Pullups!! – (an answer to Mike Perry ) – by Carol Robbins

Aug 16, 2017

I was very interested to read Mike Perry’s recent Pilates Intel article on pullups. I have to say that I agree – not that you should have to perform a pullup or a deep squat or a certain number of pushups before you are handed your certificate, but that you should have an understanding of why it eludes the regular person and the fit trainer beyond “lack of strength.” If lack of strength was the only thing standing between you and a pullup, your best intentions would be enough to fix it, and we’d all be able to do them in a matter of a few months of dedicated training.

There are far more barriers to doing these feats of human ability – from weak skin to a mass that has increased substantially when compared to the strength required to lift it. What’s even more interesting is that your body parts can change and even disappear due to lack of use. Bones can change shape and develop lessened mineral density. As examples, the acromion can become hooked if the head of the humerus does not interact with it on a regular basis and the squatting facets in the talus and tibia will disappear if the loads to maintain them are not experienced with sufficient frequency.


The ratio of tendon to muscle can affect a muscle’s ability to generate force and creates more stress on tendon. The resting length of a muscle is dependent on frequency of position of the associated joints. The fact that most of us spend our lives with our arms below our shoulders (doing activities like typing or driving), seldom raising our arms over our heads if not paying someone for the privilege, means that it is not due to simple weakness that we can’t raise our arms without spinal extension. We’ve not maintained some body parts and other body parts have adapted to a particular pattern of use (adaptations not always being positive, of course). If you cannot raise your arms due to an actual lack of muscle mass, then the conundrum is that only frequent use of that range of motion will require, and thus develop, that muscle mass and resulting vasculature. The current health of the shoulder is poorer than just a lack of “might.”

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Carol Robbins, RES-CPT taught Pilates 2000-2013 and now devotes her practice to Restorative Exercise and functional movement. Carol is a staff teacher for Nutritious Movement™ and leads the Toronto two-day ‘Move Your DNA’ workshop bi-annually (September 16/17).
Carol has her own blog, aptly named The Alignment REScue. You can contact Carol directly at carol@alignmentrescue.com