Training to failure is exactly what you think it means. Training a muscle to failure. Training it untill it can no longer perform what you’re ‘telling’ it to do. There is nothing left in the tank. You can’t finish the last rep, no matter how hard you’re pushing or how much your brain is saying ”moooove”, it’s just not happening. It’s painful, it burns, but, it feels so good! However, just because it feels good doesn’t actually mean it is good. Especially if it isn’t used correctly. There’s a time and a place to train a muscle to failure and hopefully I am going to help you understand how and when to implement it into a routine.There are benefits of doing so if you do use it correctly, however, there are also negatives, like anything, if not used correctly. Training to failure is miss used, over used or simply not used correctly by so many people. Some people think they have reached failure when in fact they have not. They have not reached momentary muscular failure. Most will use it daily and in some cases, on almost every exercise they perform. This is not optimal at all and can be very detrimental to your goals and progression towards them. If you are performing a certain exercise to failure on your very first set how are you supposed to perform another set??
So why should you train a muscle to failure?
Lifting a heavy weight until you can no longer complete a full repetition for one, maybe two sets will generate a positive stimulus for gaining strength optimally and therefore producing the biggest muscle gain. Having a stronger muscle and lifting heavy weights will only lead to that muscle developing greater.
Performing 1-2 exercises for a muscle group to failure is adequate. Your muscles will only benefit from a certain amount of stimulation. Once they reach that point anything else is just wasted energy. There is no need to perform another 4-5 exercises (when training to failure). Some people will train a muscle to failure then proceed to train that same muscle with 3-4 other exercises, for the same muscle group. This is not optimal and will only result in you requiring longer to recover.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that performing a couple of exercises to failure will take less time than performing lots of exercises. This can be beneficial because of the extra time you have outside the gym. Muscles are not gained in the gym. The stimulus is placed upon them there, the time away from the gym spent eating and recovering is where muscles are made. More time recovering is a win in my book!
This may seem like an odd one. You’re forcing your body to lift heavy weights to absolute failure, how can it prevent injury? Well it may not prevent injury because performing any movement over and over will lead to the joints and tendons becoming worn but it certainly reduces the risk. Lets look at the two people. One who performs 1-2 exercises and that’s it, and then the other who performs an additional 4-5. The volume of the latter is obviously greater, meaning more repetitions, more wear and tear on the joints resulting in a higher risk of injury.
You need to be both focused and mentally tough when pushing yourself to muscular failure, it’s not pleasant nor is it easy. It brings discomfort and pain. However, when you expose your muscles to this kind of torture it can be beneficial. Working a certain muscle group to failure will stress that muscle group to its max. Therefore it will bring about optimal development and growth. All of this of course if used correctly!
Training a muscle to failure… The negatives!
For all the positives of using this method there are also negatives of doing so. It can lead to a negative impact on performance with later sets of an exercise and other exercises there after in a session. It can also limit the ability of you recovering between sessions, another direct opposite to using it correctly. This is because it can be extremely taxing on your body. Not just to the specific muscle or muscle group you are training, but the whole body. Your central nervous system takes a battering and can lead to all kinds of problems. The negative effects on the central nervous system are not due to training to failure, but rather, under recovering. The microtrauma caused by training leads to an inflammatory response. If the body is not given enough recovery time between workouts, chronic inflammation results, and cytokines involved in inflammation start to act on the central nervous system causing the various symptoms associated with overtraining (under recovering).
In addition, there’s also the issue of safety. Going to failure on an exercise like tricep pushdowns or leg extensions is fairly safe, but failing (especially without a spotter) during a set of squats, barbell bench presses, or something similar is not a fun place to be as I am sure you can imagine. This could result in some serious injuries.
When to optimise training to failure –
There are a number of ways to incorporate training a muscle or muscle group to failure into your workout.
I use training to failure on my hypertrophy specific workouts. I try to go to failure on my last set of a given exercise. Here’s a quick example, if you have performed 3 sets of 10 squats, attempt as many repetitions as you can safely perform on your 4th set, I always do this with a spotter present, as I mentioned above, doing so without one could lead to some serious issues. It’s also worth pointing out that I would not train another exercise to failure thereafter in the same workout. I would carry on with the other moves as normal or as my program dictates. I also usually like to keep the weight the same through out all my sets, even with my last one if I am going to failure. However you could lower the weight slightly if needed. For example:
If you performed 2 sets of 8 on the barbell bench press at 80KG, decrease the weight by 10KGs and go to failure from there on your last set.
Choose only ONE exercise per workout to apply this method. It is not necessary to use training to failure on multiple exercises. It won’t do you any good. So for a leg workout you could use this method on Squats (if a spotter is present), if not, I would use it on the final set of leg press or even leg curls/extensions. It’s much safer. Remember, Squats, Bench Presses even Military Presses should only be performed to failure if a spotter is there. If not, chose a different exercise and use that.
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1) Drink more water
Our bodies are made up of around 60% so simply put the more hydrated you are the better you work! In terms of fat burning it’s our liver which metabolises fats for energy and like other bodily functions, if it’s dehydrated it isn’t working as efficiently as it could be!
But take caution and don’t drown yourself to meet your quota! Sip continuously throughout the day stopping an hour or 2 before bed so as not to disturb your sleep. If you are very active also consider electrolytes as it takes more than water to replenish the lost electrolytes in your body following exercise.
2) Eat more vegetables
Very calorie sparse, very filling, very good for you.. Simple! If you struggle to count calories, increasing your vegetable intake can drastically reduce your calorie input and better yet it will still keep you satiated to help reduce bouts of hunger.
But take caution and be selective of which vegetables you eat, whilst for a healthy diet you may be recommended a rainbow of vegetables, certain root vegetables such as parsnips, potatoes and swedes rank very highly on the glycemic index READ HERE. Instead stick to dark leafy green vegetables such as broccoli, Kale, spinach etc.
3) Up your protein
Protein has the highest thermogenic effects of all the macro nutrients READ HERE. Simply put, the higher the proportion of protein in your diet, the higher your calorie output.
But take caution and don’t overdo it. Your protein intake should be relative to your activity level, muscle mass and type, if any, of exercise. The more active the individual, the more muscular the physique, the more damaging the exercise the higher the protein requirements. Aim for between 1-3 grams per KG of body weight. Also you will only burn more calories if the proportion of protein is higher rather than the total amount. Adding extra protein to your diet won’t change your calorie in- calorie out balance, but replacing other macro nutrients with protein will!
Fully qualified Manchester based Personal Trainer with CYQ Level 2 Gym instructor and CYQ Level 3 Personal trainer qualifications
Original Post HERE
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Yes, We are still one-month-or-so away from Christmas, but if you want to get yourself organised, read on!
Here are a few gift ideas for those who love keeping fit, staying healthy, or always looking for a new challenge!
- A new set of Dumbbells. Something they can use at home!
- A Personalised Training Program from Bodireel (Click Here)
- A stopwatch or tabata timer
- Gym gear (if you know their size!)
- Bluetooth Earphones for those who like running
Just a few ideas; Happy shopping!
The role of the Strength and Conditioning coach has changed dramatically over the last number of years and it got me thinking. I often wonder does the title S&C coach do justice to the duties we carry out? I had a recent conversation with 2016 NSCA Strength and Conditioning Coach of the year Ashley Jones about this matter, and we both agreed that the title Physical Performance Coach better sums up what we actually do.
The title Strength & Conditioning coach conjures a notion of lifting weights and hours on end in the gym. In reality however, a good S&C coach offers so much more. The role has diversified over the years to include warm ups, mobility, Olympic lifting, speed sessions, aerobic sessions, anaerobic sessions, conditioning games, strongman, cognitive skill development, hypertrophy sessions, strength sessions, velocity based sessions, agility, boxing fitness, wrestling, hydration monitoring, recovery sessions and post game training. The list can be bigger or smaller depending on who you work with.
I’m not particularly one for fancy titles, but in the world we live in, I feel at times that I am in the minority on this issue. What in my head was once called a binman is now a Refuse Technician. There is no doubt that in today’s world of vanity and competition, image and perception is everything. Bearing this in mind do we ‘previously known as S&C coaches’ need to move with the times and essentially ‘rebrand’ ourselves?
The S&C profession, in my opinion, is still not valued as highly as it should be in the world of sport. The world of professional soccer perfectly illustrates this point.
I recently had the pleasure of getting to know and work with the former Manchester United Power development Coach Mick Clegg. The time I have spent with Mick has been inspiring and given me a new impetus, helping spark new ideas. I would go so far as to say that he is a real innovator and world leader in his profession. Mick worked for Manchester United through the Alex Ferguson years, coaching world class and global legends from Roy Keane, David Beckham and Ryan Giggs in the earlier days, to more recently Wayne Rooney and Christiano Ronaldo. There is no doubt that Mick was instrumental in shaping the careers of these players but how many us would have heard of him on the news bulletins after a good result?
So what’s the reason for this? Why are S&C coaches not getting the credit they deserve? I’ll stick with soccer as my example, considering the fact that it’s one of the biggest and most lucrative sports in the world. These players as we now know, earn crazy sums of money. They have become used to the best of everything when it comes to facilities, accommodation, transport etc. One would imagine that a professional outfit such as soccer would extend their ‘best of everything’ ethos to the way in which they prepare for games. After all that’s why they are all there. I would however question how ‘professional’ they are when it comes to their way of training.
Having worked in the English Premiership as a S&C coach, I came away with the distinct impression that S&C is viewed in a fairly dim light by players, coaches and managers. So what is the reason for this? I concluded that part of the reason for this is lack of education on the part of the managers/head coaches. I refer back to my opening paragraph. I believe they thought S&C coaches were all ‘gym bunnies.’ They have no idea of the sheer range of services we have to offer, and how this could develop and improve their players. A perfect example of this ignorance, is the fact that there are currently Premiership and National soccer teams who do not employ S&C or fitness coaches as part of their back room team. They choose instead to get the physio or masseur to take on a dual role. There was also this feeling of competition for player’s time. I don’t think they got the idea that S&C could compliment and run parallel with their coaching and incorporate the ideas that they were trying to promote. In essence, S&C could make their lives easier!
Soccer is steeped in tradition. They do things a certain way, just because they always have. For such a dominant sport around the world, their pace of change is pretty slow to say the least! Old players become new coaches and so history repeats itself. Change in this kind of environment is very difficult.
Skill is viewed as the optimum discipline that needs to be incorporated into the football training programme, but skill coupled with the speed of the players actions should be the building blocks of any Premiership footballers training programme. I have witnessed in my own National sport of Gaelic football that fitness coaches have come in, and yes, their players have become fit and strong, but at the expense of skill. It is an obvious statement to make but there is no point in having a fit team if the players cannot deliver on the pitch in terms of scoring goals, points or tries! This can provide outsiders with the ammunition to slate our profession.
Most fitness coaches at soccer clubs are consigned to supervising the players running around the pitch at a pace slower than a five year old toddler can run and giving them some stretches. If they are really modern they will pull out some bands and do some glut activation work because they saw some other team doing it on Sky TV!
It really does appear that we can’t do right for doing wrong, but the key is balance and incorporating our fitness and conditioning with skill and sport/position specific work in order to tick all the boxes.
Perhaps I am too harsh. Perhaps these S&C coaches do not have the remit or the backing from their managers to do much more. This is where we need to look at the type of individual who works as an S&C coach. I’m not for one second suggesting that one should be belligerent or argumentative but S&C coaches certainly should be able to stand up for themselves when it comes to addressing how exactly the players need to train to be fit for purpose. They need to have the courage of their convictions. Admittedly, it would take more than one lone voice and this is where we have to look at the type of individual who could work as a S&C coach successfully, being an ambassador for the profession.
There are fitness staff working in team sports, with athletes and in organisations who have every fitness qualification ever invented! When it comes down to the practical aspect of coaching however, they seem to be unable to transfer this wealth of academic knowledge into for example teaching athletes in the gym. To me, it often appears that they lack that quality of motivating players and that intuition to push when they feel they can push no more. Todd Hamer recently wrote a brilliant article titled Certification Craze, which looked at all fitness professionals being properly qualified. There are some who believed that academic qualifications would help the S&C profession finally get the respect it deserves.
I don’t mean for one second to take anything away from those individuals who have worked hard, made sacrifices and struggled financially in order to obtain their qualifications, however I am not entirely convinced that you need a degree in order to be a good, competent and successful S&C coach.
If you talk to most graduates in any walk of life, from medicine to business to teaching, I’m sure most will tell you that a lot of their learning comes ‘on the job.’ Sure, they come out of university with their theory but it is practical experience, time and learning what doesn’t work, that ultimately shapes a successful individual. It is naïve to expect that a piece of paper makes a good coach. The current crop of graduates springing out of the various academic institutions with degrees, MSc’s and even Ph.D’s still have to learn the art of communication. They need to learn how to build a working relationship with elite athletes, how to read them and know what makes them tick in order to get the best out of them. Often athletes can be complex characters! It is one thing being able to read a book but quite another to read an athlete. Sometimes I find that those of an academic persuasion can be quite rigid in their thought process. S&C though is rarely a ‘recipe’. Prescriptions must be for the individual and importantly the S&C coach must be able to adapt when players get injured, or strategies change. Programmes cannot be ‘cut and pasted’ or copied from a book so we need flexible thinking individuals.
The goal underpinning this argument is that we as a profession get the kudos we deserve. If academic coaches need to step up and become good communicators in order to deliver the full package, then the good communicators need to get their knowledge from somewhere. It frightens me that often I have seen situations that if you are a friend of the manager and you are prepared to double job you can be the physio, fitness and strength coach! Also if you are very good at talking a good game, in some sports there is the potential to graduate from water bottle cleaner to strength and conditioning coach. Then to really compound the situation, you are given license to prescribe a training regime that could serious implications on performance, and possibly the health well being of certain athletes. I use the analogy you wouldn’t get a Priest to plaster your house or you wouldn’t allow a bricklayer to pull one of your wisdom teeth out, so why would you allow the masseur or physio to run your fitness programme? Likewise I am sure there are not many fitness coaches out there who would wish to do, or would be competent to perform the Physio duties? I think the key word here is competence. Going forward, how do we assess competence in our industry and how do we maintain it?
I have had the great fortune to meet and become great friends with, what I consider to be four of the Worlds top Physical Performance coaches. In no particular order; Dan Baker, Mick Clegg, David Boyle and Ashley Jones. I don’t know what qualifications any of the aforementioned coaches have. What I do know, is that what really sets these coaches aside from the rest is their ability to motivate, inspire, prepare, push and put their athletes/teams in an environment so that they excel at the very highest level. This is illustrated by the fact that they have won World Cups, Super 14 Championships, Premier League Titles, NRL Titles, Bledisloe Cups, Champion League Trophies, FA Cups, World Club Championships Titles.
Whatever the route an individual takes into the world of S&C, I do feel that they at least need a universally recognised S&C qualification. Personally I am a big fan of the ASCA (Australian Strength and Conditioning Association) as they emphasise the practical element of being a good S&C coach. My philosophy is to get in the gym and get under the bar. Get out on the training pitch and work your athletes hard. Have the ability to apply what the athletes need in order to be world class. Have the ability to know when you need to stand on an athletes/teams throat and rip them a new one, and likewise know when an athlete needs an arm round the shoulder and a day off.
Don’t become a bookworm who can quote you every training plan, max velocity outcomes and periodisation adaptation, but when asked to take a warm up you fall apart! I also feel in order to gain credibility from your athletes/teams as a Physical Performance Coach a certain level of competency is required when it actually comes to lifting/training. You don’t have to be able to full clean 200kg+ or snatch 150kg+ to function as a good coach, but you do need a certain level of proficiency in demonstrating and coaching all the lifts.
I do agree with Todds point in his excellent article, we as an industry do need to be more professional, we need to support each other a lot more and not to be scared to give other S&C coaches credit. One Sports Performance Coach who I have not met yet face to face, but have corresponded with is Wil Fleming. Wil is a brilliant speaker on the topics of power development, speed, and strength training for athletes. Wil is the co-owner of Force Fitness and Performance and Athletic Revolution, in Bloomington, IN. I have read Wils articles on T-Nation, IYCA websites, bought his DVD’s, watched his coaching videos on Youtube and the guy is brilliant as a coach and writer. He comes across with a real passion for sports coaching. Does this make me any less of a S&C coach by saying this? No it doesn’t. Maybe it is the competitive streak in all of us, but often we are too quick in the relatively tiny physical performance world to criticise our fellow peers. We all have our own philosophies. We all have our own opinions on how to prepare athletes. That doesn’t mean to say if another coach trains differently to you he/she is wrong. We should embrace other coaches ideas as learning opportunities.
Goodness knows, we have enough people willing to stick the boot in to the ‘Fitness Guys,’ especially after a defeat or poor performance, the last we need is to do it to each other.
In summary, I do believe that this is a fantastic industry that we work in. The S&C coach has so much to offer managers and Head coaches but we need to sell and promote ourselves, and educate others on the diversity of our role. Bearing this in mind, the title of Physical Performance Coach is more suited to describing what our jobs entail. Our job is to present our athletes to the Manager/Head Coach as athletes who are as fit, powerful and as explosive as possible. We should strive to include a skilled based element to our philosophies and to the environment we work in, to achieve continuity and a cohesive approach.
The background, training and personality of those entering the S&C profession and undertaking this work is crucial. We need coaches who are the full package that possess competency and flexibility, with the skills to communicate and motivate in order to achieve success. It is these individuals, who collectively will steer the profession toward a secure and respected future in the sporting world.
You’ve made the decision to make a big change in your life. Great work! You have taken the first step which is often the hardest and that is challenging your previous way of thought and taking the choice to start altering the way you do things. But there’s one issue…you aren’t happy with the results you are getting. This is a big one with anyone going through a new journey, be that a journey of strength, fat loss, fitness or rehab. I have trained a lot of people since I started in this industry and I don’t think any of my clients have ever reached their ‘big goal’, you know that one thing that is going to make you ecstatic, and been content with their progress. In fact, I’ve found that the opposite happens. More often than not that goal is reached and there is already another one on the horizon. The psychology of results is very individual, from someone who lacks self belief to someone who is extremely driven. In my experience, there are some common features with everyone.
Be more realistic and understand your goals in more depth
Unrealistic expectations happen a lot in the fitness industry. I believe its really down to the fact that ideas of 6-12 week fixes are fed to us over and over again to the point where most people have stopped believing that things can actually take far longer. Further, I think people have forgotten that its fine for things to take longer and that there is no shame in taking your time. I understand that at times of the year you are going to want to be in slightly better shape for e.g. your wedding or holiday for example. These are short term goals. In the grand scheme of things, 6-12 weeks isn’t much time. You need to start understanding that to achieve a hell of a lot in 6-12 weeks, it takes a hell of a lot of work in the gym, in recovery work, in nutrition and in lifestyle. You’re going to have to change a lot in a short amount of time and its got to mean something to you and be worth the effort. If you cant think of a reason good enough to sacrifice some of the treats you enjoy then I guarantee it wont be enough of a drive to change. You can do a lot in 3 months, but you must be willing to work harder than you ever have before. You have to understand this and you have to think deeply, is all this sacrifice worth it for this one event, or is it of greater worth to take more time and do this at a comfortable rate?
Figure out what you really want
Sometimes the goal becomes the one thing that will make you happy. But then you achieve it and your still not happy. I once had someone tell me they wanted to lose 3% body fat in 6 weeks. We got the body fat off them and I gave them a huge congratulations…to be greeted with a disappointed face and “Yeah, but I still don’t feel happy”. This was a big lesson early on for me as a trainer and something I go over with all of my clients. If you want to feel more confident and happy, you need to do things that make you feel like that. Losing a bit of body fat will help, yes, but people with low body fat are still unhappy and unconfident. So how do you realise what your goal is? When your goal becomes a purpose. This is when you level up. Exercise becomes training because your purpose drives you to keep going.
Train and eat with intent
“I go to the gym and do my training but I’m still not improving”. Are you training hard? Do you push yourself as much as you can? Or do you just turn up and move weight from A-B, text your mates then sit on the cross trainer for 10 minutes? You must put the effort in. You might feel like you don’t want to do your training or prep your meals or turn down that 11 o’clock biscuit from one of your colleagues, but what would the version of you who’s achieved what you want do? If there isn’t a purpose to what you are doing, the intention will never be there to keep driving you forward towards your goals. Aimless training and mindless eating will mean shooting in the dark when it comes to results.
Organise your priorities right now
A lot of being happy with your results can be down to how your priorities are organised. Getting a greater understanding of your priorities can give you the path to where you want to be much more clearly. If biscuits, lazy evenings and treats are above your fitness, but you really want to get your 5k time improved, your going to make it a lot harder for yourself. Write down, honestly, what your priorities are right now and where you think they need to be in order to achieve your goals. Now write down the 5 steps you need to take to make that list change up. Label them 1-5. Done it? Okay, do number 1 right now.
Here’s an extra…
So you’ve been through the previous four steps and you’re still thinking: “I still don’t know how to get myself back on track to start seeing some results”. Okay, here’s what you’re going to do…You’re going to use the following two tools and start creating some positive habits. Its a start and who knows what other positive lifestyle changes it might lead to.
1. In your training you can use one of the following as a session in itself (double the time for KB complex) or as a finisher at the end of your workout:
KB Complex: Swing, Clean, Press x 5 for as many rounds in 10 mins
Watt Bike/Rower Sprints: 30/90 intervals for 10 rounds
Last Resort: Hill Sprints or Stair Climbs: 10 sprints or climbs as fast as possible,
2. In your nutrition you can start by focusing on just one meal:
If you’re struggling with nutrition, you’re going to prep one meal for tomorrow. Just one. To make it even easier, here is one of my favourite post workout meals that can double up as a great lunch too:
Soy/Honey Chicken Bowl:
Coriander (fresh if possible)
Marinade two thinly chopped chicken breasts in 1tbsp soy sauce, 1 tsp honey, juice of half a lemon, 1 tbsp mirin, 2 thinly sliced shallots, 3 cloves chopped garlic and a thumb size piece of chopped ginger.
Cook rice in a separate pan and set aside once done.
Throw the chicken into a high heat along with the marinade. Once browned on both sides turn down the heat to medium and add a handful of kale. While kale wilts in the pan, use a speed peeler to make courgette/carrot/both ribbons.
For low carb serve on just courgette carrot ribbons, moderate-high carb serve with rice also.
Unhappy with the results you’ve been getting? I currently have space for two clients. Get in touch below and lets go. Its time to go to work.
So if you follow my Facebook, Instagram or Twitter you might have seen me put up a video of my first pull up! Ok… maybe it was my second because I asked my coach to film it after I’d managed to get my first one… but that’s beside the point. I got my first pull up!
Since I put the video up I’ve had loads of you ask me how I did it and what progressions you might be able to do to be able to get your first pull up – so I thought I’d write a post!
This is by no means an exhaustive list of things you can do to work towards your first pull up, but it includes the exercises I would recommend along with guidance of how many reps and sets to do, and how to vary for your ability. The exercises go in a rough order of easiest to most challenging (though this may vary from person to person) – try them all to see where you need to work.
So let’s go…
Pull Up Progressions
1. Ring Rows
One of the first progressions we do for pull ups at CrossFit is ring rows. This exercise works your back and biceps, just like a pull up does, but at a slightly different angle. The other thing this exercise does is encourage you to keep your body straight and strong – just as you should in a pull up.
- Starting with your feet below the anchor point (where the rings are attached to) hold the rings and lean back – let your toes come off the floor so you’re anchored on just your heels.
- Engage your back muscles by pulling your shoulders back and then slowly bend your arms to bring your chest up to the rings.
- Straighten your arms to return to the start position.
- To make this easier simply step back so your feet are further behind the anchor point, or to make it harder, step forwards so your feet are further in front of the anchor point.
3 x 8-12 reps at an angle that makes the last rep or two of each set a challenge.
2. Jumping Pull Ups
Another great pull up progression is jumping pull ups. These take some of the hardest part of the movement out (the initial shrug) and allow you to work on your pulling strength in the same angle that you would a pull up.
- Place a box underneath the pull up bar that allows you to stand on it while holding on to the bar.
- Bend your legs until you’re at a “dead hang”, i.e. your arms are fully straightened out.
- From this position, take enough of a jump to get you to a point where you can pull yourself the rest of the way – too much of a jump and it will be too easy, not enough and you won’t get your chin above the bar.
- To make this harder, either jump less, or pull yourself so your chest touches the bar.
You could quite easily do more reps as this is a less “strict” movement, but work within the range of 8-12 reps for building strength… for 3 sets.
3. Floor Assisted Pull Ups
These are another great variation to work on that pulling strength. It’s closer to a pull up than a row, and you can change the amount of weight you’re supporting yourself with just by changing your foot position.
- Place a bar in the rack at a high enough height that you can hang from it without your butt touching the floor.
- Slowly pull yourself up, starting by pulling your shoulders down, and then bending your arms rather than initiating the movement with your arms – you want your back to do the hard work!
- Pause at the top, and then lower back down to the start position.
- You can have your legs straight out in front (pictured), underneath you in a half-kneeling position, or elevated on a box so you’re in a V position – whatever gives you enough of a challenge.
3 x 8-12 reps at whichever variation you feel works you hard enough.
4. Band Assisted Pull Ups
These are probably the exercise that I feel helped me the most – to me, it’s the closest to a “proper” pull up that you can get. There are varying “weight” bands out there – I have four different coloured ones, all different thicknesses to allow me to change up how much of my body weight I am pulling.
- Loop a band around the bar and step one foot in (you may need to step on a box to help you!). Cross the other foot over the top.
- As always, start by pulling your shoulders down to initiate the movement, then bend your arms to take you the rest of the way.
- Try to keep the movement as strict as possible, i.e. not swinging or hitching, then lower all the way back down to straight arms.
- Try different thickness bands, or combinations of bands, to get to the right amount of assistance for you.
3 x 8-12 reps with a resistance band that makes the last one or two reps challenging.
5. Eccentric (or Negative) Pull Ups
In case you don’t know, eccentric is the lengthening phase of a movement (whereas concentric is the shortening phase). So an eccentric pull up is where you get to the top of a pull up with assistance and then lower back down under control. I always remember one of our coaches telling us that if you could do 7 x 7 second negatives, you were very likely to be able to do one pull up.
- Place a box underneath the bar and hold on to the bar.
- Jump up to the top of a pull up and pause, then lower yourself slowly and controlled until your arms are straight.
- Start with 3 second lowers, then work up to 5 and then 7 seconds.
3 x 5-8 reps of whichever duration fits your level. I’ve put this at a lower rep-range because it’s the eccentric portion of a movement that gives you the most muscle tears and therefore aching the next day! You’ll thank me for it…
Your First Full Pull Up
When you feel ready, try your first full pull up. I tried on the off-chance and managed to do it, so keep checking in as often as you feel you can. Make sure you’re well warmed up to avoid straining your muscles, and don’t feel disheartened if you don’t get it – just go back to the progressions and keep working – it WILL come!
Here’s my first pull up below:
Hopefully this post has given you the confidence that you can work towards a full pull up – I didn’t think it was going to happen for me, but with a bit of consistency and effort it did! Keep trying, and work with the progressions that you can, either through equipment availability, or whatever you feel is bringing you the most gains in strength. If there’s one you find particularly hard, it’s probably the one worth working on the most as this can often highlight weak areas!
Let me know if you try any of the moves, or have any other progressions you feel helped, or are helping, you! And let me know when you get your first pull up! I’d love to share in the joy!
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This post is slightly aimed at you boys out there who may have forgotten the importance of leg day over the winter. So our lovely British Isle has graced us with 48 hours of summer so far and of course with that comes at opportunity to FLASH those abs and guns. I hate to sound judgemental but I was horrified with what I saw at the weekend- great upper bodies but stick thin legs. It is NOT a good look!!
When figuring out what we want from exercisingmost of us tend to say we just want to be fitter, feel better lose a little bit of weight and to look good and feel great in clothes. This is a great incentive but with the summer comes sharing a little bit of skin and areas of the body that my have been kept hidden over the winter.
I agree, there’s a really nice feeling from having a sculpted upper torso. And yes, it shows you work out. And yes, it can be very pleasing to the eye. Who doesn’t want to turn a head or two? It’s cool. We’re human. We all like a bit of attention from something that we’ve put a hell of a lot of work into.
But remember, for all the time and effort you put into the top half of your body, you NEED to balance it out with the lower half. Failing to do so means you run the risk of falling into the category of CLS; the much-dreaded chicken leg syndrome.
I’m not trying to insult anyone’s intelligence here, I’m just trying to reinforce an often-overlooked point. The legs NEED to be worked. They make up for more than half of the human body, and the benefits of training your legs three or four times a week means you make use of all the musculature in the legs, making overall gains and engaging the glutes – which in turn make you look just as sculpted in your favourite pair of swimming shorts as you do favourite fitted white TEE.
I strongly suggest you create a proper leg programme that works for you. When I started to transform my body, I started training legs every other day out of my six day gym routine. This meant that, three times a week, I’d work on my legs in one way or another.In my experience, Monday is a great day to do your leg work out as – more often than not you tend to find the classes are jammed, the treadmills are taken and international chest Monday is in full swing in the weight area. I promise if you look around the gym on a Monday evening at 7pm it’s more than likely the squat rack is smiling directly at YOU.
Why not try adding a leg programme into your workout regime for a minimum of six weeks and see how you notice the difference?
For example, on a Monday, I’ll start with three sets of squats at 12 repetitions each using a medium weight – if ten is hardest, you need to be at a seven. Then a single leg lunge with eight-to-ten reps for each leg; a hamstring curl with a medium-to-heavy weight at tens reps; leg extension with a medium-to-heavy weight in sets of ten, with a rest gap of one minute between legs; and three sets of calf raises, keeping going until you feel the burn.
On Wednesday, at the end of your workout for another body type, I recommend you get on the squat rack again, and finish with three sets of deep squats using a medium weight again, of eight to ten reps, this time with a three second hold when you reach the squat position. I know, I know, you’ll feel absolutely knackered – but it should only take ten minutes max, and the results will be worth it.
When Friday rolls around, go back to the leg extension and hamstring curl for a superset at the end of your workout. For example, if Friday is arm day, once you’ve finished burning the biceps and triceps, jump on the leg extension with a medium-to-heavy weight and do three sets of eight to ten reps. Then, head straight for the hamstring curl, with a medium-to-heavy weight for eight to ten reps. Give yourself a minute or so’s rest, and head back to the leg extension for another round. This is a great way to start building up some vital strength in the legs.
I started seeing and feeling a difference in my legs with this programme after a week or two. And as with any workout, with the right diet, right amount of sleep and enough water, the overall results will be better.
It’s important you have one day where you focus ONLY on legs. And then, during the week, you add that extra ten minutes here and there at the end to pump some blood into the leg muscles.
Legs are so important for overall strength and fitness. You’ll see how your whole body changes when worked like this. And when it comes to appeasing your vanity and need for attention, once you start getting comments on your legs and glutes, you won’t think twice about skipping past that squat rack ever again.
let me know your thoughts and how you get on. You won’t regret it!!!