As the weather warms up, the thought of baring your bat wings may be slightly terrifying. If you aren’t blessed with sleek and powerful arms like Michelle Obama and Kelly Ripa, we’ve got a solution that’ll get your biceps and triceps tank-top ready: Mastering the pull-up.
Upper arm lifts in women have increased more than 4,000 percent in just over a decade, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. But instead of fighting flab with expensive and potentially risky procedures, all you need to do is chin up—literally. Doing a proper pull-up will help you work your biceps, lats, forearms and chest. Here are some tips on how to get started and eventually perfect this move whether you’re at the gym, home or outdoors:
At the Gym:
Learn how to lift your own weight.
You wouldn’t start doing bicep curls for the first time using 75 lb barbells, would you? No, you’d try 5 lb weights and then work your way up. So before you attempt to lift your own body weight, first find an assisted-pull up machine at the gym to start with less weight than what you actually weigh. On the machine, you start with a lot of weight, then go down as you get stronger. This may sound counterintuitive, but the weight you put on the machine is actually balancing your weight so you can lift yourself. (So if you weigh 100 lbs, and you put 75 lbs on the machine, you are really only lifting 25lbs.)
Find a weight where you can lift yourself 8 times.
Do it 3 times a week until you can lift yourself 12 times or more, then put less weight on the machine so you are lifting more of yourself. Keep doing the cycle each week until you can lift yourself 12 times, then adjust. Play with the grips and see if you’re more comfortable doing it with your hands facing towards or away from you. Once you get down to only having to put about 25 lbs on the machine, you are ready to try to pull yourself up.
Find a bar.
You can buy a pull-up bar that hooks over your doorway, or if you live near a playground, you can also do this there (pictured). Start by hanging at the bottom of the bar with your arms extended. Try doing it while your hands face you and then away from you.
Hang for 10 seconds at a time in 3 sets. When you can do that, get up to the top of the bar with your chin above it and arms bent.
Hang above the bar in 10 second intervals before lowering down.
Do 3 sets for a week or more until you can do it completely.
Do a reverse pull up.
Start at the top of the bar with your chin over it, and slowly lower yourself down with control. Get off the bar, and use a step or ladder to boost yourself back to the top. Repeat this 10 times for 3 sets for a few days/weeks until you can do it more easily.
Lift yourself halfway up.
Finally, jump up to the bar with your hands wrapped around it, either hands facing away or towards you—whichever way you felt strongest as you practiced—and lift yourself halfway up. Do this a a few times each workout until you grunt and groan and get all the way over. Then start doing 10 at a time for 3 sets a day and work your glorious guns this way each time you do a muscle workout.
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