Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Best Exercises Series: Pull Ups and Overhead Press

Marvin Eder at a body weight of 198lbs was one of the strongest men in the world in the 1940s-1960's.  He did 8 pull ups with 200lbs strapped around his waist!  Pull ups are another exercises that gym goers avoid almost entirely.  A big reason is that pull ups are one of the hardest exercises because they work almost every muscle in your upper body including giving your abs one heck of a workout.  

Standing overhead presses is probably one of the first exercises cavemen did.  They were sitting around the cave and one looked at the other and said, "I bet I could lift that rock over my head more times than you."  Doing a standing overhead press works all of the opposing muscles of a pull up.  Both exercises are best done when you alternate between them. Perform one set of pull ups to failure then immediately do a set of standing overhead presses to failure.  Then repeat. 2 sets each are all that is needed.

Here's how to do them:

Pull Ups  

Go to the pull up bar, grab it with an underhand grip no wider than shoulder width.  Start in the "dead hang" position, pull up until your chin is above the bar, preferably pull the bar to your upper chest.  Pause slightly in the top position, the slowly lower under control back to the dead hang position.  Make sure you go all the way down, NO halfway down pull ups.  Its better to do 5 the right way than 10 only going halfway down. Repeat as many times as you can. Avoid swinging or kicking your legs out.

Lets say you can't do any pull ups,  in that case just do the lowering or negative portion of the exercise.  Use a step so that you can start in the "UP" position, then just lower yourself slowly taking approximately 4 seconds.  Do as many as you can under control, when you start to lower and your arms are yanked straight then stop.  You will build up your strength very quickly and you'll be doing full pull ups in no time.

Some of you might be able to do 10 full pull ups in good form already, add a 25lb weight to your waist from a weight belt to increase the intensity.  Work up to doing 10 reps with a 50lb weight strapped to your waist.

Note: If you aren't good at pull ups, many people think that substituting  them with the seated pulldown machine will give the same results.  Pull ups and the pulldown machine have no relation to each other, two completely different exercises.  It reminds of when I was training for OCS and I asked my OSO, "How do I get better at pull ups" and he replied "Do pull ups"!   

Standing Overhead Press:

Space your hands so that when your upper arm is parallel to the ground, your lower arm is at a 90 degree angle and that's where you grab the barbell.  This way puts the ideal amount of stimulation on the shoulders and triceps.  Holding the bar on your front shoulders, unrack the bar, tighten abs and stand with good posture.  Without leaning back slowly press the weight overhead taking approximately 2 secs until your arms straight but not locked out.  Begin to lower immediately taking 4 secs to the starting position, pause then repeat.   As you get tired watch your form so that you don't lean back and put unnecessary stress on your lower back.

Build your strength so that you're doing 10 reps at 120lbs of standing overhead presses.  There's no need to add any isolation exercises for your shoulders until you've built up your strength to this level.