Hi Hayley

I tried barefoot water skiing in the summer and I wasn't quite able to get up, but I was close! I was doing it off a boom hanging from a water ski boat so training wheels style. I know I need more upper body strength and I think being able to pull up my own body weight would help but I don't know how to progress to pull ups and chin ups. I currently cannot do them and I worry about hurting myself in the process of trying.

Have any suggestions?

Thanks :)



Barefoot water skiing...brave girl!!  And you are right -- an improvement in your upper body strength will definitely help you progress in your ability to barefoot ski; push ups and pull ups are two of my favourite exercises to build upper body strength as well as tone your arms, back, chest and abs.  Click here for a refresher on how to work up to doing a push up and follow these guidelines below to help you work towards completing a pull-up with ease.

Just like push ups, women have a tough time doing a pull-up (or chin up) for two reasons: we are genetically weaker in our upper bodies than our male counterparts and we carry a lot more weight in our hips and legs, making it even harder for our arms to pull our bodies up.  So, step number one is improving our power to weight ratio, meaning you need to improve your upper body strength and power and decrease your body’s total weight.  When you are at the gym, focus on strengthening your shoulders, arms, chest, core and all of the muscles in your back.

Push-ups are great but try seated rows, bent over rows, lat pull downs and back extensions on a stability ball.  Stick to 10-12 repetitions and work up to 3-5 sets making sure you fatigue by the last repetition.  You also need to work on keeping your weight down so diet and cardiovascular fitness are also very important in your ability to complete a set of pull-ups.

There are three ways I progress my clients to pull-ups.  The first is using one of my favourite tools: the TRX.  This piece of equipment allows you to strengthen your body as if you were doing pull-ups yet you can adjust how much of your own body weight you are lifting by adjusting where you position your feet.  The farther away from the handles you position your feet the more load you will place onto your upper body.

I also like to use pull-up bands which are strong rubber bands that you wrap around the pull-up bar and then position under your feet which aid you in lifting your body up. They come in many different resistances so as you become stronger you can progress to using bands with less resistance.  Even if you already are capable of doing a pull-up or two, these bands are great to help you do sets of 10 or more.
Eccentric pull-ups are another great way to improve your upper body strength. 

There are two types of muscular contractions: concentric (which is when your muscle contracts to lift something like a dumbbell in a bicep curl) and eccentric (which is the muscle resisting a load such as when your arm lowers a dumbbell in a bicep curl). In an eccentric pull-up start how you would normally end a pull up and slowly lower yourself down in a count of three to five seconds.  You can either have a partner help you get up to your starting position or you can place a box underneath the pull-up bar which you can step up on to reach your starting position.  Start with one set of 10 eccentric pull ups and work up to three sets, taking a short rest in between each set.

A winter focusing on these exercises will guarantee you a successful barefoot water ski next season.

Attached - Luke Wilson running with his dog last week.