Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Upper Body Strength

Here were the results from this morning's 4-miler...
Average pace: 8:10 min/mile
I was actually really pleased with my time this morning. I woke up feeling a little stiff and sore from the BodyStep and BodyPump classes that I took yesterday. I really just wanted to press snooze and sleep for another hour or two but I groggily rolled out of bed, laced up my running shoes and headed out the door when it was still a bit dark outside. I perked up once I got moving and I was glad that I got up and did my run early this morning. It always starts my day off on a good note!

With these achy muscles, I am really looking forward to my BodyFlow class tonight. I feel like I really need a good stretch!!

Last night I also started the 100 Push-Up Challenge which I posted about last week (Looks like there are four of us doing this now...Me, Jason, Ben and Stephanie!) I am doing it along with Jason so we started on column 3 of week #1. We both completed it (although Jason wasn't so sure he would be able to finish the last set, but he pushed them out in the end!) How's the challenge going for you all?

To me, there are two moves that epitomize upper-body strength...the push-up and the pull-up/chin-up. Both of these moves are great because they work so many different muscles in the upper body area as well as provide an excellent challenge for your core muscles. (Actually can you guess which exercise has been shown to be the ABSOLUTE best exercise to work the rectus abdominus....it's the chin-up
!! I was surprise by this too! You can read the entire article here, but here's a brief excerpt:

"Probably the most shocking result of this entire experiment was the level of rectus abdominis activity elicited by a bodyweight chin-up! It beat out any other abdominal exercise, weighted exercises and all, in mean and peak rectus abdominis activity.

Chin-ups are ultimate "anti-extension" exercise for the low back. Some lifters let their lower back arch excessively, which is not only unsafe, but sub-optimal. If they brace their lower back and keep a straight line from their shoulders to knees, the core musculature has to work very hard to prevent the low back from extending.

Another surprise was that using extra weight on chin-ups via a dip belt didn't increase rectus abdominis activity—it lowered it. If you're aiming to get a great core workout via chin ups, I recommend performing slow, controlled repetitions while focusing on keeping the hips and spine perfectly neutral throughout the set."
(BTW: The difference between a pull-up and a chin-up is in the position of the hands. In a chin-up, your palms face you and in a pull-up, your palms face away from you.)

Currently I can do about 25-30 push-ups on my toes without stopping, and hopefully by the end of the 6-week challenge, I will be able to do 100 consecutive push-ups!! However, I also want to be able to do some chin-ups and pull-ups. Chin-ups are a bit easier since your biceps can contribute more to the movement. I can bust out one, maybe two chin-ups on a good day, but I cannot for the life of me complete even ONE pull-up. They are SOOOO hard for me.

But I will DO IT!! And here's how...I will start by doing flexed arm hangs and negative pull-ups. Here's an explanation of both (full article here)...

For the flexed arm hang boost yourself up – either have a friend spot you or step up on a bench – so that your chin is above the bar. Once in this position, pull the elbows down and slightly back, keep your chest up and tighten your lats before you take your feet off the bench. The idea here is to hold yourself in this “chin over the bar” position for as long as possible. At first shoot for a 15 second hold and take a 2-minute rest before your next hold. Four sets of holds is a good place to start. Add time as your strength increases.

When you are hanging, bend your knees so that your feet are behind you and your torso and thighs form a straight line. Don’t lift your knees up in front as this will develop a bad habit that will retard your progress. Work to minimize or eliminate the body from swinging as this wastes precious strength.

Negative pull-ups will help develop the strength necessary to perform pull-ups. Get into the “chin over the bar” position but instead of staying in the flexed arm position, you will lower yourself down to the “dead hang” position. Try to lower your body on a 5-count and don’t just drop and flop. There will be a point just before the dead hang position where there’s the urge to relax, but continue to exert control.

Use the same initial position and form doing the negative pull up that’s used in the flexed arm hang. Lock in with your lats, bend your knees and keep your feet behind you. Maintain control as you start your decent and keep your lats tight. If you have a spotter they can help steady you before the drop.

The goal should be to do four single 5-count negative pull-ups with 2-minutes rest in between each. As you progress – and as your confidence grows – add reps to the routine.
I'm going to start my "Pull-up" challenge this week by implementing the flexed arm hangs and negative pull-ups into my workout regime. I'll keep you updated on my progress. My goal is to be able to do 5 full chin-ups and 5 full pull-ups. Pretty lofty (at least for me!) but now that I've officially posted my goal, there's no turning back now!!

Talking Point: How do you feel about push-ups and chin-ups/pull-ups? Can you do any pull-ups? What other exercises are the epitome of strength to you?


  1. I think the reason why I despise push-ups so much is because I can't do them. I have NO upper body strength. Sadly, I could BARELY do 1 regular push-up. I had to do the knee push-ups and then I could do more, but I am SORE. I can't believe how much it hurts. Chin-ups or pull-ups are not in my vocabulary. Good luck Dadra. Of course you can do it.

  2. Ok, I finished one week of training and did the exertion test this weekend. I was happy to be able to complete 35 push-ups after doing 23 the week before. I'll start this week with the third column of the third week. Good luck everyone.

  3. P.S. I did find that I had to rest extra time after the third and fourth rounds during each training session. I could get by with 60-90 seconds of rest before the second and third rounds, but for the last two I needed about 4-5 minutes of rest.