Welcome back to Primal Fitness Pittsburgh! I’ve been a busy little Burgher working at several different kettlebell workshops over the past few weeks. My apologies, but I have reached a point of some serious traveling as of lately so. . .whoops my bad on part of blogging here ;). The good news with all this is that I have been getting more and more kettlebell knowledge programmed for all yinz back here in the Burgh which is super exciting and possibly scary .
Today’s post is all about the pull up. And when I say pull up, I’m talking about weighted pull ups. I am just about 3 weeks out from yet another kettlebell certification and I have decided to re-attempt my pull for the Iron Maiden challenge. After multiple treatments with a local Chiropractor and training along side Master SFG Karen McDowell Smith herself, it’s on! Should you ever be considering the Beast Tamer or Iron Maiden challenge yourself, you may want to consider outlining an entire program that covers the pull up, pistol, and press over at least a 12 week period (it may take a lot longer though depending on your current straighten levels. I personally have been working on these lifts for 2 years now. It’s not a cake walk. That being said, today I just want to cover the pull up portion of this training protocol and discuss a few things you can do to start increasing the load of your pull up.
Step 1. Master the body weight pull up. A few months ago after working through a round of the fighter style pull up program, I hit a personal best of 11 consecutive dead hang, body weight pull ups. Say what you want about that, but 11 dead hang pull ups as a female is pretty impressive, considering most females struggle with that sort of pulling motion. In my honest opinion, I would not start o stack up the weights on a pull up until you can easily do 10 or more tactical pull ups in a row. In my world, we call this sort of practice greasing the groove, and getting the bio-mechanical patterning down with precision before increasing the intensity of the lift. You can go about this sort of training in a few different ways. First, I already mentioned Pavel’s Fighter Style Pull Up Program. It’s a no-nonsense and easy programmed approach to help you gain strength and crank out a lot of tactical pull ups. You may read more about that program here. If that sort of volume isn’t for you, I recommend testing the waters on where you are at currently in your pull ups. You can start out with 3 sets of 2-5 pull ups and work up to 5 sets of 5 over time. If you are in need ore resistance band for support, same rule applies. Start with lower reps and work up to a 5 rep max then begin to steer clear of the band. You should be able to master your body weight pull up in this fashion and then work on your form to set some personal records.
Step 2. Incremental increases done for reps = AWESOME STUFF! Stacking up your weights once you’re ready for weighted pull ups doesn’t have to be as long and drawn out of a process as you may think. I would start with placing a small weight (possible an 8kg or a 10kg ) kettlebell to start with around your waist using a weight belt. If you can get a solid 3 reps in a row on that weight continue to increase until you find your current 1 rep max (and good form here people, you should NOT be struggling through that pull too much). Once you determine your 1 rep max, you can perform a drop set of pull ups in the following manner. When I received my coaching from Karen Smith, she had arranged drop sets set a 1 repetition of a heavy weight, 3 repetitions of a medium weight, and then 5 repetitions at a lighter weight. Over time, I made this a drop set of 1,2,3 since I had increased my loads significantly over a 12 week period.
As an example, my original set was designed as the following
1 20kg pull
3 16kg pulls
5 12kg pulls
x 2 rounds
I now do. .
1 20kg pull
2 18kg pulls
3 16kg pulls
x 2 rounds.
This should be scalable to your current strength levels. Give it a go and practice this for a solid few weeks. In time, you may find when you go for your new 1 rep max it comes with ease since you dialed in a number of heavier pulls for reps 😀
Step 3. Incorporate Heavy Negatives. Confession, I have never done heavy negatives until it was suggested to me by my coach. Just goes to show you that sometimes you need a second opinion on how to reach a goal. At any rate, let me say that getting yourself in a flexed arm hang with a heavy kettlebell around your waist will require you to get yourself up on a bit of a mount. You should be able to hold yourself there for a solid 15-20 seconds with a heavier weight than what you are using on your pull up program per the recommendations above. For me, I have worked myself up to 3 rounds of a 20 seconds hold with a 32kg kettlebell around my waist. Yes, it is as awful as it sounds ;). After hold yourself there you are going to lower yourself slowly back down onto your mount. The heavy negatives help train enough tension to really lock and load a heavier weight for your tactical pull up. Speaking from personal experience though, this works. I have been able to bang out 20kg pull ups for reps using this tactic which means, I should be darn close to the 24kg pull. It’s just a matter of testing it.
I hope this post was helpful for you all! Let me know if you have any questions about your programming. As always, feel free to contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org if you need more assistance setting up your training through Primal Fitness Pittsburgh! Until next time. . .
Master your instincts!
Special thanks yet again for all the help thus far from Master SFG, Karen McDowell Smith