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balancing upper and lower body strength?

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balancing upper and lower body strength?

Postby Gretchen » Tue Nov 27, 2007 9:28 am

Hi Everyone,

I just completed my very first L1, D1 workout. To give you a brief background on myself . . . I've never exercised consistently before, though I've done it sporadically for years. I've tended toward "skinny" but now that I'm in my 30's, I'm moving more towards "flabby". Not pleasant. My diet is good and improving. I follow a combination of "Life Without Bread" (low-carb) and Weston A Price Foundation (whole, natural, traditional) recommendations, which sounds very similar to what is advised here.

But on to my problem/question. I've always been blessed with a bit of natural muscle tone on my lower body, and cursed with pure scrawniness on my upper body. For my workout today, I had to do assisted pull-ups because I cannot do even one full pull-up, and I had to do "girlie" push-ups from my knees, because I can't even do one from my feet. Even doing the wimpy versions, those were the limiting factors. I gave out on push-ups, and that's what limited my circuits to 16 (probably would have given out on pull-ups first, except that I was using quite a bit of assistance). On the other hand, I felt like I could have kept doing squats for days. My legs and glutes barely felt it.

So, should I plan to continue with Level 1 until I am doing real push-ups and pull-ups? Or should I do something else to help my upper body strength "catch up" to my lower body strength?

Also, to assist my pull-ups I am just standing on a box. I fear this isn't a good idea, because it's so easy then to let my legs do the work for me, especially as I get tired. Any other recommendations?

Thanks for any advice!
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Postby splint » Tue Nov 27, 2007 10:07 am

16 rounds for your first L1D1 is a great start. Maybe you can add some tabata squats after your main workout to better target your legs. I know I'm always sore after completing 8 rounds of tabata squats.

As far as the subs go, I think standing on a box for pull-ups is OK but you correctly identified the fact that your legs will come into play and it's hard to determine how much they are helping when you get tired. Most people substitute body rows in a 3-to-1 ratio for pull-ups.

So, should I plan to continue with Level 1 until I am doing real push-ups and pull-ups? Or should I do something else to help my upper body strength "catch up" to my lower body strength?

I've thought about this question for some time as I see it often. I think the best bet (at least if I were doing it) would be to complete the levels with my substitution exercises and progress accordingly. I figure that somewhere down the line like Level 5 or 6, I'd eventually be able to do one or two full pull-ups and be able to perform full push-ups at which point I'd drop back down to a lower level and start over performing the full exercises.
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Postby captain » Tue Nov 27, 2007 10:42 am

I have a suggestion. Start your exercise doing the best pull up/best push up you are able to do. Rest after this 1/1 round for 15 to 30 seconds and do another round, rest again and repeat. Try to get to ten rounds resting between each one. Even if you have to do assisted pull up/push up combos these will permit strength growth while managing fatigue. You ought to get more repetitions this way than merely doing simplfit. Upon completion of the 10 rounds, do the simplefit workout as written using either body rows or your toes on a box. This will combination w/o will prioritize your upper body and enable more rapid gains in both upper body strength and overall endurance.

Postby Gretchen » Wed Nov 28, 2007 2:19 pm

Thank you both so much for the replies and help! I like that 'one best rep' idea. I think I'll give that a shot.

I'm pretty sore today. Any thoughts on whether I should "work through" the soreness tomorrow versus waiting for full recovery?
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Postby gwmccull » Wed Nov 28, 2007 10:48 pm

I generally don't wait for full recovery because for me it's too easy to say, "Nah, not today. I'm not fully recovered...." I usually give myself one to two days between workouts.

Also, when I started I was only able to do 1 pullup at a time. I also used a box so I could assist but I put it behind me and put the tops of my feet on the box. I find it much harder to assist *too much* when the tops of my feet are on the box than when my feet are on the box normally.
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Postby Gretchen » Thu Nov 29, 2007 7:04 am

Great suggestion concerning the assisted pull-ups. Thanks!
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Postby ucffool » Thu Nov 29, 2007 9:42 pm

Get a pattern, sometimes you will feel a bit fatigued, but it will help. I do Tues/Thurs/Sunday. Every 4th week I take it off because of muscle fatigue. I've kept this for the past 6 months with only 2 breaks: 1 week to rest a minor injury, and the last week since thanksgiving due to personal conflicts and some dramatic life stuff.
If you can keep a schedule, it will not only help your workout, but will also be the biggest accomplishment you can have. Most people can't do a 'workout' because they don't keep up with it. I hope that this weekend I can put up a blog post ( or ) regarding this issue.
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