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Seniors can accomplish his feat of strength.
If you thought the arrival of that AARP card meant that your days of lifting weights were behind you, think again. Pull-ups are definitely among the most challenging body weight exercises, but being of an advanced age doesn't have to stop you from doing them. It may just take some time to get there.
Pull-ups are less about age and more about strength.
Get Some Help
Plenty of men and women over 65 are able to do pull-ups - but chances are, they didn't start out with the ability and strength to do them. You'll need at least a base level of fitness and muscular strength to accomplish even one repetition - and that's the case for people age 24 or 84. First off, talk to your doctor about your exercise goals. Your doctor can help you assess your current fitness level and determine where you should start. If you're totally new to exercise, hiring a personal trainer can also help you train safely and effectively.
Strengthen Your Muscles
Pull-ups are a form of strength or weight training, something that can be really beneficial for older people. In fact, professor Maria Fiatarone Singh of the University of Sydney School of Medicine said she'd choose weightlifting exercises over any other exercise for frail older people. Weight training helps strengthen the muscles that can prevent falls, and can help you stay more agile as you age. While the pull-up shouldn't be the only exercise you do, it will help you strengthen most of your upper body, including your back, arms, shoulders and chest.
Try It Out
The best way to accomplish the pull-up is to actually do pull-ups. If you've already been weight training or you're a regular exerciser and your doctor gives you the okay, locate a sturdy pull-up bar and try doing one. Keep a spotter nearby in case you need help getting off the bar. The standard pull-up is done with an overhand grip, with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, though some people find the "chin-up" grip - in which your palms face you - to be easier.
Work Up To It
If you're not able to do one repetition, you have lots of options for working up to it. Try doing "negatives," in which you stand on a stool and lower your body from the "up" position of the pull-up to the "down" position. Also, try using an assisted pull-up bar at your gym, which will displace some or all of your weight and allow you to work on form. If balance is an issue for you, your best bet may be to do half pull-ups using a lower bar. For that version, keep your legs extended and your feet on the floor, and then practice either negatives or the chin-up or pull-up from this more supported position.
Build More Strength
If you're totally new to exercise or it's been quite some time since you exercised, your doctor may not recommend trying pull-ups right away, as it may be too vigorous for you. If that's the case, you may need to spend several months - or even years - building strength gradually. To build strength in the upper body, try doing bicep curls and front and overhead arm raises with 1 or 2-lb. weights. Also, try pushups against a wall and seated rows with a resistance band. Start with one set of 10 to 15 repetitions of each exercise, two days a week. As you get stronger, start adding a second set and then gradually add more weight. Building this base level of strength and fitness can help you eventually work up to a half or full pull-up.