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A Blue Workout

18 Sep

I haven’t been myself lately. Although terribly neglected, I’ve kept this blog around in case I eventually shrug the cloak of apathy and depression that’s been weighing heavy on my shoulders.

 

Without going into too much detail, I’ve had many bad days lately. A lot of personal drama has stripped me of my essence, and well…I kind of feel like a shell of my former self. The things that used to make me happy no longer make me happy. Working out has become a chore. I still do it, albeit not as regularly as I used to. I suppose the habit is so deeply ingrained in me that I can’t just drop it altogether. I also started to develop lower back pain that has prevented me from lifting as heavy or intensely as I like. I can’t squat or deadlift or do almost any exercise which requires me to bend at my hips unless it’s with light weight.

 

But still, I manage to drag my sad-sack self to the gym and workout. Some people say that exercise helps when you’re depressed, but I find the opposite to be true. When I physically exert myself it unleashes whatever it is I’m trying to suppress, which lately has been tears. (Ugh, I know. Just bear with me.) These days progress is measured not by how much weight I can move, but by completing a workout with minimal back pain and no emotional breakdowns.

 

Today is cardio day, and I did the following workout. As much as I drag my feet the whole way to the gym, I never regret working out. As much as I feel like the lump in my throat is going to suffocate me, I’m still breathing. I realize unloading myself like this to the public is a blogging 101 No No, but I really don’t give a shit. Now, onto the workout.

 

With two dumbbells (weight is at your discretion) go through the following sequence for 10 reps. (You do all exercises ONCE, one after the other. When you get to the shoulder press, you will have completed one rep for each movement. Start back at the push-up for your second rep.)

 

Push-Up

Plank DB Row

Deadlift

Curl

Shoulder Press

Lunge (You can keep your arms up, or bring them back down)

 

Once you have completed the 10 reps, jump rope for one minute. Repeat this complex two more times. Finish with 30 burpess.

 

I used two 10 lb dumbbells for this workout. I was pretty good up until the third round. In the future I’ll probably for four to five rounds for more intensity. Didn’t time it, but I was done pretty quickly. I think less than 15 minutes.

Here’s a video for reference:

The Temple of IRON!

26 Feb

All of us have our temples. Places we go to find peace, to clear our minds, to revitalize our insides.

For some, the bedroom is a sanctuary from the stresses of life. For others, it may be the library, a park, the kitchen, bathtub, and so on. For me, it’s the gym. I know it’s an unlikely comparison. To many people the gym inspires anxiety and resentment, not feelings of peace and invigoration. But I feel strong and productive when I’m there, so it is my place of “worship.”

But what do you do when your temple shuts down, or gets turned into something that’s no longer your place of refuge?

That happened to me when the gym I had gone to since I was 16 closed down. The next closest option was a perpetually over-crowded LA Fitness. It was not an adequate substitute. As I’ve mentioned before, you practically have to wait in line to use the equipment there, and finding a matching pair of dumbbells is near impossible. As a result, I started working out less because I couldn’t stand being there.

And I realized how important it is to like your temple.

I needed to find a new gym, but wasn’t interested in another commercial chain. I ended up buying a Groupon for a crossfit class at an independently-owned gym, and I am SO HAPPY I did. I love this gym. Yes, it is small and a little bit dingy, but I like that. It’s never too crowded, and I’ve never had to wait in line for the squat rack while some dude was curling the bar. The place is Thump Fight Gym, and they also have a ton of classes. The vibe is super friendly, and I’m really digging the crossfit classes (that is a whole other post waiting to happen).

No more stressing before the gym or annoyance while I’m there. Being at Thump really is a pleasure.

So that being said, I got in an early workout recently. My strength had really dwindled the past few months, and I’m so happy that within just a few weeks of consistent training, I’m almost back to where I was before.

Lifting weights is fun and calluses are fun to pick.

Lifting weights is fun and calluses are fun to pick.

Here was my workout:

Squats: 5×5 120 lbs
DB push press: 1×8 30 lbs each, 4×5 35 lbs each
Chin-ups: 8×3
DB chest press on flat bench: 3×7 40 lbs each
Inverted push-ups/BW row/whatever you wanna call ‘em: 3×8 bodyweight

Feels good, man.

Pretty Muddy Miami 2012

30 Jan

I am usually a punctual person, but apparently not when it comes to blogging.

I’m more than TWO MONTHS late on this post! I know, terrible. But better late than never?

So, back in November I did the Pretty Muddy Women’s Run in Miami. It’s a women’s-only 5K race with obstacles and of course, lots of mud. (Although running around the mud is an option, but what’s the fun in that?)

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This was my second 5K. As I’ve mentioned before I’m not much of a runner, but I really enjoy these themed races. This one was a lot of fun, especially since my friend OTAKITTY accompanied me.

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Pretty Muddy took place in Amelia Earhart park, which is quite nice. We started off in an open field then made our way into a forest trail. This is a great race for beginners because it’s friendly and non-competitive. Some obstacles were climbing over a net, climbing over and under wooden barracks, and crawling through muddy tunnels. I enjoyed it. I just wish the obstacles were a little harder, but that’s just me.

2012-PRETTY-MUDDY_miami-mud-race_23

And I’ve gotta say, that was some nice mud. I mentioned to the social media coordinator (don’t quote me on that title; I made it up) Courtney Norman that the mud reminded me of chocolate fudge, and she said they actually brought in special top soil for the ladies to crawl through. Makes sense. The regular ground there would NOT be pleasant to crawl through (think rocks…lots of evil, little rocks). The top soil was really thick and soft and squishy…kind of what you’d expect crawling through fudge would be like, except less delicious. Although I can’t confirm that for sure….

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I completely ruined my shoes, but they were like 5 years old anyway.

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There were superheroes.

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Tutus.

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And costumes of all kinds.

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Now, the clean up afterward was interesting. Imagine a big pit with a bunch of chicks hosing mud off themselves. My kinda party, man. I have no shame and got right in there. (Unfortunately there were no pictures of this, hah.)

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After the race Otakitty and I went to a Mexican restaurant to re-fuel. All-in-all it was a morning well-spent. And who knows…there may be more 5Ks to come!

Racin’!

24 Oct

This past weekend  I did something I never thought I would do.

 

I ran a 5k race. Specifically, the Color Run.

 

What I liked about this race is that speed and endurance aren’t important. It’s all about having fun. Which was good for me, because let’s just say I didn’t exactly train for this race. I’m not much of a runner. In fact, I don’t think I’ve run 5k in close to 5 years!

 

Before with some friends.

 

Pre-race with Lisa and Henry.

So at every kilometer there’s a station where you get doused in COLOR! (I believe it’s cornstarch.) Racers wear a white shirt and are encouraged to get covered in color. I did my best to color-fy myself, but by the end of the race I looked more like I had rolled around in mud than ran through a rainbow.

The first color station–orange, aka Jersey Shore tanning salon.

 

Lisa fully Snooki-fied.

I was surprised at how well I did, considering that I didn’t train at all. My friend Lisa and I made it through in about 33 minutes (don’t have the exact time because I forgot to stop my watch  right away) with just two or three walking breaks. I don’t think I would have been able to do that well without her. She really helped me power through it. Although I paid for it the next two days. I was sore all over and my knee was achy. Oops. Oh well. I had a good time and I’m recovered now!

 

Color party!

 

More color. *cough*

Now, thanks to another friend, I’m doing ANOTHER 5K, and I expect to get even dirtier in this one. It’s the Pretty Muddy Women’s Only Run! According to the website, there will be architectural obstacles, lots of mud, and an epic finish line party. (I hope they have margaritas.)

 

While I don’t see myself jumping on the race bandwagon, I am hyped about Pretty Muddy. Probably because it involves more than just running. Check out this video from the Chicago race.

 

I’m ‘bout it, ‘bout it.

 

If you’re in Miami and would like to register, I have good news for you! Enter the code fit-geek when you sign up and you’ll get $10 off. This code is good up until two weeks before the race, which is Nov. 17. That means you have till Nov. 3 to sign up.

 

Hope to see you some of you there!

Just ’cause I can.

 

Disclaimer: I was compensated for this post but the opinions are my own.

Not so fast: Is my metabolism making me fat?

24 Sep

Note: This is an article I wrote as part of a job application (didn’t get the gig). I spent a butt-load of time looking up research for it, so I felt it would be a waste if it never saw the light of day. Even though it’s, you know, A REJECT.

 

When the scale won’t budge it’s easy to chalk it up to a slow metabolism. What about that guy who lives off doughnuts and never seems to gain a pound? He must have a fast metabolism, right? Well, not exactly. The answer is a little complicated, but the good news is that being overweight doesn’t have to be a life sentence.

Why It Matters

Metabolism is the set of chemical reactions that happen in our body to convert food into energy. This process helps to fuel all of the functions we need to live, from breathing to keeping our heart beating. Another way of thinking of metabolism is total daily energy expenditure (TDEE), which accounts for all the calories we burn in a day.

Lots of things can influence TDEE, like body composition (how much fat and muscle a person has), age, activity, and how much someone eats. The more muscle someone has, the more calories they require to maintain that muscle[1]. Younger people also tend to have higher metabolisms[2].

Based on these factors, everyone has a unique TDEE, and thus, a unique calorie requirement[3]. While our metabolisms are special snowflakes with their own individual energy needs, the number of calories we burn is still largely dependent on our diet and activity levels. In most cases, excess weight is due to eating too much and/or moving too little[4]. Slow metabolisms are rare and usually not the cause of obesity.

“I don’t really believe in ‘fast’ or ‘slow’ metabolism. It’s much more complicated than that,” says Krista Scott-Dixon, PhD, research director for the Healthy Food Bank and creator of women’s weightlifting site, stumptuous.com. “In fact, if your bodyweight is higher, you are just as likely to have a “fast” metabolism — because you probably have more lean body mass (including bone density) to carry a larger body around, and your body has to make a larger system function properly.”

You’re the Boss — The Answer/The debate

There are situations where hard work doesn’t pay off. When people have hormonal issues such as hypothyroidism or Cushing syndrome it’s much more difficult to lose weight. There are also certain genes that predispose folks to be overweight or obese.

The good news is that thyroid disorders can be treated and genes only play small role in determining weight[5][6]. Ultimately, we do have control over our body size, even those who have a genetic predisposition to be heavy.

To lose weight, one must burn more calories than they take in, either through reducing the amount they eat, exercising more, or a combination of the two. It’s the good ol’ calories in vs. calories out model[7]. There are also certain methods that increase metabolism. But for the most part, eating healthy and being active are the best choices for staying trim[8].

Further Resources:  

  1. Metabolic Effect — Is Your Metabolism Broken?
  2. Time — Can Exercise Trump Genetics?
  3. Precision Nutrition — Genes vs. Workout Program
  4. Mayo Clinic: Metabolism And Weight-loss: How You Burn Calories


Works Cited:
1. Factors influencing variation in basal metabolic rate including fat-free mass, fat mass, age, and circulating thyroxin but not sex, circulating leptin, or triiodothyronine. Johnstone, AM., Murison, SD., Duncan, JS., et al. Aberdeen Centre for Energy Regulation and Obesity, Aberdeen, Scotland, United Kingdom. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2005 Nov; 82(5):941-8.
2. Energy requirements and aging. Roberts, SB., Dallal, GE. Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, Tufts University, Boston, Massachusetts. Public Health Nutrition, 2005 Oct;8(7A):1028-36.
3. Human energy expenditure in affluent societies: an analysis of 574 doubly-labelled water measurements. Black, AE., Coward, WA., Cole, TJ., et al. Dunn Clinical Nutrition Centre, Cambridge, United Kingdom. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1996 Feb;50(2):72-92.
4. Understanding and addressing the epidemic of obesity: An energy balance perspective. Hill, JO. Center for Human Nutrition, University of Colorado School of Medicine, Denver, Colorado. Endocrine Reviews, 2006 Dec;27(7):750-61.
5. Genetic determinants of obesity. Current issues (In German).  Hebebrand, J., Bammann, K., Hinney, A. Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, University of Duisburg-Essen, Essen, Germany. Bundesgesundheitsblatt Gesundheitsforschung Gesundheitsschutz, 2010 July;53(7):674-80.
6. Polygenic obesity in humans. Hinney, A., Hebebrand J., Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, University of Duisburg-Essen, Essen, Germany. Obesity Facts, 2008:1(1);35-42.
7. Comparison of weight-loss diets with different compositions of fat, protein, and carbohydrates. Sacks, FM., Bray, GA., Carey, VJ. Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts. The New England Journal of Medicine, 2009 Feb;360(9):859-73.
8. Who does not gain weight? Prevalence and predictors of weight maintenance in young women. Ball, K., Brown, W., Crawford, D. Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition Research, Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia. International journal of obesity, 2002;26(12):1570-78.

Fitness & Friends

9 Apr

One of the most satisfying feelings for me is making a real connection with another human being. On par with that is the sense of belonging, laughing, helping other people, and making a difference.

A very big reason why I lead a free boot camp class every Sunday is because it helps me experience these things. It makes me feel like I’ve had a positive influence on other people. I get to hang out with friends and socialize. We’re doing something constructive. And as much as I love to drink (my Instagram feed is practically a shrine to Bacchus), I like that boot camp is one of the few social settings that doesn’t involve alcohol. Usually.

The whole thing has me thinking about how important a sense of community is. When I first started doing the boot camp classes, I was skeptical about how many people would show up. I’m sure there are a thousand other things my friends would rather be doing on a Sunday afternoon than burpees. But the same people kept coming back. And I think it’s because most everyone is friends, and in addition to working out, it seems like people are having a good time. I’m sure it being free helps too, hah.

Then I think about my self defense class, and how one of the reasons I’ve attended for so long is because I feel like I’m friends with everyone there.

As an introvert who has only recently adopted extroverted tendencies, I’ve just begun to realize how strong and fulfilling social bonds can be, and how much influence they can have. For instance, a job that you otherwise would not care about is exponentially more pleasant when you have close friendships there.

Before I started experimenting with these boot camp-styled workouts, I was strictly a solo exerciser. And that’s fine, even preferable for me most of the time. Working out by myself is much quicker and more efficient than working out with a partner. Once you add someone else into the equation, you have to consider their level of fitness compared to yours and whether they’re interested in doing the same workout as you and so on. I’m just much more focused when I workout by myself.

But working out with friends has been fulfilling. I hope to continue doing it, and I hope everyone enjoys it as much as I do.

As of right now, I’d like to make more of an effort to talk to everyone and perhaps try to coordinate a group dinner or barbecue once a month or so.

See, working out can be fun! :P

Summertime and the living’s easy.

25 Mar

I’m a fan of a metaphors.

Daydreaming while I was driving home from the gym, it occurred to me that I’m in the summer years of my life. The newness and naivete of spring have passed, and the age of summer with its sun-soaked revelry and earthly abundance is well in progress. To me, being at this juncture means enjoying life and experiencing it to its fullest. While I feel that I will always at my core be a lighthearted person, now is probably the time that trait will flourish the most. Summer is the time to frolic and feast and explore, and although sometimes those thunderstorms may ruin it (*cough my last post cough*), they never last too long.

Call me cheesy, but I found something very comforting and endearing in that thought. In that moment it really made sense to me.

This quote by Yoko Ono also came to mind:
“Spring passes and one remembers one’s innocence. Summer passes and one remembers one’s exuberance. Autumn passes and one remembers one’s reverence. Winter passes and one remembers one’s perseverance.”

Yes, I think I need to indulge my exuberance more.

The above was brought to you by post-workout endorphins. Who says you need drugs?! But seriously, I forgot how nice that natural pick-me-up is. While I was thinking all that stuff I was like…”Wait. I’m…in a good mood. And thinking happy thoughts. OMG ENDORPHINS!” Which was good, because a few minutes prior I felt light-headed and kind of foggy. Translation: I had a really good, intense workout.

So ANYWAY. Here’s a video from last week of me pressing 35 lbs overhead for the first time. I usually use 30s. This made me very happy.

Notice me grimacing in the mirror.

This is another video of me squatting. I was really reluctant to post it because my form is not great. I’m squatting 120 lbs and that’s pretty heavy for me, considering I weigh about 115. You’ll notice that I’m bringing my hips up a little too soon on the way back up, especially on the last rep. I don’t have this problem when I go lighter, so it probably has a lot to do with the weight being heavy. I would like to fix this, although I’m not entirely sure HOW.

There might also be some muscle imbalances that are causing this specific issue. But alas, a Google search did not give me a definitive answer. So for now I’m going a little lighter with the weight, adding front squats to my routine and foam rolling and stretching all the muscles in my legs (and my glutes.)

As I’ve mentioned before, your weight lifting form is an evolving thing. It will probably never be perfect, but I think always striving to improve is what keeps it interesting. Honestly, I was a little disappointed that my form is kind of mediocre even after years of practice, but at the same time it kind of rejuvenated me by giving me a new challenge to tackle.

So yeah, BOOYAH!

PS. I am on the Facebooks now. Like me! PLEASE, ALL I WANT IS FOR YOU TO LIKE ME!

Should you correct a stranger’s form at the gym?

20 Feb

Wow. Excuse me while I clean up the dust bunnies and cobwebs that have collected here during my absense.

In the meantime, here’s a story from today.

Earlier at the gym I did a back workout, followed by a cardio finisher (specifically the one found here).

I was in the bathroom right before I was about to jump on the treadmill for Tabata intervals, when a woman stopped me.

“Excuse me, I’ve noticed that you do a lot of the right exercises, but it seems like sometimes you don’t take the time to do them with fully correct form.”

Oh boy. Here we go. I noticed myself getting defensive, but kept my cool.

“Like what?” I asked.

She told me that I lean back too much while doing chin-ups, instead of staying straight, and that I drop down too fast. She also mentioned that I should bring my back knee lower when I do jump lunges.

I was immediately annoyed and started running through excuses in my mind, like: Keeping my body straight while I do chin-ups is something I already know that I need to work on. Even for the majority of experienced lifters, very few have 100% perfect form. It’s one of those things where there is almost always room for improvement. And as for the jump lunges, I noticed that I was keeping my back knee kind of high and made an effort to drop it for a few reps, but this was cardio and I was more focused on breathing and trying not to have a heart attack.

The lady made it very clear that she wasn’t trying to criticize me, but I still felt nit-picked. Partially because I already know I need to improve those things. But mostly because of my ego. I know that the learning process will never stop, but I feel pretty well-informed when it comes to exercise form. So when someone challenges that, I have to make an effort to silence that little voice in my head that says, Well who do YOU think you are?

Once I got a hold of my defensiveness I was able to accept that she was just trying to be helpful. And I had to admit that she had a point. I get lazy about my form sometimes, and that’s something I really should avoid if I want to be strong and injury-free. All the things that I told myself to justify my less than great form were, as I said, excuses. Self-defense mechanisms, yanno?

So as you can see, going up to people and correcting their form in the gym is a touchy subject, especially if you aren’t a trainer.

This is the first time I’m mentioning this, but I’m actually studying to get certified as a personal trainer by the NASM. The exchange I had with this women is actually kind of interesting to me, because it’s addressed in a chapter about customer service.

Basically, the book says that as a personal trainer, there is a very specific way to approach people to correct their form. If you say things like, “Can I help you with that?” or “Do you mind if I show you the right way to do it?” it is extremely off-putting to the other person because it challenges their personal beliefs. And I can totally see why. People don’t like to be told they’re wrong. And you might embarrass them or make them feel self conscious.

That’s a big part of the reason why I never go up to anyone in the gym and try to correct their form. One, I’m not a personal trainer. Two, it’s none of my business. Three, there’s a good chance I’m going to offend them.

I’d like it if people chimed in on this. I know we’d all benefit from not getting defensive when someone corrects us, but is there ever a time when a person should keep their comments to their selves?

Also, I’m genuinely curious to know if other people get lazy about their form!

Reader Q&A: To Crunch or Not to Crunch?

1 Feb

I was having a few drinks with friends on Saturday night when Joe asked me why I don’t do more crunches in boot camp.

Some arguing and drunken finger pointing ensued. He didn’t believe me when I said that crunches were a waste of time for building ABZ and strengthening your core. So I decided to do my first ever…

READER Q&A

Only, it’s not so much a Q&A as it is an I told you so, but you know. Semantics.

So, to answer Joe’s question in a more sober manner:

As I mentioned, I don’t do crunches in the boot camp class because I think they are a waste of time.

That’s because they mostly only work your rectus abdominis, aka abs/the six pack.

But, your core is made up of much more than just your abs. There are also the lower back muscles (back extensors and quadratus lumborum), the upper back muscles (latissumus dorsi) and a few others (check out the link below for more details.) Having a strong core is important because it keeps your spine stabilized as you move. Only training the abs with crunches is not going to reach those deep-down muscles that are responsible for protecting your spine.
(Source)

All my inside trunk muscles are allowing me to do this without royally screwing up my back. HardCORE. Get it? Derp...

Also, you can do all the core and ab work you want, but that six pack is not going to show unless you drop the fat on top of it first. That, my friends, is pretty much dependent on your diet. And as you should all know by now, you can’t spot reduce. Meaning that doing a million crunches is NOT going to get rid of your pooch. Only a smart diet will.

Furthermore, crunches can possibly damage your back. When you do them, you are flexing your back in an unnatural position that can lead to disc herniation. Think about it: when do you ever need to do something in real life that mimics the movement you do when you crunch? Never. If anything, you’re supposed to keep your back straight as often as possible, not bend it.
(Source)

So how do you strengthen your core?

By doing compound movements, like push-ups, chin-ups and squats. Planks and side planks are also good. Any exercise that requires you to keep your back straight is key.

The good thing about compound movements is that they work other body parts too, so you get more bang for your buck. Here is a really good (albiet technical and science-y) article about how much abdominal activity is generated by different exercises. The winner? Chin-ups for the “six pack muscles!”

Still can't aim for shit though.

So I know having a strong core doesn’t sound as sexy as FLAT, CHISELED ABZZZ. But you will get a nice set of visible abs if you train your core and get your body fat percentage low enough.

I care about making the boot campers stronger, not piddling about doing the latest fitness fad just because it’s popular. That’s why I focus on functional movements that work multiple muscle groups.

That’s not to say that you have to strictly avoid doing crunches. Go ahead and do them if you’d like. They’re certainly not the end of the world. I just think you can do better.

And if you are going to crunch, for goodness sake, do it right:
Lie down with one leg flat and the other leg bent at the knee with the sole of your foot on the floor. Place your hands under your lower back for support. And only lift your head and shoulders.

More food for thought:
Is Your Ab Workout Hurting Your Back?
Are Crunches Worth the Effort?

Channel Your Inner Sarah Connor

26 Jan

“How the hell did you learn how to do that?”

I looked up to see a girl standing two feet in front of me. I hadn’t even noticed her walk up while I was entering the number of chin-ups I did into my phone. Normally, I don’t like interruptions, but I was happy to address this one.

Me: “Practice. And heavy weights.”

Girl: “I don’t think I could ever do that.”

Me: “You could if you really wanted to. You just have to keep trying.”

Most awkward place to do a chin-up ever.

Chin-ups are the one thing I get the most compliments on at the gym, hands down. The men congratulate me for being strong, and the women gasp and tell me that I’m awesome, but they’d never be able to do it. I call bullshit.

Just ask Sarah Connor:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XE-rT9sXPgI

Ladies, you CAN do chin-ups and pull-ups if you set your mind to it. There is nothing special about me that makes me able to do chins*, except that I’m consistent with my training. I remember a few years ago doing an unassisted chin-up seemed almost impossible, so I never bothered trying. Funny how so many of us lose the battle before even stepping into the ring.

But I still wanted to be able to do them one day, so I kept training my back (and the rest of me) with weights, going progressively heavier as time went on. I remember doing a lot of one-arm dumbbell rows and lat pulldowns. Then one day I was walking along a sidewalk marked with different fitness stops, one of them being chin/pull-up bars. On a whim, I tried to do a chin-up, and I did TWO! I was so shocked and excited that I was actually able to do them. That motivation was all the fuel I needed to start practicing chin-ups regularly.

Today I did a total of 25 chin-ups, broken up between 5 sets. I would eventually like to be able to knock out 15 of them in one rep, but all in due time. I’d also like to improve the number of pull-ups I can do.

(Chin-ups are done with your palms either facing you or facing each other if you can find a parallel bar. Pull-ups are done with palms facing out and usually in a wider grip than chin-ups.)

If you would like to be able to do chin-ups and pull-ups, please at least try! It’s not easy, and it doesn’t happen overnight, but it is SO rewarding when you finally pump out your first one. I think chins and pull-ups are two of the most rewarding exercises for women to accomplish because we have a tendency to dismiss all the potential strength our upper bodies posses.

Here are a few tips:
-Train your back with heavy weights. Use one-arm rows, barbell rows, cable rows, etc.
-Having a strong core is important. Be sure to train it with planks and compound exercises like squats, push-ups, chest presses and rows.
-Try doing band-assisted chin-ups, or if your gym has one, use the assisted pull-up machine and gradually lower the weight.
-Do inverted push-ups. These are a great way to gradually introduce your body to the movement. As you get stronger, move the bar up higher so you become more vertical.
-Make sure your muscles are firing correctly. You shouldn’t be relying on your arms to pull you up, but rather, your back. One way to test this is to hang completely limp from a bar. Your arms should be fully extended and relaxed. Now without using your arms at all, shrug. This is how the beginning of a pull up/chin up should be done. When you shrug from a dead hang, you are firing from your lats. If you can’t do this, you are probably relying too much on your arms to pull you.

And here’s a great article on learning to do chins and pull-ups, and increasing the number you can do.

*Your weight is a factor in how easy/difficult it will be for you to do chin-ups. Obviously, the heavier you are, the harder it will be. But please don’t let this discourage you! Think of it this way, even if you pump out 1 chin-up at 160+ lbs, that is an awesome one-rep max. The link I posted above says that ideally women should be 20% body fat to do chin-ups, but I am probably around 24-25% body fat and can do them no problem.

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