more than 3 sets.
-If you can't do negatives yet, then get yourself some resistance bands, loop them from the bar to your bent knee and do Pullups with them. Resistance-band assisted pullups get a bad rap but pay no attention, these are a fantastic way to work up to a Pullup. Start at 3 sets of 5 reps, build up to 3 sets of 7-8 reps and once you can do that, choose a lighter resistance band.
- After those 3 sets of pullups, you should do 3 sets of Bodyweight Rows. You might need rings for these. I'd recommend buying them. 3 sets of 10-15 reps here. These are hard, adjust the ring strap length so your body is more upright in order to get the reps up. Concentrate on serious scapular retraction. You should feel pumped after these.

^Complement those 6 total sets of work (done 3 times a week) with fat loss if possible. Work diligently, hard, trying to get more reps and/or using an easier resistance band/holding negatives for longer on every session , for 6 weeks and you will not believe the results. You could deload on the 7th week if you feel like it.

Also, not need to do a H-M-L schedule. This kind of weekly periodization is not necessary for a novice or beginner trainee in calisthenics. Chances are, you can still use linear progression (making each and every workout harder) just fine right now. Always pick the simplest method of programming that leas to results. Once linear progression does not work, then visit programs that program over a week (and after that over a month, multi-month, etc etc).

Good luck!

Thanks. I will try doing negatives first. See where I go with it.

The H-M-L thing, well I think I have gotten used to that kind of work. It feels good to have a plan where you push some days and don't push some days rather than just trying to add where I can.

For the bodyweight rows, can I do just inverted rows?

Fat loss, well I am working on it. The 5/2 diet. Have reduced almost 3 inches from my girth in the past 5 plus weeks, but still have a ways to go.

Thanks for your input.
 

Don Fairbanks

SFG II
Certified Instructor
I could I guess, but I live in India and resistance bands don't seem to have caught on here. I had ordered some but had to return them because it was not what I wanted.
Abraiz, I'm thinking you'll find one band around 80lbs resistance and another around 40lbs would be very helpful to have around.
 

305pelusa

Level 6 Valued Member
Thanks. I will try doing negatives first. See where I go with it.

The H-M-L thing, well I think I have gotten used to that kind of work. It feels good to have a plan where you push some days and don't push some days rather than just trying to add where I can.

For the bodyweight rows, can I do just inverted rows?

Fat loss, well I am working on it. The 5/2 diet. Have reduced almost 3 inches from my girth in the past 5 plus weeks, but still have a ways to go.

Thanks for your input.
If you can do negatives properly and slowly, those are fine.
As for rows, regular Bodyweight rows (“inverted rows”) are fine. Just make sure they’re easy enough to get slightly higher reps. Rings make that very easy by adjusting reps but if you have a way to do that without rings, that’s fine.

In regards to the H-M-L, the problem is not that it doesn’t work. It’s just that it’s unnecessarily slow for a beginner. You only overload once a week. Doing pull-ups+rows hard twice a week will lead to faster progress too (with 3 times a week being ideal). Intermediate trainees have to use weekly periodization because they can’t progress just pushing to get more reps every time.
That said, if you’re OK with the potentially slower progress of using a more complex method than you need, then that’s fine. Just make sure you understand you need to work hard on that Heavy day. It is the only form of progressive overload in the program and you have to make it count. This is not typically an issue with Intermediates because they have a good sense of how hard to work to create adaptations but it could be a problem with a novice who doesn’t.

To summarize, it is generally better (faster and more reliable progress) for Novices to use Novice-style routines. But if you want a higher-level routine (HML), understand how to progress with it, and understand progress might be slower, then absolutely that’s fine :)
Good luck
 

the hansenator

Level 6 Valued Member
Nor sure this helps but I worked up to chinups with a combination of bent arms hangs, and then negatives combined with a steady diet of inverted rows.
 
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