An important limiting factor when doing pull-ups
- And it is likely NOT what you thought ...

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Pull-ups, my dear reader, are by far and without exception some of the toughest exercises for not just every day adults to do – but seasoned athletes as well.

You’ll be hard pressed to find a Crossfitter, for instance, who can regularly pound out 100 plus PERFECT pull-ups in each workout – and do so day after day, week after week, month after month – year after year.

Not saying they don’t exist, of course, but they’re certainly in the minority!

Anyway, pull-ups are also and without exception ONE of the best exercises out there, bar none – and therefore ’tis but normal for most trainees to have QUESTIONS regarding this superlative exercise, and how to improve – and of course, what BE the limiting factors for most people in terms of not being able to exceed a certain number of repetitions in the pull-ups.

When you ask most people that last question, most of them respond with one of the following –

  1. Lack of overall upper body strength
  2. Weak lats and upper back
  3. A weak grip (this one is quite common)
  4. Not enough curls with the bros to “build” the biceps, supposedly the most important muscle when it comes to pull-ups – yes –  you hear this quite often too!!
  5. A combo of the above, or something similar.

And truth  be told, all of these aren’t necessarily the wrong answer either – even #4 for some part.

But here’s the point, and something most people miss.

What if I told you the limiting factor for most people when it comes to pull-ups – along with a weak grip – was lack of strength (or pulling strength) in – get this – the TRICEPS

Most people look at me as if I’m nuts when I say this – and chances are you are too.

But hang on. Just in case you don’t think the triceps work, and work OVERTIME when doing pull-ups – make a fist in the air – extend your arm up, and “pull the air” down.

As you do so, feel your tricep. It’s working, aint it?!

It’s amazing, but this rudimentary fact is not only ignored – – but pooh poohed by most trainees – most of whom prefer to say that the “biceps” (the show muscle, and by far NOT the largest muscle or even the strongest in your upper arms) are what really get the job done.

Yes, the biceps are USED – but only towards the top of the pull-up. It’s really your grip and triceps (along with lats) that power you both UP – and DOWN – during the movement if done correctly!

And the ONE exercise and its variants that I recommend to most people to get good at – excellent at to build the triceps is often also ridiculed – that being the pushup.

Yes, you heard me!

There is a damned good reason I included certain forms of pushups in the Supplementary Exercises section of “Pull-ups – from DUD to STUD within a matter of WEEKS“, my friend.

And the reason is this – while visualization, focus and relentless repetition were all keys to getting my own pull-up numbers to the lofty peaks they are at now, I was really only able to blast past sticking points once I got good at the pushups – especially those mentioned in the book.

In fact, there were entire months I dedicated to getting better simply at these variants!

In the 0 Excuses Fitness System I repeatedly tell you that pushups are the best overall exercise you can do, and with GOOD reason.

I’ve also said in the past that while pull-ups are a great great exercise, they aren’t REQUIRED – and again, with good reason!

Pushups my friend are the complete workout – and the best way to strengthen your entire upper body like NO other exercise can – especially if we’re talking all the different variants youc an do.

And in terms of cardio?? Heck, once you get to the point you’re pounding out 500 plus pushups a day in around 40 minutes or so, you wont NEED any more cardio – and the videos in the System are but proof of this FACT!

And if you don’t believe me there – well, look at the one exercise that is a staple in most strongmen’s routines – as well as boxers – wrestlers – the military (especially elite forces) – and so forth.

All these rugged professionals have the PUSHUP as the mainstay of their routines!

Sure, they do pull-ups – and handstands – and dips – and other stuff but the mainstay is always the pushup!

I don’t care if you’re talking the Great Gama of India, who went undefeated in a bazillion or so wrestling bouts – or Iron Mike Tyson – or even Herschel Walker, the 53 year old plus walking PHENOM – they ALL have the pushup as a mainstay  of their routine!

And ’tis but a fact, my friend – if you want to get better at pull-ups – work on dem triceps – and work on them pushups as well.

Do so diligently for a month or so. Don’t even work the pull-ups during that period.

And once you get to a certain level at pushups – especially those mentioned in “Pull-ups – from Dud to STUD within a matter of weeks! ” go back and test yourself on pull-ups.

I bet you my bottom dollar – or RMB – you’ll be nigh surprised – and in a good way!


Rahul Mookerjee

P.S. – If you enjoy motivational fitness tips like this one, we’ve got a world of them for you in our “Fitness Central” series. I’m working on a compilation as we speak, but for now, we just released Volume#3 in the series – you can grab it right here –

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