Sunday, October 28, 2012

Girl, You Can Do A Pull-Up!

My brother asked me, "If you were hanging off a cliff and had to do a pull-up to save your life, you couldn't do one?!"

My response was, "No… hell no. I would fall off and die." I remember saying it in a way that sounded like I was okay with falling to a tragic death, but inside I was horrified. That was about 8 years ago.

I think it's worth saying that in those situations, I believe you would gain some kind of super human strength and probably be able to do a hundred pull-ups if it meant saving your life. Similar to how people can lift cars if it meant rescuing their loved one.

Getting ready for the Climbx Halloween Party

The pull-up conversation came up when I first started climbing in 2006. I wanted to get better at climbing and figured learning how to do a pull-up was one of the first crucial steps.

I figured doing pull-ups (palms of you hands facing away from you) would be more advantageous for rock climbing as opposed to chin-ups (palms of your hands facing towards you) since pull-ups use more of your forearm compared to your bicep. And unless you are using an undercling or doing one of those crazy waitress moves, it isn’t as often you climb with your palms facing toward you.

Although I do more pull-ups then chin-ups, variation is one of the keys to getting stronger. So I do both.

Getting Started

First, you are going to need to get a pull-up bar. I have one that screws into the doorframe but they also have ones that use opposing pressure, so no screws and it’s easily removable. Either one will work.

Ok, so you want to learn? If you stick to these steps a few time a week, you will be cranking out pull-ups like it’s your job!

The “hold and lower,” will be the main training regiment you will be doing to work towards a pull-up. I will outline different variations to mix it up and to engage different muscles. By doing these work outs consistently but also switching between them you will build up enough strength through lowering yourself that you will eventually be able to raise your self, a pull-up.

Start out by holding the bar at a comfortable width, about as wide as your shoulders, maybe just a little wider. Weather you wrap your thumbs or not, I would say just do whatever comes more naturally. You will likely have more power with a wrapped thumb. But again, variation, try it both ways.

Basic Hold and Lower: Start with a solid grip, jump up and without resting your chin on the bar, hold this position for 5 seconds. Do not let your self drop down uncontrolled!! It will be hard, but lower yourself as slowly as you can. This is the most important step. Lowering slowly is where you are getting stronger. This motion (eccentric muscle contraction) is lengthening your muscle against resistance. As opposed to say, something like a bicep curt (concentric muscle contraction) or an actual pull-up. This is where you are shortening your muscle against resistance. Both are strengthening your muscles.

Do at least 10 hold and lowers a day, resting just briefly between each repetition. If it is too hard to jump up to the bar, go ahead and get yourself a chair to stand up on. Again, the most important part is the lowering action.

Frenchy Hold and Lower: For this one you will do it in sets of 3. First jump up, with your chin above the bar, hold for 5 seconds and then lower slowly (the basic hold and lower). Next, jump all the way up, then lower slowly till your arms make a 90 degree angle, hold that position for 5 seconds then lower slowly all the way down. Lastly, jump all the way up, lower slowly till your arms make approximately a 120 degree angle or until there is just a slight bend in the elbows. Hold for 5 seconds then lower slowly the rest of the way down. Those three actions would complete 1 Frenchy repetition.

Do 4-5 Frenchy Repetitions in a set.

Wide Grip Side to Side: Getting more advanced now, the wide grip side to side, is exactly what it sounds like. Instead of having your hands where you normally do, move then about 6 or more inches to the outside. The wider grip and the side to side motion will begin to focus more on strengthening your lats.

What you’re going to do here, similar to the basic hold and lower, you are going to jump up, hold for 5 seconds with your chin above the bar then, begin to rock your body to the far left and far right, 4-8 times (equal number per side). Then lower slowly.

Crazy Full Body Leg Curls: My obsession with pull-ups has slightly been curbed by the introduction of this next work out. Which I can’t think of a better name then the crazy, full body leg curl.

Start from a hanging position, raise your knees up to your belly button, then all the way up towards your ears, keeping your arms extended the entire time. I do it in one motion. If you can’t get it first try don’t worry! Start out by raising your knees to your belly button height then slowly lowering then. Try to do the modified lift 5-10 times a day. Eventually you will be able to rock all the way up. This one targets your abs, but even though your arms are straight it uses a surprising amount of shoulder strength.

Front Lever: We’re getting even more advanced now. When I first saw this done I thought it looked impossible. This one is going to do wonders for your arms and abs. You will be completely exhausted. One of my friends swears these improve his climbing more then pull-ups.

What you are going to do here, as you are pulling up into a pull-up position, extend your legs straight forward, the goal being to get your torso and legs parallel to the ground with out your butt sagging down. For me these are just fun to try and they wear you out pretty quickly. With all these, practice makes perfect. If you just keep trying them, I am confident you will succeed.

10 Minute Pull-up Torture: This work out comes from Eric Horst’s book, How to Climb a 5.12. Every time I do this work out I am exhausted for at least 2 days.

For this one you need a timer, a cell phone works great. Start the timer and immediately do five pull-ups. (You can jump up and lower controlled if you can't do a pull up) Usually that takes me about 15-20 seconds. Then for the remainder of the minute you get to rest. As soon as the timer reaches 1:00 minute, you begin your next set of 5 pull-ups.

Again rest the remainder of the minute. As soon as the timer hits 2:00 minutes, you do another 5 pull-ups. You get it now. Do this all the way to 10 minutes. Theoretically completing 50 pull-up in 10 minutes.

I go for as long as I can doing strictly pull-ups, but once I get tapped out I just switch to “jump and lowers” (with no need to hold for 5 seconds) for the remainder of the 10 minutes.

Conner the hotdog
The ClimbX Crew
All those pull-ups paid off!

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