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SagerRager

Upper Body needs help

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So I know first of all the mantra, "don't skip leg day" but hear my situation. I have plenty of strength and size in my legs I had been overweight until recently, I lost 50 lbs. and when I was younger I had a trampoline I jumped on every day. I could squat until the sun goes down and be fine. In fact I can almost pistol squat except I am not balanced enough or flexible enough. However my upper body is drastically behind, I can barely do 10 push-ups with good form. And forget about pull-ups. So normal progressive overload programming often feels lacking. So should I "skip leg day" just for a while to catch up?

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I've tried several things, most recently I've been doing 5 sets of push-ups lunges and jumping jacks starting with 5, 10, and 20 reps respectively then up to 7, 15, 30 then 10, 20, 40 this is when I really start to struggle with the push-ups then I go back down for the remaining two sets. So I can never do the push-ups well enough to advance to a harder level. But in the meantime the lunges and jumping jacks are so easy they feel like a waste of time.

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I've tried several things, most recently I've been doing 5 sets of push-ups lunges and jumping jacks starting with 5, 10, and 20 reps respectively then up to 7, 15, 30 then 10, 20, 40 this is when I really start to struggle with the push-ups then I go back down for the remaining two sets. So I can never do the push-ups well enough to advance to a harder level. But in the meantime the lunges and jumping jacks are so easy they feel like a waste of time.

If you want to build strength you need to focus your workouts - i.e. stop doing the circuit.  The fatigue and lack of recovery in between sets is holding back your efforts in pushups.

 

Do pushup (and pullup) progressions with a proper strength focus.  If you really want to alternate exercises, alternate pushups with rows, but you can just do pushups, then pullups later.  Rest as much as you need to in between sets.  I'd recommend you pick a number you can do five sets across- can you do 5x5?  Then start increasing your total rep count for the day- 4x7, 5x6, 3x10, 4x8, 5x7, etc.  Once you get up to 2-3x20 you should be good to move on to more difficult variations, such as elbows in tight, hands close, or archer.

 

If you can almost do pistol squats, keep working on them.  You don't need to hold your legs back because your arms are weak.

 

Lunges are great, but they are easier than pushups for most people.  If they don't feel hard, you might want to check your form- go deeper, reach your legs out farther, etc.  You can also add weight.

 

Jumping jacks are a waste of time.

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How many days per week are you working out? Do you have a designated leg day or are you just running bodyweight circuits every day?

Easiest way to boost push up strength is to pick a number you can do quite easily (say, 5 perfect pushups) and then do that five times throughout the day three days a week. Do this for a week and then add another pushup (so you're doing 5 sets of 6 pushups over the day). Another week you're doing 5x7, then 5x8, then 5x9 etc, etc... Slow progress makes for continued progress, give it 15 weeks at that rate and you'll be knocking out 5 sets of 20 (100 pushups) three times a week, at which point you'll certainly be stronger without skipping any leg days at all. 

Pull Ups are easy as long as you're approaching them the right way. Good, foundational strength isn't built overnight, so don't approach it as a race. Start by holding yourself at the top of the bar- do nothing but this for two weeks, start lowering yourself as slowly as you can. Do this for a month. Keep practising, the slower you can descend the better, once you can control your descent for a solid, slow, ten seconds you should be ready to start pulling up. Start with one perfect pull up. Then do it five times (5x1). Do nothing but single pull ups for a month. Then start adding an extra rep here and there, be it once every two weeks or once every month, it doesn't matter. It should never be super hard, if you're straining for it you're pushing yourself too hard, just take a step back and be patient.

Final note: You're probably reading this and thinking: "Six months for a few pull ups? Four months for 20 push ups? This guy is nuts". Totally understandable as you could reach those numbers much much faster, but the thing is that strength you gain quickly also happens to vanish quickly unless you're doing constant maintenance. That's why I always advocate for starting light and going slow, because the strength gains will not only be consistent, but also long lasting.

Good luck :) 

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Thanks for the replies 

 

How many days per week are you working out? Do you have a designated leg day or are you just running bodyweight circuits every day?

Easiest way to boost push up strength is to pick a number you can do quite easily (say, 5 perfect pushups) and then do that five times throughout the day three days a week. Do this for a week and then add another pushup (so you're doing 5 sets of 6 pushups over the day). Another week you're doing 5x7, then 5x8, then 5x9 etc, etc... Slow progress makes for continued progress, give it 15 weeks at that rate and you'll be knocking out 5 sets of 20 (100 pushups) three times a week, at which point you'll certainly be stronger without skipping any leg days at all. 

Pull Ups are easy as long as you're approaching them the right way. Good, foundational strength isn't built overnight, so don't approach it as a race. Start by holding yourself at the top of the bar- do nothing but this for two weeks, start lowering yourself as slowly as you can. Do this for a month. Keep practising, the slower you can descend the better, once you can control your descent for a solid, slow, ten seconds you should be ready to start pulling up. Start with one perfect pull up. Then do it five times (5x1). Do nothing but single pull ups for a month. Then start adding an extra rep here and there, be it once every two weeks or once every month, it doesn't matter. It should never be super hard, if you're straining for it you're pushing yourself too hard, just take a step back and be patient.

Final note: You're probably reading this and thinking: "Six months for a few pull ups? Four months for 20 push ups? This guy is nuts". Totally understandable as you could reach those numbers much much faster, but the thing is that strength you gain quickly also happens to vanish quickly unless you're doing constant maintenance. That's why I always advocate for starting light and going slow, because the strength gains will not only be consistent, but also long lasting.

Good luck :)

 

I have been running body weight circuits 3 days a week M-W-F with some mild Yoga and Stretching on the off days. I think I do need to be more patient with my upper body that is a good suggestion. Just after losing weight and things being such a breeze with leg work I was getting frustrated by dismal upper body strength.

 

If you want to build strength you need to focus your workouts - i.e. stop doing the circuit.  The fatigue and lack of recovery in between sets is holding back your efforts in pushups.

 

Do pushup (and pullup) progressions with a proper strength focus.  If you really want to alternate exercises, alternate pushups with rows, but you can just do pushups, then pullups later.  Rest as much as you need to in between sets.  I'd recommend you pick a number you can do five sets across- can you do 5x5?  Then start increasing your total rep count for the day- 4x7, 5x6, 3x10, 4x8, 5x7, etc.  Once you get up to 2-3x20 you should be good to move on to more difficult variations, such as elbows in tight, hands close, or archer.

 

If you can almost do pistol squats, keep working on them.  You don't need to hold your legs back because your arms are weak.

 

Lunges are great, but they are easier than pushups for most people.  If they don't feel hard, you might want to check your form- go deeper, reach your legs out farther, etc.  You can also add weight.

 

Jumping jacks are a waste of time.

I never thought that circuits would conflict with my goals, but I tried the 5x5 today with proper rest between sets and I've got to say it just felt better, I wasn't fighting to keep my form halfway through like on the circuit. Thanks for the advice. And I'll try improving my range on my leg exercises to see if that makes them harder.  

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