Pull-ups are pretty much the bane of my existence. I make burpees my bitch and can run a mile like a mofo, but if you put a pull-up bar in front of me, I might as well raise a white flag in a sad show of surrender.
Pull-ups may be insanely hard, but don't let that deter you. With the right know-how, you can tackle the pull-up bar like a champ and sculpt the upper body of... well, yourself. Just a better, stronger self. That's worth something, right?
Here's why pull-ups are so effing hard
Not to state the obvious or anything, but one of the main reasons pull-ups are so challenging is that they force you to lift your entire body weight using nothing but your upper body. If you weigh 150lb, you're lifting 150lb. If you weigh 200lb, you're lifting 200lb.
That's no small feat.
Plus, doing a pull-up properly requires intense engagement of your back muscles -- particularly your latissimus dorsi -- and as Erick Avila, the owner of Ergogenic Health, points out, pull-ups have a way of highlighting all the weaknesses associated with a sedentary lifestyle. Namely, poor back strength: "Typically because of work and school, we're in slouched positions with our back muscles unengaged. In addition to this, many people tend to overlook developing their back muscles and instead spend time training the 'beach muscles' like the chest and biceps," he says.
As much as I hate to break it to you, all those bench presses and biceps curls aren't going to automatically translate to success on the pull-up bar.
It's not just weight and poor muscle strength that make pull-ups hard; mechanics and physics play a significant role as well. Dr. Matt Tanneberg, a sports chiropractor and certified strength and conditioning specialist, points out that, "Pull-ups force you to control your body weight in multiple planes. During a pull-up, you're pulling your weight up in one direction, and you're forced to stabilize your core to reduce swinging motion. This means you're not only working your upper body's pulling muscles (lats and biceps), but also your core."