Towel pull-ups improved my pull-up max by 50%!

Since completing my full-time national service in the army in 2006, I haven’t managed to do more than 12 pull-ups, generally fluctuating between a max of 10 and 12 (I could just about do about 13 in 2006), though I’ve maintained a pretty decent ready-for-eight-at-any-time standard (i.e. if you asked me to do pull-ups I’d be able to crank out eight with relative ease).

Back while I was still in the army, I’d noticed that one of my major pull-up weaknesses was forearm strength and endurance. I found that though my arms felt like they could probably do a couple more, my grip would let up and I’d drop.

In the last couple of months though, I re-discovered the towel pull-up (re-discovered because I’d read about it before but didn’t do anything about it then). And I believe it single-handedly allowed me to finally break my 13 pull-up barrier, giving me a ready-for-twelve-at-any-time standard, and a max of 15.

After a few weeks of making it part of my after-run pull-up routine (I’d generally end my runs at “fitness parks” where pull-up bars were available), I realized that I could do crank out 12 with relative ease. One night, feeling rather adventurous, I decided to see just how many I could do, and found to my astonishment that I could do 15; two more than my all-time maximum, and three more than I’d ever managed to do I the last seven years.

By improving my greatest pull-up weakness (grip/forearm-strength), I improved my pull-up max by about 50%. What is even more exciting is the fact that breaking down this barrier seems to have unlocked a lot of my pull-up potential.

For example, I’d previously avoided this thing called “ladder training”, where I’ll do multiple sets of pull-ups, with each set “climbing” up in the number of pull-ups being done (here’s more on ladder training).

I’d often had to give up halfway because of painfully fatigued forearms. But for the first time last week, I tried it  and had to give up because my whole damn upper body was killing me. It was beautiful.

It’s like playing a game where I was required to gain “tickets” to unlock a stage, and after seven long years I’ve finally gained the tickets, unlocked the stage, and finding I’m in a whole new world of pull-up fun.

Yes, it’s that exciting.

PS: Happy 2014 and happy training!

Onwards and forwards to a 20 pull-up max in 2014!

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