Pull-ups, Chest Exercises and Hammer Curls

"I just read your article at Bodybuilding.com about back exercises. Now I've noticed that almost every routine out there requires or suggests pull-ups. While I understand the importance and what you can gain from performing pull-ups, I myself do not have the strength to incorporate them into my own routine.

"What do you suggest I do to gain the strength to do so? I feel that maybe it is a matter of me losing more weight? But what else is there to do beside that? Thank you in advance for any advice, and I do appreciate your time."

Dante Romandia

My Answer- If you're overweight, then yes, losing the excess bodyfat will make it easier for you to do pull-ups. Concentrate on losing weight first, then come back to pull-up training. Once you're down to a respectable and trim weight, then I suggest the following:

1) Do some partner assisted pull-ups. This will teach your body how to do pull-ups, but you have to have a partner that gives you just the right amount of assistance. If he's essentially heaving you up every time, and you're doing jack shit, then there's really no point. So make sure your partner gives you the minimal amount of assistance to help you with the pull-ups.

2) If you can, then start out with pull-ups with a narrow and neutral grip. In other words, palms facing each other. This is the easiest form of pull-ups.

3) Do some hanging inverted rows. Most people substitute this exercise for pull-ups if they can't do pull-ups or can't do enough repetitions of them. This exercise doesn't have the greatest carryover to pull-ups, but it will teach you how to move your body from a hanging position.

"I was reading your ectomorph article about proper training. I weigh-in at around 143-145 lbs. I've gained approximately 25 lbs. in the past year, give or take. In the beginning, I used to only train chest with one to two exercises (bench press, or flyes, or even incline).

"In your article, it states that I should typically concentrate on only one exercise per bodypart. I've been training chest with at least four to five (flat bench, flat/incline flyes, cable crossovers, decline press, and incline press), and I'm assuming, according to your post, that I'm definitely overtraining my chest.

"Should I really only concentrate on only one core exercise for my chest? Wouldn't that decrease the progress I've made with my lower chest if I was only to train with flat bench? I'm not a beginner, I guess, since I've been doing this for a little over a year. So I'm not sure if this pertains to me or not. I would really appreciate your help and guidance on this topic. Hope all goes well, thank you."

Sean Cho

My Answer- You make the most progess on the muscles and exercises trained first in a session. After that first exercise, you're receiving diminishing returns from succeeding exercises. Do yourself a favor and choose one exercise for the chest and simply change the exercise from workout to workout. Don't worry, you won't lose size on your lower pecs:

Workout #1- flat bench barbell press
Workout #2- incline bench barbell press
Workout #3- decline bench barbell press

"When I was younger (15 years ago), I believe I damaged some nerves on the fleshy part of my palm at the base of my right thumb. I was curling a lot of weight and then this stinging/tinge feeling came from the fleshy part of my palm below the thumb. It has never completely healed.

"In order for me to avoid the pain when I curl heavy weights with my right arm, I have just been doing Hammer Curls. With lighter weights, I can do the traditional curl, but I don’t get a good bicep workout like that. Will the hammer curl suffice?"

- Guy C.

My Answer- If you haven't done so, then you should get that checked out by a doctor. In the meantime, hammer curls with heavy weight and traditional curls with light weight is fine. If anything, you will develop a greater biceps "peak" by using a hammer grip, since you're working the brachialis muscle. Just stay with the heavier weights and mix up the angles. Incline hammer curls are always good:

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