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Whether you want to view pull-ups as weight-lfting or as a calisthenic, it is a strength-builder for the entire upper body. The problem is that many middle-aged people have trouble doing reps without assistance. Does assistance really help over time?
A couple of years ago we had a one-month push-up challenge, and it worked for those who kept with it daily. The goal was 100 push-ups/day by the end of the month (not 100 at once, but 100 daily). Turned out that it was quite do-able with good results even for push-up beginners - and for women. Their reps got longer, and their muscles got tougher.
There are a couple of women I see in the gym doing 20 pull-up reps. They look fit, but neither muscular nor skinny.
A 60-day 100 pull-up challenge might work too, but I do not know how to begin it for those who cannot do a single one.
One can get to being able to do pull ups by doing pull downs with increasing weights.
When I was young, and dinosaurs roamed, I could do 20 pull ups. A few years ago I lost 60 pounds, got down to 150 pounds and couldn't do 1 pull up. Damn near gave myself a stroke, a hernia and a heart attack all at once trying.
In the last few years I've gone from 20 pull downs at 30 pounds to 20 pull downs at 110 pounds.
Yes pullups are a great exercise. I've seen people who couldn't do them start with negatives. Use a box etc to start with your chin at the bar and then lower yourself as slowly as possible. Rinse and repeat.
Using the 1 month challenge almost anyone can do 100 pushups a day. However pullups are a whole different animal. Much harder to do, much harder on your body unless you are 20 YO and skinny. Beware of putting undue stress on your shoulder and rotator cuff. For example your first pullup may be properly done and no strain. Your last pullup will be awkward and jerky and you may injure your shoulder. Don't believe me??? Then there is only one way you will learn.
My advice is do 3 sets of pullups where each set is easy to complete without undue strain, i.e. 3-5 pullups. Overdo this exercise at your own risk and always execute them correctly; no behind the head pullups or odd positions of your hands/arms.
Thanks, D.B. At 66 and having not done much in the way of regular strength training in several years, I'm in pretty pitiful shape, but am restarting "the program".
This exercise is one of those bugaboos for me. This schedule gives me a way forward to incorporate it and get better as I start working out again.
Good recommendations from everyone as to how to ease into it; thank you.
Others have mentioned shoulder issues, which I have. The key I have learned is, there is a point you must learn to recognize at which you are straining to do something your body isn't capable to do the same way it could 40 years ago. In your 20's you might be able to get away with it. At my age ... back off! or risk rotator cuff or other injuries that can take months of recovery or worse.
Age has many blessings, but in this arena it's a challenge!
1. Pull downs with a "lat" bar are a crutch. Consider them a (very) temporary measure to recover from the illness of sarcopenia. Using them for too long will hinder your goal of performing a real pull up. It's far better to do single pull ups for multiple sets than to do any number of pull downs.
2. Shoulder issues? Do pull ups with a parallel grip and hands shoulder width apart. You can build this apparatus in your garage with a couple pieces of pipe and flanges.
3. Rome wasn't built in a day. Get good hard reps in, but don't think you have to bust a blood vessel to make progress. When your reps stop increasing, change up your program, e.g. do weighted pull ups for fewer sets for a few weeks, etc.
It depends on various factors. If you are using a Lat machine you might start at 40 lbs but if you are doing a pullup you are hoisting your entire weight. When I was actively exercising I weighed 220 lbs. Quite a difference from 40 lbs on a lat machine. Then too it depends on your shoulder joint and/or any injuries you may have incurred in sports, work or accidents. And it depends a lot on having the correct form; hands placed correctly being able to do the complete movement without favoring different muscles which changes the stress on your joints differently, etc.
You can do a crappy bench press and assuming you don't drop the weight on yourself it won't hurt you. You can overdo the weight you are pressing or struggle with it or need help to put it back on the support and it is unlikely to harm you because your arms and shoulders are in different positions from a pullup. This is true for most exercises with weights. But with pullups you are always lifting a heavy weight and always have the ability and even likelyhood of positioning your hands such that you put undue strain on your shoulder joints and rotator cuff.
Timely article for me (I’m 63 years old). Pre-Covid 2020, I could do nine good-form pull-ups. Good form meaning no bouncing – up stop, down stop (legs together) – repeat. Then gyms closed. When my community health club reopened – they had taken out the chin up bar (for spacing needs). They put it back now. I find myself in the zero-pull-up category today. I went from 0 to 9 reps (2019 – 2020)
I did it once; how to do it again? Pull down bar, using progressively heavier weight each day in the gym and – most important - dropped some weight. Trying to haul an extra 20 lbs. up to a bar makes a big difference. So, if you’re serious about a goal of x number of pull ups. Drop the pounds. (And good advice for everyone – don’t be on the bar flailing your legs like you’re riding an exercise bike – particularly if there are girls in the gym.) Good luck with your goals.