Pull-ups are hard. Especially when you use proper form. I discovered last winter that I was mostly using my biceps, not my lats, in doing pull-ups and I’ve been working on fixing my form.
For the past few weeks after trapeze practice a group of us has re-ignited an old post-class conditioning ritual. We gather around the low practice bar to work on our pull-ups.
In all honesty, if not for the support of the other women it would be hard to force myself to do it.
When we first started this a few weeks ago, my pull-ups with proper form were abysmal. I needed a lot of support to get up to the bar. Today, I was able to do about 3 before I needed a spot to help me get up on one more.
It was a noticeable improvement over just two weeks ago — or even last week. My friends acknowledged it and asked me what I had been doing.
A Counter-Intuitive Approach
You might expect that I’ve been diligently working my pull-ups on non-trapeze days.
In fact, I hadn’t been working on them much at all. Since I moved five weeks ago, I’ve been out of my normal rhythms. My body has been really tired, and I’ve been allowing it to rest as much as possible. I’ve lightened my morning workouts, and I’ve been doing more stretching and foam rolling.
I recently took a class in ELDOA, a subtle form of stretching that targets the fascia and connective tissue. It was more chill than using a foam roller. (Ok, in fairness, foam rollers hurt).
Most notably, I’ve been doubling down on restorative practices lately, doing yin and restorative yoga 2–3 times per week. Both are extremely passive forms of yoga. They don’t feel like “workouts.”
Don’t get me wrong — I’m fully aware that my “light schedule” would exhaust most people. But my mentality has always been that if I’m not pushing myself I feel like I’m slaking off. That’s been part of my growth edge lately.
Yin and restorative are more about undoing than doing. This is a challenge for me; I like to keep moving. Laws of physics apply: objects in motion stay in motion. Once I get going I find it hard to stop.
Even with all of my practice, rest remains at the edge of my comfort zone. Yin and restorative, as well as some of the stretching classes often feel like a lot of “doing nothing.”
This is not what I would expect to help me build strength. It is hard to release the conditioned belief that to get better results I need to work harder. But the proof is in the pull-ups: yet another reinforcement that doing less is often the key to doing more.
What if it’s that simple in every area?
The key to doing more is to rest and restore.