Losing Weight, Looking Fatter: Why each diet makes it worse

Losing Weight, Looking Fatter: Why each diet makes it worse

Between your skin and bones, there’s muscle and fat. If you’re over the age of 20 (yes…20!), and have been consistently inactive, your body will naturally gain fat and lose muscle when not on a lifting and/or healthy (higher protein) eating regimen. This happens as a result of being sedentary, and not engaging muscles. Many of us set the same goal year after year to lose weight.  But as the years go by, we're noticing that every time weight loss occurs, the end result is a physique that looks different attempt to attempt. You may even think “I'm looking fatter than I did last time I was this weight.” But why?

(Watch the full replay for answers to this and other questions. Broadcast recap below video…) 


WEIGHT Loss Doesn't Equal FAT Loss

It's often assumed (*cough* ladies) that there’s no reason to have muscle — if we don’t want to be ripped, or look “manly.” (Really, ladies?…1990 called and wants it theories back).  We think that as long as we’re getting smaller, there's no point in lifting (read: gaining or preserving muscle mass).  While we may have been able to fool ourselves into believing this at 22, eventually we're faced with reality: muscle equals metabolism.  Having less of one, means lowering the other.  The more times we diet, the more muscle is lost, and fat is gained.  If the weight loss stints are really quick, we've just increased our odds.

The faster weight comes off, the more likely it is that we’re experiencing muscle loss and not just fat loss. The more yo-yoing our body does, the more weight we gain each time. This means we need to lose more weight each time, with more of the loss likely being from muscle mass. We start to notice that we look softer, and all that cardio we used to do, doesn’t “work” anymore.

Time to face the facts: Quick-fix diets will never “work.” The *temporary* WEIGHT LOSS primes you for FAT GAIN

Time to face the facts: Quick-fix diets will never “work.” The *temporary* WEIGHT LOSS primes you for FAT GAIN

Gaining fat isn’t a difficult job.  Our bodies are good at doing so without us even trying. (I doubt I just blew your mind, there, LOL.)  To gain muscle, however, we must put forth a conscious effort. While we may tend to think we have too much fat on our frames, the problem instead may be we just don’t have enough muscle.  Having too little muscle is like drilling for water in the desert, it's gonna take a heck of a lot more effort – which much less rewarding payoff.  Without a sufficient amount of muscle, our “weight loss” goals will never be sustainable for long.  This means that many of us ladies have to get over the fear of weightlifting, and thoughts about how gaining muscle will make us look like a bodybuilder (myth).

Do It Right, or Do It Over

When it comes to fat loss, programs and approaches that may have worked for you in the beginning aren’t necessarily going to work for you in the long run. This is why it's so important to remember to start small if you’re just getting into the swing of fat loss, healthy eating and resistance training.  There are many levels involved to getting to that peak level.  Trying to go straight to the highest level leaves you with little room for plateau adjustments (no trump card to pull!), and typically doesn't provide enough time to develop habits that stick.  So take the time to do it right, instead of constantly doing it over.  Always have another trick up your sleeve.  Pick one thing and nail it before you move onto something else. For example: incorporate more protein (from 90 grams to 120 grams, then 120 grams to 150 grams, etc) in your diet until you master it.

*Side note: Metabolism resets are key if you’re a yo-yo dieter or have been on a low-calorie diet for an extended period of time. It’s easy to get caught up in the scale weight, but the key is to think about the long term. Too much cardio and too little food will absolutely lead to muscle loss. Real progress takes time and requires a realistic perspective. If you/your clients want to get results, they’ve got to start weight lifting. Being skinny doesn’t equal results. Being strong and healthy does.

Cross section of thigh muscle, notice what happens to muscle/fat ratio over the years? Plan of attack must change with age. Preserving/building muscle is essential.

Cross section of thigh muscle, notice what happens to muscle/fat ratio over the years? Plan of attack must change with age. Preserving/building muscle is essential.

Arm Yourself for Sustainable Success

Ask somebody what their ideal end goal physique is and you’ll often hear “I just want to be skinny and not look like a bodybuilder.” By arming yourself with the proper information and knowledge, you can create a program that combines strength training and a proper diet (i.e. adequate protein intake).  Constantly working on those areas (knowledge, lifting, diet) will change your entire perspective on the body transformation process. Gathering information, like taking your own diet history into consideration, can be a very helpful in discovering if you are actually dealing with a muscle deficit. Using this information, you can learn how to train and eat for muscle. Eating around a maintenance level of calories (also known as TDEE) can often prove to be the best approach.

If weight loss were easy, everybody would be running around looking like fitness models. The reality of it is that there’s a science and method behind the madness. In order to create healthy, sustainable weight loss, you’ve got to target the fat mass and preserve/add to the muscle mass.



Newbie Gains: Why Your Workout Isn’t Working Anymore {LIVE Broadcast}

Newbie Gains: Why Your Workout Isn’t Working Anymore {LIVE Broadcast}


Long after the newbie gains had faded, Tracy realized that her low calorie, high cardio lifestyle would never give her the look she wanted. So she took action, moved on, and got the results she was after.

Your go-to “this always works” workout isn't working anymore? uh-oh. Say goodbye to newbie gains…

Newbie gains are what I like to call the “Teenager Phase” of Fat Loss.  This is a period of time, that you can pretty much “rebel” against the basic rules of fat loss, and quite possible still see results.  Put simply, in the beginning of your journey, you can literally do ANYTHING (even if it's the wrong thing) and still get “results.”  Because of this brief period, we can often be led astray and down a longggg path of rebellion.  We tend to shrug off recommendations of not making drastic changes that are unsustainable, or that certain styles of workouts are not the best choice for our goals.  We think “Hey, I'm getting results…I don't know what they're talking about!”

I recount my own embarrassing rebellious phase here. 

During the newbie phase, even the impossible…is possible. Muscles grow super fast, fat melts off, everyone notices all your hard work and praises you for it. You're pretty much floating on cloud nine, feeling invincible, and telling everyone that you know that you've found “the secret” to weight loss (pretty much associating that secret to whatever the random thing is that you're doing.)

Side note…Buyers Beware: I can't even begin to tell you how many weight loss books would remain on the shelves if we removed all those that were written strictly on the basis of one person's newbie gains results.  It's really not the author's fault though…the results are so addicting that they truly believe they've found the cure.

Back to the newbie gains process.  The first six months can be ridiculously blissful, the results are insane and you think that you will FINALLY have the body you've always wanted with just a bit more work.  Right around the six month mark, muscle gains/fat loss progress begins to slow down (though most of us are in the early stages of denial, and push harder).  By month 12, many find that they are actually regaining the fat that they lost in the first six months and any semblance of muscle begins to fade.  What do you do when you realize that your “free pass” has expired? What are the next steps?

If you've been getting phenomenal results for months, then suddenly notice your go-to workout isn't working like it used to…it may be time to follow the “rules” now.

Main points covered in today's broadcast:

~Newbie Gains: The Teenager Phase of Fat Loss

~How to identify when your newbie gains phase is over

~What works now will not work forever. Accept this, don't ignore it.

~Plateaus WILL come, don't get too comfortable/cocky and think that because you're seeing amazing results quickly, that the rules don't apply to you.

~Have a plan (even if tentative/flexible) for what to do at each plateau (again…they WILL come).

~There is no perfect plan.  Once newbie gains fade, your plan must include a variety of phases (discussed in the broadcast)

~True newbie gains may last 1-2 years for some, with the best progress happening after the first few months of acclimation/neural adaptation. When “results” seem to come for this long, many can become easily deceived/convinced that a certain style of working out is the only thing that “works” for them.  Avoid this extreme thinking, and move on when the time calls for it.


BOTTOM LINE: Newbie gains will stop.  Enjoy it while it lasts, but be prepared to execute plan B. 



Hope you enjoy the replay, Fam!



PS. Got questions? I'm on Periscope and Facebook M-F, to answer your FAQs. So make sure you're following @EM2WL and click “live subscribe” to get notifications the second I start the next broadcast!

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Top 10 Supplements for Building Muscle

Top 10 Supplements for Building Muscle

Apple Pie Quest Bar (baked) with Oikos Frozen Greek Yogurt

Apple Pie Quest Bar (baked) with Oikos Frozen Greek Yogurt

Whatever reason YOU started lifting (get stronger, build muscle, lose fat, etc), by now you're likely seeing supplements promoted left and right as “must-haves.”  While it may not be that serious, there's a time and place for everything, including supplementation.  Supps can complete a diet that is perhaps lacking in some departments (vitamins, minerals, etc.), give you more energy, recover faster, or simply give you an edge in your training.  Whether you take preworkout faithfully or are completely new to the world of supplements, there are general supps that can help anyone.  Let's review the top 10 supplements for building muscle, and make sure you get your money's worth at the local vitamin store.

Whey Protein– Great for recovery and repair of muscle tissue. You can get whey protein in the form of a powder or a bar, but it's best to consume in shake form to hit the blood stream fast. Chug a post-workout whey protein shake as soon as possible (30-60 min) after a workout.

Branched Chain Amino Acids – Also referred to as BCAA's, this supplement allows your body to workout longer, as it delays the time it takes to reach exhaustion. It also helps reduce the amount of damage done to the muscles, as well as increasing speed of recovery.  Sip BCAA's throughout your workout for best results.

Creatine – Our bodies naturally produce creatine, but supplementation can help further increase the effect and function. Use of creatine increases shorter bursts of energy and helps boost recovery between back-to-back exercises. Take creatine as part of a pre-workout drink.

Caffeine – Hands down the most common stimulant, caffeine helps delay the onset of fatigue, improves endurance and makes you feel more alert. Because of this, you may work very hard but don't realize how much you're exerting yourself, allowing you to work extra hard. Caffeine is best taken 1/2-1 hour before a workout.

Green Energy – Green energy, or green tea, can help enhance the muscle's ability to recover. Green energy also contains antioxidants, which help reduce inflammation and destroy free-radicals that cause harm to the body. If you are stimulant-sensitive, take green tea earlier in the day.

Nitrates – If you've ever experience a workout pump, that's largely due to your blood filling out your muscles as a result of them being worked. This is referred to as vascular response. Taking nitrates such as arginine, beet root extract and citrulline will help vasodilation and secretion of growth hormone. These ingredients are often found in pre-workout drinks.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids – If you're looking to reduce the amount of damage the muscle tissue undergoes as a result of exercise, Omega-3's can help. DOMS, delayed-onset muscle soreness, has been shown to reduce when Omega-3's are regularly taken. Take some Omega-3's with your morning vitamins.

Carnitine – Much like Omega-3's, carnitine also helps reduce DOMS. Additionally, carnitine helps reduce inflammation and the amount and severity of muscle damage. Take carnitine before or after your workout to enhance muscle growth, performance and recovery.

Beta-Alanine – If you're wanting something to reduce the amount of fatigue you're feeling throughout your workouts, this may be the supplement for you. Beta-alanine also reduces muscle fatigue. This ingredient is often found in pre-workouts or can be added to one that doesn't contain it.

Ginger Root – Experiencing some level of pain after a workout kinda comes with the territory.  By taking ginger root, you can help reduce the amount of pain you experience in the 24-hour window after exercising. Inflammation reduction is a large part of how ginger root keeps muscle soreness at a minimum. It is best taken at interspersed intervals throughout the day.

In addition to following a structured, progressive workout routine, the use of supplements can help improve your performance and perhaps even help take it to the next level. While there are hundreds, maybe even thousands of supplements out there, it can make it very confusing to figure out which ones are best for you and worth the investment.  If you're an advanced lifter, looking to enhance performance in the gym, feed your muscles properly, and reduce the amount of damage/soreness you feel — you may want to give a few of these top ten supplements a try.

As with anything in life, some things work for some people but not for others.  Never feel obligated to take EVERY supplement listed.  Remember that supps are meant to supplement what you're doing in the gym (and the kitchen!), not replace it.  So make sure your eating and workouts are already on point before even concerning yourself with supplementation.  Then, add a supplement to see how it helps.


Happy Eating!

~Kiki :)


Working Out with Injuries (VIDEO)

Working Out with Injuries (VIDEO)

Ugh.  Injuries suck.  Plain and simple.

Those of you who have been around for a while, know that I've had my fair share of injuries in the last 5 years or so.  The worst of which where the awful “Achilles Fiasco of 2012” and the more recent shoulder monstrosity that I spent the better part of the last two years recovering from.  Ummm.  Yay.

During that time, I took it upon myself to dive in to ALL things injury (causes, prehab, rehab) to not only give myself the edge, but my clients as well.

In this broadcast, I went over some of my top tips for dealing with injuries.  What to eat, how to supplement, what to expect, and what experts to seek out. (Broadcast was recorded live, so you may want to fast forward to around 3:25 ish where the wind/mic situation gets under control. Aaaah the joys of live recording. LOL)

Excel your strength, build better balance, improve mobility, AND overcome challenges such as pain, injury, and improper mechanics with this limited time BOGO offer!

Click here to learn more.


Topics covered in this discussion:

Don't let it get you down.
It's easy to be discouraged and feel like the world is collapsing when you are in a groove with your workouts and get sidelined by a new/familiar pain.  Know from the gate that not EVERY injury is avoidable.  Of course beginner (and some intermediate/advanced) injuries are caused by ego and poor form, but a greater ratio of injuries are just part of the fitness process. Learn proper form, adjust your intensity levels slowly, and listen to your body. If you feel a twinge or like something isn't right, back off the move and try again.  If it still feels wrong, reevaluate whether you are using proper form, or if the pain is a sign that there is an imbalance/you are overcompensating with the *opposing* or surrounding muscles.  Often the injury has nothing to do with the actual area that you feel the pain in, but rather is a referred pain due to an imbalance.  Thank your body for pointing out this imbalance and do everything you can to bring up the lagging part.

Again, don't allow it to discourage you or tempt you to throw in the towel on your fitness journey.  Working out is your sport.  You are an athlete.  All athletes deal with injury at some point in their career.  And the number one time they experience the injury? While performing their sport.

Eat at maintenance
Once you KNOW that you are sidelined for a period of time for healing, or that a body part will require more than just “an extra rest day” to recuperate, take your cals up to maintenance. Just as with the metabolic reset, healing requires proper fuel.  Do not attempt to slash cals in effort to reach your goal anyway, or continue to eat in a deficit while rehabbing. This puts your body on a budget and it has to try to accomplish several feats at once…while doing none of them particularly well.  Don't make the healing process take longer than necessary, eat at full TDEE, and be sure to get in sufficient levels of protein to ward off muscle loss. (Not sure how much to eat? Check here)

Take into consideration your new activity level
With that being said, understand that your new activity level may be slightly lower than it was pre-injury.  If you suddenly find that you can't use your lower body (like I did when I injured my Achilles) you will likely be burning a LOT less cals than you used to. Either adjust your workouts so that you are still getting a similar style of workout WITHOUT putting the injured part at risk, or recalculate your TDEE using the new activity level and eat at THAT maintenance level.

Understand (and accept) the changes that your body may go through
Atrophy is for real.  If you've ever had a limb in a cast, then you know that the adage “use it or lose it” is true.  The less you use the injured part, the more it will atrophy.  This means that even if you maintain your actual weight, your body composition may begin to change in a way that would not like. This is all a reality of the healing process. Although it's not fun to see your hard work seemingly go down the drain – muscle memory is a beautiful thing and will aid you in getting back to your “pre-injury” shape quicker than you think.

Attempting to beat your body into submission with a deficit or more cardio, etc at this point will cause more harm than it's worth.  The deficit/excess cardio will not help and will actually encourage MORE muscle loss.  You need to be doing everything in your power at this time to hold on to any and all muscle for as long as you possibly can.  (Refer to the “eat at maintenance” tip.)

Supplement mentioned in the vid to slow down muscle loss: HMB, BCAAs

Be careful with NSAIDs

Though they can be a great help when you are in constant pain while simply relaxing (or trying to!), be careful of using them before working out.  A common mistake is to take a pain killer and then proceed to workout as usual, pain-free.  This can lead to further injury/tweaking of a muscle or joint because the pain indicator (that lets you know when you've pushed too hard)  has been subdued.  Pain is a natural indicator that the problem still exists, so whenever possible – allow it to guide you in your workouts, so that you do no further harm.  If the pain is so great that you cannot workout at all, then DON'T.  See a doctor immediately.

See a SPORTS-specific doctor

When the pain is so severe, or recurring that you must seek treatment, do so with a sports physician.  A sports doc understands that you are an athlete whose greatest desire is to “get off the bench and back in the game.” This is typically not the case with your family practitioner.  They want to help you stop the pain…by any means necessary.  The diagnosis is often (not always) to simply stop doing the style of exercise that appears to be causing the pain.  It is very disheartening to hear the words “stop squatting/dead-lifting/running” or  worse (IMO), “quit lifting” when you KNOW that its the very thing that gives you life (or the physique you want).  With a sports doc, you can say straight up “help me to fill-in-the-blank again,” and they totally get it.  They will typically do everything in their power — or help you find someone who can — to get you back in the game.

Stay consistent with rehab (and pre-hab!) by having a few go- to sources on tap

Injury prevention/rehab resources mentioned

Kelly Starrett on YouTube
Becoming a Supple Leopard
Jill Miller – Yoga Tuneup


Hope you enjoy this replay, fam!



Excel your strength, build better balance, improve mobility, AND overcome challenges such as pain, injury, and improper mechanics with this limited time BOGO offer!

Click here to learn more.

My Journey (so far) with EM2WL

My Journey (so far) with EM2WL

I started my journey almost 2 years ago with a metabolism reset. I’ll try to be as brief as possible with my past, I went to a diet center and did a VERY low calorie (500/day along with taking 3, yes three, diet pills a day) high protein diet for approx. 8 months. When I reached my goal weight, I couldn’tEvery Accomplishment afford to continue to pay for the maintenance portion of the diet, so 1.5 yrs later I gained it all back and then some. Then, I started a very low calorie diet (on my own) and it took me 1.5 yrs to lose 20 lbs. I was frustrated. My hair was thinning, I was grouchy all the time, couldn’t sleep, my fingernails were paper thin. I was working myself to death and I wasn’t losing weight or inches. That’s when I found EM2WL group on MFP. As I started reading the stickies, it was like I was reading my autobiography! I attempted to do a reset…however, patience (or lack thereof) became an issue and I gave up and went back to a 1200/cal/day diet. After seeing no change yet again…I bit the bullet and seriously did a reset. The only thing I would change about that, is the way I upped my calories. I jumped in gung ho and immediately gained 19 lbs in 2.5 mos time. That was very upsetting to me, but I kept at it. After following Anitra, Lucia and Kiki, I “found” Cathe Friedrich, and I was hooked on lifting!

On New Year’s Eve, my husband, myself and our boys were invited to join friends on a vacation to the Florida Keys. That was the incentive I needed to get real with my diet and exercise. I started my cut on 1/1/15 and did Cathe’s Muscle Max for 6 weeks. Not long after I started Muscle Max, I purchased the EM2WL Beginner Strength Training Program e-book and it was one of the best purchases I’ve made! I timed it so that I would finish the program about 2 weeks before we were to leave for vacation. Giving myself a cushion for “life” to happen and possibly delay me. I finished 1.5 weeks before we left.

On the surface, I only lost 11 lbs and 10.5 inches. I say “only” because the REAL change was internal/emotional/mental. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m VERY pleased with my results so far! The biggest “gain” I’ve made is mentally. I’ve learned patience, patience, patience! I knew going into this that the scale is a big fat liar when you are doing this the EM2WL way. I weighed myself just out of curiosity, not expecting to see dramatic changes in the numbers. Because when you lift heavy, you retain water, which results in the scale going in the wrong direction. Take it from me…the scale is irrelevant!

The feeling I got from lifting and the gains I made with my strength, are priceless. It’s hard to explain the mental gains I’ve made. The best way I can describe it is I realized this change was happening from the inside out. I came of the mindset that people can’t see the changes from the outside….that comes closer to the end. I have a confidence that I’ve never had before. You can’t see it by looking straight at me, but when I look down from my shoulder down my arms, there’s cut/definition!!! I see my legs starting to take on a shape that I’ve only dreamed about.

There’s no doubt in my mind that had I not conditioned myself the way I did, I would NEVER have been able to reel the fish in, balance myself, and endure a minimum of 8 hrs offshore fishing on our vacation. Let me tell you, those fish put up a fight!  metabolism reset

Before we left, I tried on a bathing suit that I’ve had for years…and it didn’t fit right. I was devastated! I turned to Anitra to “talk me off the ledge” of complete devastation. Anitra told me that I shouldn’t judge/base my progress on old clothes. She said that my body is taking on new shape, and clothes that used to fit (smaller ones) probably won’t fit again regardless of the size. She told me not to get discouraged, this is a part of the process. She told me to go out and find something that I’m comfortable in now, that’s the important thing. So, I decided to wear bike shorts and a sports bra under a tank top!

Now, I’m back from vacation and moving on to the next phase of my lifting. I’m going to do Cathe’s Gym Style Series for 6 weeks and then her Slow and Heavy for a few weeks preparing myself for the STS Series on October 1st. All of my workouts have been done at home. No gym membership. It’s nothing fancy, by any means, but it’s mine!

People, this lifestyle is so very, very doable! I’ve made this progress eating between 1900-2200 calories a day!  This is the best/smartest way to live your life. I’m never starving, like I was the whole time I was doing the low cal thing. If I want slice of cake, bowl of ice cream, a glass of wine…I have it! Everything in moderation. If you slip up, no worries…just get right back at it the next day! Every day is a new day! I am nowhere close to the end of this journey. My changes are 98% mental, and that doesn’t show in a picture. I have so much to learn and I’m beyond excited to see what the future holds for me! I can promise this…it will forever involve Eating More 2 Weigh Less!!!


Look at the changes through her mid-section! And this after increasing her intake from 1,200 to 1,900 – 2,200 calories a day and implementing strength training!

I Can’t Do Pull Ups! Mastering the Pull-up: Part 2

I Can’t Do Pull Ups! Mastering the Pull-up: Part 2

IMG_1169.PNGIn our last post, we discussed the the necessity and benefits of working your back muscles regularly, learning to do pull-ups, and why I'm just so in loveee with them as both a trainER and trainEE.

I hope I've convinced you to give this beloved exercise a shot. If nothing else for the confidence boost both inside (from knowing how dang strong you are!) and out (the upright “confident” posture courtesy of the lat muscles balancing out the over-worked anterior muscles). The super sexy back, and über cool points that it will get you with friends, family (especially the kids!) is just an awesome bonus. ;)

It doesn't matter if you've never been able to do a pull-up in your life, it's never too late to start training for it. I was the wimpy (and proud) girl in gym class that participated in ZERO fit tests for fear of looking silly to my classmates (mainly one particular, future-hubs-classmate, if we're being honest). I didn't learn to crank out pull-ups until well into my adult years.

Side note: because of my shame over my past pull-up transgressions, my homeschooled son has never been able to escape my militant pull-up training. At 17, he can “jump and give me 10” no matter how long it's been since he last officially “worked out.” (Just challenged him, pop-quiz style, yesterday because it had been about a year…”sooo how many pull-ups do you think you can do now?” He proceeded to crank out 15 with ease before tossing the smart aleck teenage smirk my way…whatevs).

Try hanging from the pull-up bar.

Jump up on a pull-up bar, or pull a step or dumbbell up to the pull-up bar and instead of jumping up, use a stool to boost you closer to the bar and release your feet to a hanging position once your arms are securely gripped. See how this feels. If this isn’t horrible, proceed to the next tip.  If you struggle with this task, see part one of this series, and work on exercises listed there, as well as the following for at least a month and then try bar hangs again:

*Work on your back strength. Use various back exercises such as lat pull-downs, single arm cable rows, one arm dumbbell rows, bent over rows, etc. to test your strength gains.

*Work on your grip/forearm strength. Do open finger dumbbell holds, farmer carries and plate pinches.

Remember that the strength rep range is about 5-6 reps or less. If your strength phase proves nonproductive (your numbers are stagnant for 2-4 weeks), move to an endurance phase and then try again after a few weeks.

Try (a variety of) assisted variations.

*Vertical pulls – hold on to any vertical surface (bar, pole, door frame, etc,) and pull your body “chest to bar.” This may seem like a basic move, but building the endurance here will benefit later. Often we skip the exercises that seem “too basic” only to discover that we don't have the base muscle strength/endurance to advance in the real move.

*Jackknife pulls or inverted rows – hold your feet out straight in front of you and lie under a bar, or chair. Pull your chest toward the bar, practicing both an over AND underhand grip position. Bend your knees as needed if you need to further modify this move.

*Move on to partner assisted pull-ups, not on a machine, but with the aid of a workout partner. Have your workout partner support your legs (bend legs at the knees) and help push your body weight up. You essentially need to take the majority of the weight yourself, but your partner can assist as needed and to the appropriate degree.

*No partner? Try band-assisted pull-ups. There is another variation of assisted pull-ups you can try that can be done without a workout partner and not on an assisted pull-up machine. This other variation involves using a thick resistance band. Hook the band around the top of pull-up bar/handles and let it hang. Hook your hands on the bar and bend your legs behind you, resting your knees in the band loop. It’s kind of strange to do these at first, as you feel like you have to really balance yourself, but you will catch on shortly.

Assisted Pull-up Machine

The assisted pull-up machine is a great tool if you don't have a partner. Just remember that the goal with this machine is to go *down* in weight over time — rather than up, like most machines. Using less of the machine weight means that you are pulling more of your bodyweight. ;)

Other assisted variations:

Chair Assist

Machine assisted 

Go negative. 
When you can do assisted variations with ease, start incorporating negative pull-ups. Negative pull-ups will develop your lat strength like no-other. They will teach you how to pull with your back (not your arms), and allow you to pull more of your own body weight each time. You can do either straight sets of negatives-only (3-4 sets of 1-6 negative reps), or incorporate them with your assisted pull-ups. Simply do as many assisted pull-ups as you can, then bang out another 2-3 negative reps. Or go up assisted, and come down negative with full body weight.

Tying it all together: Pull-up Progression Schedule

If you've done all of the above, and allowed yourself to patiently progress through various stages, you should be ready to crank it! But if you've gone to attempt a pull-up again and still feel ill-prepared, try the following pull-up progression from one of my fave bodyweight exercise books: Convict Conditioning.  It breaks down pretty much every bodyweight move and gives you awesome guidelines on how to progress from beginner modifications to the “elite” version of each (one arm push/pull-up, one-leg squat, etc).

Incorporate the following into your regular back workouts over the next few months.  Start at the beginning of each “level” – once you work your way up to the “progression” amount, move to the starting amount of the next level. Do NOT rush through the progressions, but rather allow your body to acclimate to each level, so that you have the strength and endurance of the muscles needed to pull your entire body weight, with zero assistance: (see the playlist below for demo of each “level”)

Vertical Pulls: Start with 1 set of 10, work your way up to 3 sets of 40

Horizontal Pulls: (inverted rows): Start with 1 set of 10, work your way up to 3 sets of 30

Jacknife Pullup: Start with 1 set of 10, work your way up to 3 sets of 20

Half Pullups: Start with 1 set of 8, work your way up to 2 sets of 15

Full Pullups: Start with 1 set of 5, work your way up to 2 sets of 10

Regardless of which level you're at in the process, continue to test and retest. Even if it seems like a shot in the dark, jump up ever-so-often, and give it a shot.  Can't do a full pull up? Can you bend your arms a bit more than last time? Eyeballs almost over the bar? Great! That's progress. Keep executing your steps and retesting. Take every new milestone as a sign that you're that much closer!

It should go without saying, but I figure I may as well address the elephant in the room.  FOOD.  If you're still afraid of getting your grub on, don't expect too much from your lifts.  Gaining strength requires sufficient fuel, and you will often notice the difference in your level of beastiness based on your intake (amount AND type). I won't go into much more detail, but just an FYI so you know where to look if you are doing “everything right” and still seem to be plateauing in your lifts — you simply may not be eating enough.

As with any progress, patience is key. Gaining strength and perfecting a new exercise, especially a difficult one, takes time. Focus on increasing your upper body strength and you will notice that other lifts will subsequently increase as well. As you become stronger in your journey towards perfecting a body weight pull-up, you’ll notice your lifts in general will take off in an upward trend. Before you know it, you’ll be showing up that guy that’s flailing around under the pull-up bar! And THAT moment…priceless. ;)


Now…you have a plan, go kill it!

~Kiki :)

STOP Spinning your wheels and Get OFF the Rollercoaster!



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