Yes you can! Do push ups and pull ups when you can’t do them

Pull ups and push ups are not easy by any means, but they are such great staples in any workout routine, as some of the best upper body and core exercises around. Pull ups work primarily the back, rear delts, biceps and forearms and the push ups work the chest, shoulders and triceps. Both work the core more than you might guess.

But what if you can’t do a full push up or pull up? Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered.

Pull ups

Level 1 – Pre gaming. Before the bar.

If you work out at a gym I will recommend two machines for you to use. The assisted pull up machine and the lat pulldown  machine.

Start by using a weight that is challenging for 10 repetitions. For your next set bump up the weight, but shoot for 7-8 repetitions, and for the last set bump up the weight and shoot for as many as you  can up to 4-5. Allow yourself at least a full minute of rest in between each set and keep the movement slow and in control. Note. With the assisted pull up machine you will start with more resistance to help you, and lessen the resistance for each set to make it more challenging.

Level 2 –  Head to the bar.

If you have access to a large workout band, you can use this for assistance. This is a great way to get use to hanging on the bar with your body more freely suspended. Depending on the band you use, will determine how many reps you will be able to do. Start with a band that let’s you do 6-8 reps.

Level 3 – At the bar.

If you are working your way toward a full pull up start by seeing if you can hang from the bar with straight arms to see if you at least have the grip strength to hold on. If that is the case jumping up and holding your chin over the bar for 15 seconds (the first part of the pull up video demos this). Try doing this for 2-3 sets, 2-3 times a week. I use a neutral grip, like shown in the video, or a chin up grip, with the palms facing me.

Once you have conquered the hang, try working the eccentric part of the pull up, the letdown, as shown in the pull up video attached. Start anywhere from 1-3 sets of 3-5 reps. Working the eccentric movement of the pull up is very challenging and puts a large demand on your muscles, so you will want to start small and gradually progress.


Push Ups

Level 1 – Start high.

A great option to practice having the body in a full push up position is using an incline push up. At home you can use a counter top or back of a couch. At the gym you can use the smiths machine or set a bar low in the squat rack. This helps you start to develop the position and core strength of a full push up. Start for 3 sets of 10-15.

Level 2 – Make your way to the ground.

Doing a kneeling push up on the ground is also a great, do anywhere exercise, to build strength. Make sure you are in a straight line from the shoulders to the knees and the butt is not in the air, nor does it sag to the ground. Start for 3 sets of anywhere from 5 to 10. Go slow and try to go down to a hover over the ground to make it more challenging. 

Level 3 – High, low.

The eccentric push up. I love, love, love, this variation demonstrated in the video below, to work towards a full push up. We are stronger eccentrically, meaning we are stronger on the lowering part or release of our exercises. Like the video shows start in a full push up position and lower the body to the ground keeping the core braced and everything in line. Let the body completely rest on the ground. Press back up in a kneeling push up position. Do 3 sets of 3-5 to start.

How to put this all together.

Add a little pull up, push up practice to the beginning of your normal workout.

Pick one push up variation that challenges you. If the incline push up is too easy, choose kneeling, if kneeling is too easy choose the eccentric push up and if that is too easy start doing a full push up.

Same thing for the pull up. Choose the assisted pull up or one of the bar pull up variations. Perform the designated number of reps and sets mentioned in this post.

For example.

3 x 10 Kneeling pushups  –  3×12,10,8 Assisted pull ups

3×3-5 eccentric push ups  –  3×3-5 letdowns

3×3-5 full pushups – 3×3-5 letdowns

As always let me know if you have any questions on the post on my Facebook page. I love to help people get strong!

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