I'm a 28 year old female, eating a mostly paleo diet (some dairy in the form of Greek yoghurt and occasional cheese, and weekend alcohol). I crossfit 3x per week and have another one or two relatively short, intense circuit-type workouts at other times in the week.
My problem is this. I'm struggling to build strength in my upper body. I can't do a kipping pull-up despite my best efforts, and struggle to snatch 20kg. In short, I feel that my upper body is pretty weedy. I'm just shy of 130lb and 5 feet 3.
I'm happy to keep plugging away at strengthening my arm and shoulder muscles through exercise, and if anyone can recommend any exercises that are good for this I'd love to hear it. However I'd also like some advice on improving my diet to this end. As a rough guide I eat around 1500 kcal, 100g fat, 30-40g carbs and 80-90g protein. Would increasing protein help to build strength? Or carbs? Just calories in general? I wondered if maybe the reason I can't nail the pull-up is because I need to carry less weight, but I'm comfortable as I am and maintaining my weight without effort so I'm not overly keen to try to lose any.
Thoughts anyone? If I can get this bloody kipping pull-up I'll be a happy woman!
asked byElizabeth_12 (343)
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on August 01, 2012
at 09:52 PM
To gain strength, you must do a strength training program. Crossfit is metabolic conditioning and primarily focuses on muscular endurance. This is great training to add to an existing strength program but by itself really is not all that useful.
My suggestion is to do Starting Strength by Mark Rippitoe. It will set you up with a basic program for total body strength focusing on compound movements (squat, deadlift, bench, press, powerclean) and explain in detail how to do each exercise with proper technique. Wendler's 5/3/1, Texas Method, Madcow's 5X5 are for intermediate to advanced lifters (think dedicated strength training for a year or more). Progression in weight is planned out over weeks/months in those programs. You will see much faster results from a beginner program like Starting Strength which will see you progress each workout. (I have gone from a 250# squat to a 375# squat at BW of 170 over 6 months and have not stalled yet on Starting Strength.)
As stated by Crystal, snatch and a kipping pullup are technical in nature and not measurements of strength. Build your overall strength first before you try to push weight in Olympic lifts. Rule of thumb: A woman should be able to squat her BW 5X to be in the lower end of the 'strong' range. A man should be able to squat 2X BW to be in the lower end of the 'strong' range.
Okay that being said...building muscle is about recovery. Recovery is eating enough and sleeping enough. Keep the protein high. Rule of thumb is 1 gram of protein for goal lean mass. Eating clean will limit BF% increase. 8 hours of sleep, no excuses.
Hope this helps.
on August 01, 2012
at 09:33 PM
If you want to get stronger, you'll have to start training for strength. And yes, be sure your diet is good. In general, more protein is probably better.
Kipping pullups and Snatch aren't necessarily good measures of upper-body strength. I used to do several kipping pullups linked together, but couldn't do even one dead-hang. There were other gals at the box who could do several dead-hang pullups, but couldn't kip worth a darn. It's a skill, and a transfer of power from the hips to throw your chin over the bar.
Snatch is also a very technical lift that is really more about moving your body around the bar than anything else. Again, most of the power is generated from the hips. If you want to snatch more weight, then get a coach to help you with your form.
I would also recommend that you shoot for several dead-hang pullups before trying to kip. I jacked up my shoulder trying to kip through pullup WODs when I really wasn't strong enough to pull up my own body weight.
Right now, I'm doing extra work on STRICT pullups and STRICT shoulder press to improve my upper-body strength.
My recommendations would be to throw in some dedicated strength work on your non-WOD days. Lift heavy - use something like Wendler's 5/3/1 progression with some core lifts - press, bench, squat, deadlift. When you train pullups, do them dead-hang with assistance, and/or work the negative.
on August 02, 2012
at 02:23 AM
Yup. Work on skills to improve skills. Work on strength to improve strength.
There is no perfect poise between metabolic conditioning and strength. Or if there is, you could waste a lifetime trying to find it.
Very simple, brief, strength work, plus adequate rest and food is the strength pole. High volume conditioning is the met-con pole. If you want/need work in both areas you have to compromise.
I am still tinkering to balance strength work with kettlebell swings and snatches. I keep finding I have to keep strength work brief and SIMPLE so it doesn't interfere with 'conditioning' progress. Starting Strength, 5/3/1, etc etc are good plans, so are HillFit, Convict Conditioning, Primal Blueprint and co. Even these will need to be adapted to your needs and your activities.
on August 01, 2012
at 09:43 PM
So far both Bean and Steve have great points.
Protein might be a little low. I'd say start keeping a log and up it on protein and see if you notice you're hitting more reps. Then do the same with carbs. Always keep track and you should be able to figure out if you're making progress. Definitely do the bands assistance that Steve mentions.
Definitely check out Bean's link. She eats quite a bit of protein.
Also, I noticed I got much better at kipping when I learned to use my hips. Talk to a good CF instructor or Google around about hips in kipping pullups and you'll learn that it's an explosive movement.
Edit: I also agree with foreveryoung's recent post about adequate protein and refeed days.
on August 01, 2012
at 09:27 PM
Hey, Elizabeth. 2 things. First, drop the cross fit in favor a program with specific strength gain goals. Second, adjust your macronutrient ratios in favor of one's more conducive to your lifestyle.
I now make up my own workout programs, but when I first started out I followed West Side for Skinny Bastards and then berardi's Scrawny to Brawny. I liked those and think they're both great programs for building athletic, functional strength. Wieder's 5/3/1 is good, as are the 5x5 programs out there. you can just google search any of these. You'll be in the gym 3-4x per week for short, low volume workouts with adequate rest periods. In addtion to those, I recommend doing HIIT (sprints)_ 2-3x per week as well in addition to any other form of light activity/cardio (walking, jogging, swimming, etc).
As far as the macronutrients go, 100g of fat is quite a lot for only 90g protein, so I assume you are adding a lot extra fats aside from the ones contained in the meat, fish, and eggs that you should aslo be eating. I would increase your protein to about 1g per pound of (desired) bodyweight. Then with the calories you've got left to spare (desired bodyweight X 10-12 to tone up is a decent parameter to experiment with), I would divide it equally between carbs and fats. Don't worry so much about the calories, because if you're a newbie to lifting, you'll gain strength as long as you aren't in a tremendously large deficit and are eating adequate protein.
So, lets say you weigh 130lbs, but you want to drop some fat and gain some muscle, and end up at 120lbs. That means you could start experimenting with 1200 calories per day.
Your protein should then be at 120g per day. That is equal to 480 calories, and that leaves you with 720 calories to divide between carbs and fats. Lets say with all the meat your eating, you've accumulated 40g of fat (if you're shy, add a bit of olive oil onto protein topped salad). That's 360 calories. Now you've got 90 grams of carbs to play with (fruits and starch are what you're counting here. Broccoli, spinach, and salad greens really should not be counted as active carbs b/c we're not ruminants). Give that a shot.
If you think that 90grams of carbs is too much, then you could experiment by upping your protein to 1.5g per pound, and eating 70% protein, 15% fat, and 15% carbs. You could also leave it at 1g/lb, but you'll be riding a strong deficit, so be aware. That'll put you in a deficit almost no matter what, but you'll still build strength with adequate protein. I would recommend addnig in a lower protein, hiher carb refeed day. THink sweet potatoes (sure put some almond butter on em), berries, honey, sushi, etc). That makes going out with friends easy if you can time it right. Do that as often as you need, but it shouldn't be more frequently than once every 3 days. If you go this route and you feel run down and that you need a refeed more often, then you're in too strong of a deficit, and should do the former method as described in paragraph #5.
Hope this helps. Ultimately you're going to have to experiment with different thigns and monitor your body closely.
on August 01, 2012
at 09:20 PM
I can't imagine why anyone would want to do a kipping pull up but if you want to be capable of doing an actual pull up I think an assisted pull up station is the way to go, it will probably take you several months to get there. You should try to reduce the assistance a little every few weeks.
If you don't have access to one you could try using bands as assistance. Generally pull ups tend to be hard for women so you more often see them doing chin ups, there are several women at my gym who can do sets of chin ups without any of the kipping nonsense.