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Pull-up failure

Hubertus

New member
Hello guys


So I've been doing Convict Conditioning since the beginning of 2013 [4.5 years], rarely missing a session and not hurrying - just as Paul says. I've been as loyal to his advices as I could. But there is a problem with pull-ups.

A few sentences about me: I don't drink alcohol, I don't smoke and so on. I eat well, three to four times a day [still I'm pretty slim; 65 kg for 5'9", no fat visible]. I train regularly, up to six days a week [sometimes I merge few sessions into one, so there are less days of training]. I'm twentysomething, almost never sick, with no physical problems.

And still, I'm making progress very slowly. I never hurried with doing next steps of exercises as soon as possible; on contrary I feel I'm retarding things too much - to this day:
-> squats: step 8;
-> push-ups: step 7;
-> bridges: step 4;
-> leg raises: step 4;
-> handstands: step 3;
and..
-> pull-ups: step 2.
I also do hangs [step 4] and calves exercises [step 3, another problematic one]. The only exercise I can't progress any further is pull-ups.

I can do up to ~3x17 not perfect pull-ups, step 2. Few times I tried moving to step 3, but with no effect - 3x13 and that's all I'm able to do.
So then I tried step 2 with a higher bar: about waist. I could do eventually [after few months] 3x30. Then I moved to lower bar again and.. nothing.
It's starting[?] to look funny that I have pretty nice triceps and so little biceps [it's biceps what I fell most exhausted after pull-ups].
Still I know I can do up to 10 regular full pull-ups [I tried]. So I figured: maybe I'll try my best with step 3 and try to move to step 5 somehow [it's after reading Paul's 'C-Mass' where he writes about different back muscles involved in horizontal and vertical pull-ups] and on the second day the same week I'll be doing still step 2. Guess what? No effect. I thought that maybe I'll just leave step 2 ['too much of work for those muscles in one week'], but then I came here and on the right there is 'The Super FAQ' form Paul, in which one question concerns me: about step 2 of pull-ups. He claims there that one just has to finish step 2 before moving on, because next steps aren't easier [yeah, who would guess, but it stroke me that this question about pull-ups step 2 was so frequently asked].

Don't know what to do. I read in few books [such as Al Kavadlo's or Ashley Kalym's] that it takes months sometimes to master some exercise. But hey, look, I've spent already over four years! Is it even possible that it's my genetic potential and I won't move beyond this border? What should I do?

My training diary isn't too neat, so I'm going to type down my sessions without comments, starting from.. hm, from the start - February 2013. One session = one week, at least during first years:

2013 [so messed up; just starting with calisthenics]
FEBRUARY
[step I] 3x50, 3x40; [step II] 10+15+15, 4x15
MARCH
[step II] 3x16, 16+16+6+13, 16+16+15+13, 16+16+16+13, 16+15+14
APRIL
[step II] 16+15+14, 7+15+15+15, 16+15+15, 16+15+14
MAY
[step II] 16+15+15, 3x13, 3x13, 3x13
JUNE
[step II] 3x13, 3x14, 3x14, 3x14, 14+14+15
JULY
[step II] 15+15+14, 3x15, 15+10+15+15, 3x15
AUGUST
[step II] 3x15, 3x15, 16+15+15, 3x16
SEPTEMBER
[step II] 3x16, 3x16, 17+16+16, 17+17+16
OCTOBER
[step II] 3x17, 3x17
NOVEMBER
[step II] 3x16, 3x17, 18+17+17
DECEMBER
[step II] 18+18+17, 19+18+18, 3x19

2014 [few problems, bar height change in second half]
JANUARY
[step II] 20+20+18, 5+15+12+12, 3x20, 3x20
FEBRUARY
[step II] 3x15, 3x21, 21+21+20
MARCH
[step II] 3x21, 3x21, 22+22+21, 22+22+21, 3x22
APRIL
[step II] 3x22, 3x22, 3x22, 3x20
MAY
[step II] 3x20, 3x20, 3x20, 3x20
JUNE
[step II] 3x20, 3x18, 3x18, 3x18
JULY
[step II] 2x15
AUGUST
[step II] 2x16, 2x17, 2x17, 2x18
SEPTEMBER
[step II] 2x18, 2x19, 2x20, 2x20, 2x18
OCTOBER
[step II] 2x18, 2x18, 2x19, 2x19
NOVEMBER
[step II] 2x20, 2x20, 3x20, 3x20, 3x21
DECEMBER
[step II] 3x21, 3x22, 3x22, 3x22

2015 [making it to step III, but from higher bar]
JANUARY
[step II] 3x22, 3x22, 3x22, 3x23, 3x23
FEBRUARY
[step II] 3x24, 3x24, 3x25, 3x25
MARCH
[step II] 3x25, 3x26, 3x26, 3x26
APRIL
[step II] 3x27, 3x27, 3x25
MAY
[step II] 3x26, 3x27, 3x28, 3x28
JUNE
[step II] 3x29, 3x29, 3x28
JULY
[step II] 3x28, 3x29, 3x30, 3x30, 3x30
AUGUST
[step II] 3x30, 3x30, 3x30, 3x30
SEPTEMBER
[step II] 3x30, 3x30, 3x30, [step III] 2x10
OCTOBER
[step III] 2x11, 3x12, 3x13, 3x14, 3x14
NOVEMBER
[step III] 3x14, 3x13, 3x13, 3x13
DECEMBER
[step III] 3x14, 3x14, 3x15, 3x15, 3x15

2016 [hope leaves; return to higher bar, step II]
JANUARY
[step III] 3x15, 13+13+13+9, 2x10, 2x11, 2x11, 2x12, 2x13
FEBRUARY
[step III] 2x11, 2x12, 2x13
MARCH
[step III] 2x12, 2x13, 2x13, 2x13
APRIL
[step III] 3x8, 3x9, 3x10, 3x11
MAY
[step III] 3x12, 3x13, [step II] 2x20
JUNE
[step II] 3x15, 3x17, 3x20, 3x22
JULY
[step II] 3x25, 3x28, 3x30, 3x30, 3x30
AUGUST
[step II] 3x30, 3x30, 3x30, 3x30
SEPTEMBER
[step II] 3x25, 3x20, 3x22
OCTOBER
[step II] 3x15, 3x12, 3x13, 3x14
NOVEMBER
[step II] 2x15, 2x16, 2x16, 2x17
DECEMBER
[step II] 2x17, 2x18, 2x19, 2x20, 3x14

2017 [an idea of supercompensation]
JANUARY
[step II] 3x15, 3x16, 3x17, 3x18
FEBRUARY
[step II] 3x18, 3x18
MARCH
[step II] 3x19, 3x15, 3x10, 3x10, 3x10
APRIL
[step II] 3x11, 3x11, 3x12, 3x12
MAY
[step II] 3x13, 3x13, 3x13, 3x13
JUNE
[step II] 3x13, 3x14, 3x14
JULY
[step II] 3x14, 3x15, 3x15, 3x15, 3x15
AUGUST
[step II higher bar [=HB]] 2x20, [step II lowerbar [=LB] 3x16, [step II HB] 2x20, [step II LB] 2x16, [step II HB] 2x22, [step II LB] 3x17, [step II HB] 2x24, [step II LB] 3x17, [step II HB] 2x24
SEPTEMBER
[step II LB] 3x18, [step II HB] 2x26, [step II LB] 3x18, [step II HB] 2x28, [step II LB] 3x18, [step II HB] 2x30, 3x22, [step II LB] 3x19
OCTOBER
[step II HB] 3x22, [step II LB] 2x19, 2x19, [step III] 2x10, [step II LB] 2x15, [step III] 3x11, [step II HB] 3x20, [step III] 3x12, [step II HB] 3x22
NOVEMBER
[step III] 3x13, 3x12, [step II HB] 3x12, 3x14

Please, give me an accurate advice so I can progress.


Hubertus
 

MostlyFull

New member
Continue once per week with step 2. Do step 3 once per week. i read somewhere that Coach said step two is used to fix muscular imbalances between the chest and back and shoulders. Step two works on adding thickness in the back, step 3 and above work width. Keep doing step 2 even after you hit progression standard, but begin step 3.
 

Hubertus

New member
Thanks for reply!

Yeah, in 'C-Mass' he writes about this, even suggesting that one can do both horizontal and full pull-ups during one session [I don't get it though, 'cause I don't think my bicepses could take so much; certainly it's not back muscles that do the work for me].

Okay, so I'll gove it another try; now I'll be doing something like step III - 3 days off - step II - 2 days off - repeat. In few months there will be a post if it helped [I hope it will!]. Thanks!


Hubertus
 

conviction

New member
4.5 years of CC - that is impressive commitment. Step 2 of pull up progression is a challenge. read someone on the web to have hands at sternum height rather than hip height. This made achieving the progression standard (3 x 30) more realistic. Used a block at heels so feet wouldn't slide away when doing movement. I follow the Vetrano program and have been at it for a 2.5 years.
 

Hubertus

New member
A reply

Hello!


I wrote a post few days ago, but I see it's not been published [don't know why]. So let me reply to all of you.

First of all, thank you for advice! I can't use 'em all at once, but I do appreciate your effort.

i read somewhere that Coach said step two is used to fix muscular imbalances between the chest and back and shoulders. Step two works on adding thickness in the back, step 3 and above work width.
Yeah, I think I found something like this in 'C-Mass'. Yet in 'The SUPER FAQ' Wade wrote:
Paul Wade said:
Horizontal pulls are step 2 of the pullup series. Horizontal pulls should not be harder than fullpullups, which are step 5. In terms of difficulty, you should be finding horizontal pulls somewhere
in between vertical pulls (step 1) and jackknife pulls (step 3) in terms of difficulty. If this isn't the case, you gotta change things so it is.
/../
Work this exercise hard, diligently, and strictly as you gradually add reps to hit the progression standard. When you hit the progression standard, try some jackknife pulls on your next workout.
If you can comfortably make the beginner standard on jackknife pulls, continue working with them. If you can't easily handle the beginner standard, or the jackknife pulls seem just too tough to work with, go back to the horizontal rows, and drop the hand position by a few inches. Work
on this for a few sessions, and when you hit the progression standard again try the jackknife pulls one more time.
..so he sounds like he really wanted us to do horizontal pulls before step III and to do plenty of them.

MostlyFull said:
Keep doing step 2 even after you hit progression standard, but begin step 3.

Yeah, that's what I'm going to do [already started, to be strict]: step II - 2 days off - step III - 3 days off.

conviction said:
4.5 years of CC - that is impressive commitment.

Thanks, I think I just like it. Something tangible in this flowing world.

conviction said:
read someone on the web to have hands at sternum height rather than hip height. This made achieving the progression standard (3 x 30) more realistic.

Yes, that's what I did. That's why I have some 3x30 in my history of step II. It didn't help though: I moved to step III and had to regress soon. Also moving to lower bar [like 3 inches lower] made even 3x20 impossible for me.


austinloveshiscats said:
In my opinion, step two of the pull-ups is the hardest one in the program.

I'd like to see you doing one-hand pull-up :D

austinloveshiscats said:
A good one to follow would be the Armstrong pull-up program.

Never heard of it [gonna find out what exactly it is in a moment], but for now I'm going to focus on step II/III, as MostlyFull advised. If it doesn't work, then I'll probably turn to Armstrong if I'll find it convincing.


Thanks again,
Hubertus





 

GeoffreyLevens

New member
Here's a possible option to break out of plateau

[h=1]Bodyweight Cluster Training[/h]
I have been using it past couple weeks and it does seem to be rapidly making me stronger. Just be careful because you can really "overdo" it pretty easily. My first session I did enough reps beyond my usual that I had to take several days off and just ride bicycle and rest all the muscles I'd "fried".
 

Eoin Kenny

New member
I know I'm late, but that step is bogus, no one has ever managed to achieve it the way it's shown in the book.

Skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it skip it,
 

chixlegs

New member
The "Horizontal Pullup" is actually more of a "Incline Pullup" or in this case, "Recline Pullup" since you're facing upwards. Just make sure that when doing the horizontal pullup, your body is not below the bar, and you're not pulling on your whole body weight.

Just like you, I'm also having problems with pullup. I'm at jack-knife pullup, and still having problems that I'm considering regressing (or cheating) and putting my feet flat on the floor to help push up as I'm pulling up.
 
I had this exact same problem during Convict Conditioning and still do to a degree. I'd progress steadily in most movements, my pistol squats got better almost by the day and I moved through the leg progression very quickly once I had more flexibility. But the pull-ups remained stagnant. Sometimes I'd gain a rep if I lost a bit of weight but would lose it if I put a few pounds back on after a heavy weekend. They never really felt like they got easier. My muscles gassed out quickly. Progress was slow, if not non-existent for some periods of time.

Are you following one of the prescribed formats outlined in the book? I think I was doing "Veterano" which is 2 of the 6 movements for 2-3 sets each workout, once a week. I think that was the most intensive format. Let me just say that I think this is WAY too low in volume to make fast progress on a movement like pull-ups. I perceive this to be the main problem with Convict conditioning.

So after getting to about stage 8 on most of the exercises in CC I read the Naked warrior. Pavel's approach seemed to be better to me. He says something about the street fighter that masters two punches will always beat the Karate master who knows how to strike you with his hand in countless different ways. If you're not aware of how it works, the program in a nutshell requires you to "Grease the groove" with one arm push-ups, pistol squats and I added in regular 2 arm pull-ups too. You just do singular sets for each exercise spaced out throughout the day as to avoid fatigue. 6 days a week. Sometimes I'd do 5 or 6 sets a day up to a max of 5 reps. 150+ reps a week as opposed to about 20 or less that I was doing on CC. I increased reps on these exercises far more rapidly than I did doing CC. If you wanna get good at pull-up's, you've gotta do a lot of pull-ups, said one wise man.

Whilst I admire your dedication to this program, I'd recommend a change. Convict is great for people who are just getting into training, people who are badly injured, severely unfit or overweight, and I imagine good for getting kids into Calisthenics too. But the bottom line is that the pistol squats, one arm push-up's and pull-up's are by far the most useful tools from the program to be pushing your strength up. If you have the strength, i'd recommend just doing a variation of these exercises, and lots of them.
 
I've finished the horizontal pullup at sternum height at the progression standard and moved 3.5-4 inches down to my hips and mastered 3 sets of 30 step 2 pullups again but it was Tough!.

I believe after that going down another several inches i could be wrong but this step should take 7-8 months to really milk it and youll get literally stone hard forearms its unreal for such a early step. But it is possible if you'd like to know, i approached step 3 and i was able to do 12 as a beginner standard whereas before I couldnt pull off even 7 jackknife pullups before i attempted step 2.

cheers.
 

Hubertus

New member
Hello guys


Thanks for you support. Sorry for no answers. I was quite busy.

A little update.

Well, yes, I've been doing CC since my last post three years ago mostly according to book [you can say whatever you want] and I thought I'll share my way through pull-ups since then.

..2017 [HB - higher bar..]
..NOVEMBER
[III] 2x8, [IIHB] 3x16, [III] 2x9
DECEMBER [2 timer per week]
[IIHB] 3x16, [III] 2x10, [IIHB] 3x18, [III] 2x11, [IIHB] 3x20, [III] 2x12, 2x13 [IIHB] 3x20

2018
JANUARY
[III] 2x14, [IIHB] 3x22, [III] 2x15, [IIHB] 3x22, [III] 2x15+9, [IIHB] 3x24, [III] 2x16+12, [IIHB] 3x26, [III] 2x17+15
FEBRUARY
[III] 3x18, [IIHB] 3x24, [III] 3x19, [IIHB] 3x26, [III] 3x20, [IIHB] 3x26, [III] 3x20
MARCH [well, I think I'll write them the other way; just remember it's mainly intertwined; start of step IV]
[IIHB] 3x28, 3x30, 3x30
[IV] 2x8, 9+8, 9+9, 10+9
APRIL [start of II with lower bar, as in the CC photo]
[IIHB] 3x30
[II] 2x8, 9+8
[IV] 10+10, 11+10, 11+11, 12+11
MAY
[II] 9+8, 9+9, 10+9
[IV] 11+11, 12+12, 13+12, 13+10+3
JUNE
[II] 10+10, 11+10, 11+11, 12+11
[IV] 13+13, 13+13, 13+12, 12+12
JULY [bars are somehow slippery in summer.. sometimes I would use wintertime gloves]
[II] 12+12, 13+12, 13+13, 14+13
[IV] 10+10, 10+10, 9+8, 9+8
AUGUST
[II] 14+14, 15+14, 15+15, 16+15, 16+16
[IV] 9+9, 10+9, 10+10, 11+10, 11+11, 12+11
SEPTEMBER
[II] 16+16, 17+16, 17+16
[IV] 12+12, 12+12
OCTOBER
[II] 17+17, 15+15, 16+15, 16+16
[IV] 13+12, 13+13, 13+13, 14+13, 14+14
NOVEMBER [start of step V]
[II] 17+16, 17+17, 18+17, 18+18, 19+18
[IV] 15+14, 15+15
[V] 2x5
DECEMBER
[II] 19+18, 19+19, 20+19
[V] 2x5, 6+5, 6+6, 7+6

2019
JANUARY
[II] 20+20, 21+20, 22+22, 21+21
[V] 7+7, 8+7, 8+8, 8+8
FEBRUARY [starting to lose faith in reaching II threshold]
[II] 21+18
[V] 8+8, 8+8, 7+6
MARCH
[II] 15+15, 16+16, 16+16, 17+17, 15+15
[V] 6+6, 5+5, 6+5, 6+6
APRIL
[II] 17+17, 15+15, 15+15
[V] 6+6, 6+6, 6+6, 6+6
MAY [step II abandonment, because of no improvement of V]
[V] 6+7, 7+7, 7+7, 7+7
JUNE
[V] 7+8, 7+8, 8+7, 8+7
JULY
[V] 8+7, 8+7, 8+8, 8+8
AUGUST [you can see I'm stuck]
[V] 8+8, 8+8, 8+8, 8+8
SEPTEMBER
[V] 8+8, 9+8, 9+8, 9+8
OCTOBER
[V] 9+8, 9+8, 9+8, 9+7
NOVEMBER [decrease..]
[V] 9+8, 8+8, 7+7, 7+7
DECEMBER
[V] 7+7, 7+7, 7+7, 7+7

2020 [a Big Year]
JANUARY [maybe in smaller chunks?]
[V] 7+7, 7+7, 7+7, 5+5+5
FEBRUARY
[V] 5+5+5+5, 6+5+5+5, 6+5+5+5
MARCH
[V] 6+6+5+5, 6+6+5+5, 6+6+6+5
APRIL [well, please find it upbuilding I'm doing almost twice as much as earlier]
[V] 6+6+6+6, 7+6+6+6, 7+7+6+6, 7+7+7+6, 7+7+7+7
MAY
[V] 8++7+7+7, 8+8+7+7, 8+8+8+7, 8+8+8+8
JUNE [even more chunks..]
[V] 9+8+8+8, 9+8+7+5+4, 9+8+8+5+4, 9+9+8+6+3, 10+9+6+6+4
JULY [I really wanted to do 50 together..]
[V] 10+9+8+5+4, 10+9+8+6+4, 10+9+8+6+5, 10+9+8+6+6
AUGUST
[V] 10+9+9+6+6, 10+9+9+7+6, 10+9+9+7+7, 10+10+9+7+7
SEPTEMBER [unfortunately, I didn't manage - 44 and stuck.. but there was 10+10 yet, soo.. step VI - but I'm doing chin-up version, as in CC book]
[V] 10+10+9+8+7, 10+10+9+8+7
[VI] 5+5+(V: 8+8+5), 6+5+(V: 8+8+6), 6+6+(V: 8+8+6)
OCTOBER [well yes, those are two step VI series and three step V series and Vc <- V, but chin-up]
[VI] 6+6+(V: 8+8+6), 7+6+(V: 8+8+6), 7+7+(V: 8+6+6)+(Vc: 5)
NOVEMBER
[VI] 8+7+(V: 8+6+6)+(Vc: 5), 8+8+(V: 8+8)+(Vc: 6+6), 9+8+(V: 9+8)+(Vc: 6+6), 9+9+(V: 9+9)+(Vc: 6+6)
DECEMBER [step VII unlocked! given reps are per one hand: 5+5 == 5+5 left + 5+5 right; doing chin-up version, as in book again]
[VI] 10+9+(V: 10+9)+(Vc: 6+6), 10+10+(V: 10+10)+(Vc: 6+6)
[VII] 5+5+(VI: 6+8)+(V: 6+6), 6+5+(VI: 8+8)+(V: 6+6), 6+6+(VI: 8+8)+(V: 6+6)

2021 ['now']
JANUARY
[VII] 7+6+(VI: 8+8)+(V: 6+6), 7+7+(VI: 8+8)+(V: 6+6), 8+7+(VI: 8+8)+(V: 6+6), 8+8+(VI: 8+8)+(V: 6+6)
FEBRUARY
[VII] 9+8+(VI: 8+8)+(V: 6+6), 9+5, 9+9+(VI: 8+8)+(V: 6+6), 9+9+(VI: 8+8)+(V: 6+6)

---------------------
Okaaay, so now. As you can see, I finally got to 9+9 uneven pull-ups, which means I should be able to take on step VIII - 1/2 one-arm pull-up. But there's one caveat. I can't do even one rep. I don't think I'm able to hang on one hand with my chin over the bar.
Any ideas what to do?
I thought of several options:
(1) still uneven pull-ups, but this time the version with reversed grip;
(2) uneven pull-ups, but with lowered 'free' hand grip;
(3) maybe archer pull-ups? but I don't have appropriate bar now, as I exercise in a forest;
(4) something I don't know and you know it and I'd like to know about it.

To sum up, as some of you said: to do more pull-ups one has to do more pull-ups. I experienced huge increase of capabilities when I ceased to do only two series.
Also, I don't feel that I lack benefits from horizontal pull-ups. Maybe I'm missing something, but don't have an idea what.
One more point: my biceps didn't grow immensely large. Actually I can't tell much difference, altough there is some. Maybe I'm just this kind of skinny guy [150 lbs/68 kg], who always looks the same, no matter what he does.

Ah, about changing program. As I mentioned above, I don't have a bar where I live - I hang from a branch in a forest and, as I [unfortunately] don't live in a forest, I have to commute there and it takes time. I don't have much time and this program doesn't require much. I don't expect to do some really difficult moves in the future; just want to feel good. CC is the least resistance option for me; I have it in routine. I feel bad when I miss a training session, because I know it is not so exhausting to do. This pull-ups journey was somehow gruelling, so I had to give up on hanging exercises by the end of last year [step III - one-arm hang]. Well, it's not that I can't see CC's shortcomings, but it takes a lot of time to do a research and try some other options. I wanted to lay my hands on 'Naked Warrior' a few years ago, but it wasn't available that time in local stores; maybe now is the right moment to explore that path?

My CC progression for now:
Bridges ~step IX/X, but stretching/mobility problems
Push-ups ~step IX, but with no success in VIII [I replaces it with archer push-ups 3x15]
Squats ~step VIII - not sure; I can do like 10 one-leg squats when free leg is hanging freely on some pedestal, but only a few on a plain ground
Pull-ups ~step VII+
Leg raises ~step VII
Handstand push-ups ~step IV [well, I tried to do two sets of 120 s for years - no success]


Have a good day,
Hubertus
 
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