Project Pull-Up

Project Pull-Up

For the first time ever, Rob and I are going to be working out at the same gym when we arrive in London. We don’t expect to train together forever, just until we both find jobs.

Given that this will be the first time I’ve had a training partner, I immediately thought of ways to maximise the benefits. The first goal that came to mind is doing unassisted chin ups/pull-ups. I find it incredibly frustrating that I can squat and deadlift almost 100 kilograms, but I still can’t do a single unassisted chin up!

For almost the entire first year I started training, I was hindered by the fact that I was using a full range of motion for my pull-ups. It was basically impossible for me to drop the weight of the assist, because I was tiring myself out after just a few reps – regardless of the assisted weight. When I finally wised up and reduced my range of motion, I was able to drop the assist weight but I was still using about 25 kilos.

After getting help from Sable (she wrote a great post here), and focusing on really squeezing my back, I have managed to reduce my assist to just 10kg, but the unassisted pull-up still evades me. I’m 5’9” and almost 70kg, so I’m trying not to compare myself to other tiny women who can bang out pull-ups with ease. I’m sure my size is working against me!


Rob has decided that by the end of March I will be able to do at least one unassisted chin up. As of next week, when we start training together, I am going to begin all three of my upper body days with either chin ups, pull-ups or negatives.

I always feel much stronger and more in control of my pull-ups when I have someone holding my feet, as opposed to relying on the assist machine. I’m trying to remain optimistic that I’ll be able to achieve the goal he has set for me, but it’s hard not to be a bit doubtful when I’ve been training for this long and still haven’t been able to do it. Nevertheless I’m confident that having a partner pushing me will help enormously!

Today Rob and I trained legs together and I got a small taste of what our workouts are going to be like. Here’s what we did:
Leg extension: pre-exhaustion (explained below)
Leg press: 4×10 @ 180kgs (PB!!)
Front squat: 4×8 @ 40kgs
Stiff-legged deadlifts: 4×10 @ 50kg
One-legged hamstring curls: 3×10 (we creatively used the leg extension machine, standing over the chair)
Seated leg curls: FST-7s (seven sets of 10-12 reps, with only 30 seconds rest in between each = PAIN!)

You need to try the pre-exhaustion leg extension exercise before your next leg workout. I did two warm-up sets, one working set of 55kg, and then we jumped straight into it. You do four normal-paced reps, followed by four reps with a 1-2 second hold at the top, and finish with four normal-paced reps. You then drop the weight by one plate, immediately repeat the 12 reps, and then drop the weight a third and final time and repeat. Pre-fatiguing the muscle means that you can’t lift as heavy as normal for the rest of your exercises, but it sure gives you a serious burn!

We got the idea from Dana Linn Bailey. Watch from 1.55-3.40. This is exactly what Rob and I are like when we work out together – me crying and him yelling at me! Haha.

Can you do unassisted chin ups/pull-ups? What enabled you to drop the assist?

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