Of all the exercises, the one with the largest mind game attached to it is the PULLUP. One thing I have learned is that women AND men CANNOT do pull-ups IF they do not PRACTICE pull-ups.
On the flip side, the common denominator among those men AND women who can do dead-hang pull-ups, are those who practice pull-ups.
In my personal opinion, one of the worst things we ever developed in physical fitness classes were the "girl pullup" or flexed arm hang. At an early age, we have been telling young girls, that they cannot do regular pull-ups because they will never be as strong as boys. Well, part of that statement is true - the strongest woman will NEVER be stronger than the strongest man - but I have seen 40-50 year old mothers of three do 10 pullups. How is that? They practice pull-ups as well as the auxiliary exercises that work the muscles of the back, biceps, and forearms - the PULLUP muscles! Anybody can do pull-ups, but it helps to not be 40-50 lbs. overweight and to follow a program that places pull-ups and the following exercises in your workouts at least 3 times a week.
The Proper Pull-up (Regular Grip)
Grab the pull-up bar with your hands placed about shoulder width apart and your palms facing away from you. Pull yourself upward until your chin is over the bar and complete the exercise by slowly moving to the hanging position.
If you cannot do any pull-ups, you should try "negatives". Negatives are half pull-ups. All you have to do is get your chin over the bar by standing on something or having spotter push you over the bar. Then, you slowly lower yourself all the way down - let your arms hang grasping the bar fully stretched. Keep your feet up and fight gravity for a count of 5 seconds. This will get your arms used to supporting your weight.
This is the first step to being able to perform pullups. Using the bar that is 3-4 feet off the ground, sit under it and grab with the regular grip. Straighten your back, hips, and slightly bend your knees while your feet remain on the floor and pull yourself to the bar so that your chest touches the bar. Repeat as required. This is a great way to start out if you cannot do any pull-ups at all. You can also do this on a pair of parallel bars that are used for dips. These are also great to do after you can no longer perform anymore dead-hang pullups. This is a good replacement for the Lat Pulldown machine as well.
Using a pulldown machine, grab the bar, sit down and pull the bar to your collar bones. Keep the bar in front of you. Behind the neck pulldowns are potentially dangerous to your neck and shoulders. Dumbell Rows
Bend over and support your lower back by placing your hand and knee on the bench as shown. Pull the dumbbell to your chest area as if you were starting a lawn mower. Muscles worked: Back, forearm grip, Bicep muscles.
Place dumbbells or bar in hands with your palms facing upward. Use a complete range of motion to take the weight from your shoulders to your hips by bending and straightening the elbows. Keep it smooth. Do not swing the weights.
You can build up your strength and within a few months of this workout, you will have your first pullup in years - maybe ever! If weight loss is needed, naturally find a plan that incorporates cardio vascular exercise, diet and nutrition tips and weights and calisthenics if your next goal is to do a pullup one day! Good luck and always remember to consult with your doctor before starting any fitness program.
Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. If you are interested in starting a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle - check out the Military.com Fitness eBook store and the Stew Smith article archive at Military.com. To contact Stew with your comments and questions, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.