Lacking Strentgh on Pull Ups and Chin Ups

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    I have a big interest in calisthenic training. I went from being very out of shape and eating horribly to being extremly skinny, trough diet and the minimut amount exercises to have a bit of muscle not only bones. Like reg push ups, wide grip push ups, lots of endless boring regular sit ups, and regular squats.

    I got down to 147 lbs for 6 foot 2. And i have heavy bones. Anywas back in november I decided, why not put on some muscle and step up my training a bit ? So I did alot of research, and came up with those exercises (not everything I do is listed in the push up because there is just too much variations) :

    Legs : Kettlebell isometric squat, jumping squats, supported pistol squats, alternate jumping lungees, calf raises.

    Cardio/General body : Isometric jumps, Jumping Jacks, Burpees, Side to Side jumps.

    Upper Abs : Medecine ball toe touch crunch, Medecine ball table top crunch, Medecine ball jack knifes, Vertical Leg Crunch.

    Lower Abs : Throwdown leg raises, Pulse Ups, Reverse Crunch, V Ups, Hanging Knee raises

    Obliques : Side hanging knee raises, medecine ball russian twist and Windshield Leg Throwdown

    Planks : X plank, Walk out Plank, Finger Tip Plank

    Push Ups : T Push Up, Plyo Push Ups : Clap Push Up, Side to Side jump Push Up, Back and Forward Push Up, Wide to Close Grip Push Up, Diamond Grip Push Up, Diamond Grip On Medecine Ball, Alternating push Up on kettlebell, Hindu Push Up, Feet Elevated Military Push Up, Iso Hold Push Up with Perturbations, FInger Tip push Up, 2 Knuckles Push Up, Canyon Push Up and more !

    I can do around 10-15 reps for most exercise, some i can do 20-30. I dont know how much I can do regular push ups, I havent tried that in a while.

    So anyways my upper body strentgh shoud be decent, today was biceps and back day, so even though there was dips set i only did 2-3 to compare to before to see how easier they have become !

    Thing is, I had no access to fixed bar, and I didnt want to do rows and curls because i dont liek them and believe much better results can be achieved via pull ups and such. So my chest, shoulders, triceps, abs, and even biceps are in good shape, but back is very lacking, biceps got bigger but dont hold that much power. What I did today, well…it’s not amazing.

    3 x 3 reps of medium grip pull ups (find them more difficult then chin ups – supine grip), 3 x 4 reps of medium grips chin ups, 3 x 1 isometric close grip chin up, tried to do wide grip pull up but failed, tried to do alternate grip pull up and that was pretty bad. Im around 162-165 lbs atm and and 6 feet 2. I follow a very strict diet, but get some energy via grains, meats, fruits and nuts. I skip on dairy,white flour, sugar, fried stuff. How can I improve my pull? My technique is good, i guess because i dont cheat its even more difficult.


    Some feedback would be very appreciated !


    I had same problem with pulling excercises. What I learned was that progression on pull ups is slow, so you have to be patient. You may focus more on pull ups, so you can train them often if you dont have soreness. When I was able to do only 3 chin ups(Im focusing on chin ups first because they are easier than pull ups, but you dont have to) max I did 20-25 of them in multiple sets, even 10 or more. If you can do 3 reps max, try after third one another pull up, even if you do half or quarter of pull up, it may help you with endurance. Instead of 3 version of pullups try to focus on basic pull ups first. Also you can try horizontal pullups (australian pullups/horizontal rows) or pull ups with some asistance (rubber bands or someone help a bit to push you over the bar)

    I hope some of these tips help you, it worked for me.


    Thank you very much for the reply Hashter!

    Im a bit sore today after yesterday but not that much. I think of doing Pull movements 3 days a week, the other days a week push and legs. I like the idea of continuing, basically what you are saying is that say i do 3 x 4 chin ups, continue doing them, example 2 series more of 3, then 3 more of 2, then 4 more of 1 right? I like that ! Im going to try it.


    The basic variations I do is medium grip pull up, medium grip chin up, close grip chin up. I will try to give a try to the wide grip pull ups again. I will start doing some Horizontal Rows too, i dont like the idea of assisted pull ups though.

    I have a few questions, how much time did it take you to get to say 10 chin ups in a row ?

    And are there more back exercises for my beginner level I could? I know about levers and all but except the shoulder lever the rest is too advanced i think.


    I am still beginner too. I went from zero chin ups to 7 max. I didnt focus on chin/pull ups first 5 months after I started and did only horizontal row because it was in Convict Conditioning. Last 2 months I started doing chin ups and increase my rep from 3 to 6 in average. Im doing them 2 times per week. Reps increased after I started doing them more, 20-25 as I said before and also this helped. Squeezing last 2 half reps of chin ups drain muslces more so they have to adapt and increase endurance after time.

    I used to watch so many videos about how to do more pullups, but only thing I found out was that you just need to do more pullups to increase endurance. If you train 3 times per week and train hard you should increase reps by 1-3 per month maybe. Dont overtrain, listen to your body or you can get injury and slow your progress.

    Best excercises are pullup, chinup, horizontal rows, but you can try bridges if you want more excercises for back. Bridges will not focus on that pulling strenght as much as pull ups but they work all back, glutes, hamstring.. lot of muscles and bridges are good for your back health, flexibility and help you overall in calisthenics. Levers are pretty hard, but if you want you can try some easy steps of progression to levers, it also hard on your core.


    Some of these thing may not work for you but one thing I know for sure, its being patient (which may be pretty hard sometime). Sometimes less is more, focus on quality over quantity.


    Thank you for the reply !

    I will start doing horizontal rows. I watched that video, i like the idea aswell about the reps. I will implement the back bridge routine. I really hope that i can do at least 3 reps more every month. When i first tried finger tip push ups i failed at 1. A month later i could 3-4 whitout too much problem.

    I think the progression on the pulling exercises is slower though. I dont overtain, say i do around 30-40 minutes of pulls in my work outs. I noticed one thing, i cant do hanging leg raise. Knee raises no problem. And i can do a lot of lying leg raises, my abs are in a pretty good shape. But my back start swinging back and forth if i try hanging leg raises and it stops the exercise. Any tips on that ?

    I focus on the quality mroe then on the quantity, im sure if i would as fast and not focused on the right movements, i could more then 4-5. I do them rpetty slowly, around 3 seconds per rep and make sur my form is good.

    What kind of levers would you recommend>


    Recently I started last step of leg raises (trying not to move my lower back and keep streight legs and nice form) from convict conditioning and only problem I had was a bit pain or discomfort in lower back which is almost gone after few times I done leg raises, but I do not have problem with swinging. I did lot of leg raises with slightly bent knees (something between knee raises and normal straight leg raises) which is easier so you can focus more on shoulder and lats which help you with stability, anyway best thing to prevent swinging is slower controled reps. From start your muscles may not be used to leg raises and nody need some time to adapt and help with swinging, also keep your shoulders tight, put them down and back so they are in stable safe position.


    Dont have many experience and knowlage about levers, Im just slowly trying this progresion. Even second step is pretty hard for me and cant do it properly.


    I see, I try to do the same with leg raises. I have an idea, i saw people do this, i could ismply grip the dip bars, and isntead of doing dips doing leg raises. And stick with knee raises and side knee raises for the high bar. What do you think?


    That lever looks hard! good job !


    And last, any tips for the hanging windshield wipers?


    I’ve had similar issues too. Aside from Pistol Squats, pull ups have been the only workout that I couldn’t figure out. Until the day I could. I used to get winded after one full pull up. Right now I can do 10 but the last rep is a little sloppy. What I do for my routine is 2×8 pull ups with a 5 minute rest between. Then I do a third set until failure. I also still do Australian pull ups. My personal advice is to just keep doing as many as you can. Once you get your basics down (grip, packed shoulders, no swinging, etc.) Just do what you can, eventually you’ll be able to do more.


    Every time I get discouraged I just remember when I couldn’t do two. If I can improve from two, I can improve from 8. You’ll get it.


    I think you get most from hanging leg raises from high bar. It work lot of muscles for stability like obliques and seratus and more, grip strenght and endurance but you can stick with parallel bar leg raises. After your stabilisation muscles get stronger with hanging knee raises you can switch from parallel to normal bar.

    Windshield wipers is one of the hardest abs excercise. You need get good at hanging leg raises, then try go higher with legs to touch bar with your foot (your back will curve if you raise legs higher than parallel with floor). As a preparation to windshield wipers you can do them on floor, then you can try hanging windshield wipers with bent knees and then straightening legs as you get stronger and confortable with it. L-sit/hold may also help you too.


    Wow guys thank you very much for the inputs ! @Nick : I empathize on the Pistols, they really are hard. What helped me was grabbing a standing persons sleeve, and just gripping for the balance, but not pulling in order to get up. On the first reps, then I had to grip them. I love doing them though! Id see thats the only leg exercise i actually like.Thank you for the tip, I’m going to keep pushing myself on pullups!@Hashter :Yeah that makes perfect sense. When I do the side knee raises hanging from the bar i can feel some muscle working that I never knew existed. I tried the dip bar leg raise method today….and failed. Made them knee raises. Im going to start practicting the L sit,good idea. I can do them on the floor easily. Same with leg raises. No cheating. The problem comes on the bar. But I’m going to continue practicing! Thank you for the tip !@Robby Taylor: I was able a couple of times to hold 2-3 secs the planche on push up bars and a strange elbow lever (legs perpendicular to the upper body). I am really bad at those exercises. I agree with you on the part doing a certain exercise means a certain level of strength.

    I focus alot on abs and dieting because that part is very hard to develop for me. Push ups,well, i love doing them. I can give you an exampe of what my work out is, keep in mind i never ever repeat the same routine. Today is upper abs, legs, pecs, triceps and shoulders day. I did this :

    3 sets of 20 reps of jumping squats with a kettlebell.

    3 sets (each leg) of3 reps of supported pistol squats.

    3 sets of 1 minute of calf raises.

    5 sets of 10 jack knifes with a medicine ball (warm up)

    5 sets (each side) of 12 proper alternating bicycle crunches

    3 sets of 15 medicine ball toe touch crunches

    3 sets of Vertical leg crunches

    Then I followed with some planks : push up plank position hold a bit, switched it to walked out plank, switched it to an X plank and ended it with 10 Plank Crunches. I did this circuit 4 times.

    So now push ups.

    3 x 8 clap push ups (warm up)

    3 x 10 medicine ball push ups ( i do them very slowly, feel the pecs burning )

    3 x 3 (each side) archer push ups. I grabbed the ball stretched my arm parallel to the floor, grabbed the ball with my hand, and pushed from the other side.

    3 x 3 large grip push ups ( hands as wide as they can get whitout my upper body touching the floor, i did only 3 a time because my hand were slipping on the floor from sweat so each rep was extremely difficult.

    A couple of T pushUps.

    And 3 x 6 isometric Hindu Push Ups.

    Btw, I tried the one hand push up, wide legs stance. I was amazed, i did one, and it not clean onlytowards the middle of pushing up! could not repeat it though.

    I will try the triceps extension next time. Thank you for the tips on the leg raise, will try that tommorow. As for handstands, well i am very bad at even a headstand. I just fall back in one or the other side. What exercises other then the archers and alternate med ball would you recomend to build strentgh for the one arm push up? Im going tostart doing pikes for the hspu.

    Thank you for the tip onthebridge too, it sounds pretty neat.I will try it tommorow onthe back day. So what do you think?


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