rant: upper body strength completely lacking

yirara
yirara Posts: 7,312 Member
I simply cannot build upper body strength. Been trying it for three years now without success: first bodyweight, then lifting heavy, now bodyweight again. Yea, I have nice upper body muscles, and certainly for a woman past 40 but I still can't do a pushup, still no pull up, still no under table pullup with lower legs support. I never managed to get past 27.5kg with chest presses.

Yes, I have to admit I had a half year strength training break. Since starting again 7 weeks ago my backside has lifted again, I can do slightly assisted one-legged squats (never managed that before!), yet I canbarely do 4 pushups on my knees and none at chair height. Previously I never got past three full pushup however much I tried. I had a pullup bar in a door for nearly a year and tried slow negatives every time I walked past and never really got past this. If I try too hard it feels like a muscle is bursting, and I end up with pain and big swellings for 2-3 weeks. So maybe I'm afraid of this to happen again. Or I lay on my stomach and try to push myself up again but nothing happens.

So frustrated! I have the muscles to show off, but they are useless.
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Replies

  • quiksylver296
    quiksylver296 Posts: 28,114 Member
    Do you use a progressive strength training program that adds weight as you successfully complete reps, like Stronglifts, Strong Curves, etc?

    I'm a 41 year old female. I started doing Stronglifts last November and I can now do 2 hanging body weight pull-ups, and 20 push-ups.
  • yirara
    yirara Posts: 7,312 Member
    edited June 2016
    Yes I tried in the past but no proper improvement on upper body strength. Now I don't have access to a gym anymore, but bodyweight never got me there in the past either with a progressive programme. Yea, I can do pushups against a wall but never managed one on a lower height as my arms relative to the rest of my body feel awkward and wrong, thus the only step between wall and full is knees for me. I slowly think it might be related to having ridiculously long arms and not getting a proper angle relative to the rest of my body :( But I can't imagine that to be honest.
  • VintageFeline
    VintageFeline Posts: 6,771 Member
    Are you eating at maintenance? I have to say I stalled with my strength (I don't lift heavy, bodyweight and dumbbell supersets) until I took a break recently. Then got sick. Then got a little sidetracked and overate for a week or so, then was all better and back on track and I've suddenly made a leap in improvement. Which just makes me excited for maintenance and progress I might make then.

    Otherwise, if you are now maintaining I can see how frustrating it is.
  • yirara
    yirara Posts: 7,312 Member
    edited June 2016
    Yes, been maintaining for almost 1.5 years now. I guess I've always been the weakest at school but partly it was related to being motorically challenged. I'm still awkward in my movements unless I concentrate on what I'm doing, like with strength training, or completely zone out. I mean, I can apparently stand on one leg for 15 minutes without falling over (a colleage asked me after a management announcement recently why I was doing that. Oops... didn't notice!)
  • scottburger104
    scottburger104 Posts: 90 Member
    I would recommend you start with planks to strengthen your top position and negatives. slowly with as much tension through your body as possible (brace your core, tighten your glutes, flex your lats.) lower yourself to your belly maintaining a good plank in the process. If you can do a negative a few times a day you will get where you want to be.
  • gothchiq
    gothchiq Posts: 4,597 Member
    Yes, do planks. If something seems terribly off, talk to your doctor. There may be something going on that you are unaware of.
  • DopeItUp
    DopeItUp Posts: 18,775 Member
    In comparison, what's your squat and deadlift up to? Just curious for a comparison.
  • jemhh
    jemhh Posts: 14,273 Member
    It won't completely prevent you from gaining strength but your anthropometry can play a role in how easy or difficult it is to do. Contreras mentions this a bit in this article:

    https://bretcontreras.com/female-strength-levels/
  • yirara
    yirara Posts: 7,312 Member
    I would recommend you start with planks to strengthen your top position and negatives. slowly with as much tension through your body as possible (brace your core, tighten your glutes, flex your lats.) lower yourself to your belly maintaining a good plank in the process. If you can do a negative a few times a day you will get where you want to be.

    Tried that in the past, then went on to dynamic planks. No success :'(
  • yirara
    yirara Posts: 7,312 Member
    DopeItUp wrote: »
    In comparison, what's your squat and deadlift up to? Just curious for a comparison.

    I don't have access to the gym anymore but deadlifts were at the max I could do in that rubbish gym, around 75kg and I'm sure I could have gone higher. Squats I don't remember anymore, but also substantially higher.
  • yirara
    yirara Posts: 7,312 Member
    edited June 2016
    jemhh wrote: »
    It won't completely prevent you from gaining strength but your anthropometry can play a role in how easy or difficult it is to do. Contreras mentions this a bit in this article:

    https://bretcontreras.com/female-strength-levels/

    Yes, I read similar articles. Plus where your muscles attach to a bone also seem to play a role. If they are very close to the joint your lever is shorter and you need more power to do something. I'm not sure about my arms to be honest, my at least there's a very short 'connection' on my lower leg, meaning I'll never have slim legs just above the ankles *sigh*

    One thing kind of seem to work: don't put my hand on the ground a shoulder width but quite a bit wider. Reduces the distance I need to move.

    I don't think there's anything wrong. It's probably yet another case of me being completely unable to work out properly. I mean, I've been running for more than a year now, doing hills, intervals, long and slow, short runs, fartleks and all the stuff.. and after all that time I still run at a pace some people call walking speed (5K in around 7min/km) and I currently don't seem to be able to get faster on any distance. Maybe it's time to admit that I'll never be a proper sports girl and go on with my life and accept that I'll always be slower, less strong, more clumsy, etc. Karma is a kitten though, giving me the ability to build muscles easily that aren't the most useful ones.
  • Cherimoose
    Cherimoose Posts: 5,210 Member
    yirara wrote: »
    Maybe it's time to admit that I'll never be a proper sports girl and go on with my life and accept that I'll always be slower, less strong, more clumsy, etc.

    That's one way to look at it. Another is your body probably handles all your essential everyday tasks perfectly fine, with no pain or other limitations. Lots of people here aren't that lucky, like those with fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, injuries & surgeries, etc. :+1:
  • yirara
    yirara Posts: 7,312 Member
    That's certainly true, @Cherimoose though I do have my pile of things to carry, small things like mineral and vitamin deficiencies, hashimito, but also some kind of yet not properly diagnosed asthma that completely stays away for months and then suddenly floors me for 4-6 weeks.
  • yirara
    yirara Posts: 7,312 Member
    Well, been trying some more push exercises today. Pushups on the sofa armrest (btw knee and hip height) and it still feels awkward unless I take a huuuuge step back and stand on my toes, but widening my hand position seems to help somewhat. pike pushups on the same, seated dips with straight legs (they seem to be easiest for me), narrow hand pushups on dining table and bouncing pushups on kitchen work top. Did 3 sets of 12 each. Now my arms are falling off. Lets see if it does anything in the longer run.
  • Lisa_Ookoo
    Lisa_Ookoo Posts: 134 Member
    Make sure you get enough protein.
  • yirara
    yirara Posts: 7,312 Member
    edited June 2016
    Lisa_Ookoo wrote: »
    Make sure you get enough protein.

    I get as much protein as I can eat without getting reflux. Unfortunately pretty much all protein-rich food is a trigger for me and meat, egg and dairy are worst. I get faily close to the mfp standard settings at least.
  • lemmie177
    lemmie177 Posts: 479 Member
    yirara wrote: »
    Well, been trying some more push exercises today. Pushups on the sofa armrest (btw knee and hip height) and it still feels awkward unless I take a huuuuge step back and stand on my toes, but widening my hand position seems to help somewhat. pike pushups on the same, seated dips with straight legs (they seem to be easiest for me), narrow hand pushups on dining table and bouncing pushups on kitchen work top. Did 3 sets of 12 each. Now my arms are falling off. Lets see if it does anything in the longer run.

    This sounds like a great start. You seem really determined and I can't imagine not progressing if you stick to workouts like this. You also said you could do 4 pushups on your knees. Maybe consider adding ~3 sets of 4 knee pushups? or 3x3? It's good to mix up the rep ranges and the higher-intensity exercise should help with strength adaptation.
  • SonyaCele
    SonyaCele Posts: 2,842 Member
    how much do you weigh, push ups and pulls ups are greatly affected by bodyweight. even just a few pounds can affect how many you can do.
  • Lisa_Ookoo
    Lisa_Ookoo Posts: 134 Member
    yirara wrote: »
    Lisa_Ookoo wrote: »
    Make sure you get enough protein.

    I get as much protein as I can eat without getting reflux. Unfortunately pretty much all protein-rich food is a trigger for me and meat, egg and dairy are worst. I get faily close to the mfp standard settings at least.

    There's a big difference between "minimum requirements" and "optimal for building muscle". I'm not sure what MFP standard setting is, but I'm suggesting that you try to get more. Have you tried soy?

    You're already doing the strength - building program, and since you can't change your genes, maybe work on nutrition?

    I'm also very weak in my upper body, and had to start the Stronglifts program at a very low weight. I'm adding weight very slowly and in very small increments.
  • yirara
    yirara Posts: 7,312 Member
    edited June 2016
    SonyaCele wrote: »
    how much do you weigh, push ups and pulls ups are greatly affected by bodyweight. even just a few pounds can affect how many you can do.

    125lbs at 5'6 1/2