T Nation

Pull-Up Bar for a BIG Boy?

My friend came to me for help in getting in shape. He’s a pretty large fella right now, standing about 6’2" and somewhere in the range of 380 lbs. At least, he was 380 before he started cleaning up his diet and trying to do some bodyweight exercises around the house. (When his mother died a few months ago, it made him do a lot of self-searching and realize that he didn’t want to live the way he was anymore.)

Anyway, all this is pretty beside the point. My problem is that he’s trying to get some kind of pullup bar in his house, so he can add some more pulling motions to his routine. He’s been starting to save for a gym membership, but even the least expensive gym is a few months away with the funds being the way they are, and I’d like to help him.

So, since there’s a wide variety of lifters here at T-Nation, I imagine someone must have run into that problem before. Any suggestions? I think we’re making some good progress so far… he’s found a few of the large water cooler bottles from Whole Foods, with the handles on the sides, and slowly filled them with more water to do a lot of the same exercises you’d do with a kettlebell or dumbbell, but I think a PU bar would be a big help as well.

Anyone?

Mounting a bar would probably be an issue.

If he wall mounts it, he should probably use lead anchors into cynderblock with heavy lag bolts, and if he mounts in to joists, reinforce them.

Putting his feet up on a ladder should help alleviate the load until he can do them unassisted.

I think it is a little silly to expect someone nearly 400lbs to be able to do pull ups in the house or garage and NOT pull the entire frame down. 400lbs isn’t just “big”, it fucking gigantic. I think you all should look for alternative exercises until he drops more weight.

I would be amazed if he could do a single pullup at 380. Ive seen Markus Ruhl (who’s about the same weight) struggle to do a single one at contest condition, and I doubt your friend is anywhere near as lean. I think it would be a better option for him to start with fatman pullups as he is less likely to injure himself. Why not just buy a barbell and some weights and work on deadlifting? Also pushups (if he can do them, or even over stairs etc to make it easier) are great imo.

[quote]ggypsy wrote:
My friend came to me for help in getting in shape. He’s a pretty large fella right now, standing about 6’2" and somewhere in the range of 380 lbs. At least, he was 380 before he started cleaning up his diet and trying to do some bodyweight exercises around the house. (When his mother died a few months ago, it made him do a lot of self-searching and realize that he didn’t want to live the way he was anymore.)

Anyway, all this is pretty beside the point. My problem is that he’s trying to get some kind of pullup bar in his house, so he can add some more pulling motions to his routine. He’s been starting to save for a gym membership, but even the least expensive gym is a few months away with the funds being the way they are, and I’d like to help him.

So, since there’s a wide variety of lifters here at T-Nation, I imagine someone must have run into that problem before. Any suggestions? I think we’re making some good progress so far… he’s found a few of the large water cooler bottles from Whole Foods, with the handles on the sides, and slowly filled them with more water to do a lot of the same exercises you’d do with a kettlebell or dumbbell, but I think a PU bar would be a big help as well.

Anyone?[/quote]

[quote]rbpowerhouse wrote:
I would be amazed if he could do a single pullup at 380. Ive seen Markus Ruhl (who’s about the same weight) struggle to do a single one at contest condition, and I doubt your friend is anywhere near as lean. I think it would be a better option for him to start with fatman pullups as he is less likely to injure himself. Why not just buy a barbell and some weights and work on deadlifting? Also pushups (if he can do them, or even over stairs etc to make it easier) are great imo.

[/quote]

This is exactly what I was thinking. Honestly if he can do a pullup at 380, especially seeing that he hasn’t really ever lifted then he’s a strong mother fucker!

Forgot to add, kudos to him for turning his lifestyle around…

Get him out walking, maybe even biking, which would be easier on his knees, but harder on the bike. (no offence)

Clean up his diet, and get some cardio going! Heck, even swimming wouldnt be bad for him.

What are fatman pullups? I just wanted to get more pulling motions into his routine… I know he couldn’t do pullups on it yet, but he could do negatives and work up to maybe a static hold.

But if there’s something else we can look at, I’m all for it. I’m not a professional by any means, although I’m kinda at the other end of the spectrum… just started eating and lifting right, and just broke 210 going the right way for building some mass.

I figured that mounting would be the biggest problem, so an alternative would be great.

[quote]ggypsy wrote:
What are fatman pullups? I just wanted to get more pulling motions into his routine… I know he couldn’t do pullups on it yet, but he could do negatives and work up to maybe a static hold.

But if there’s something else we can look at, I’m all for it. I’m not a professional by any means, although I’m kinda at the other end of the spectrum… just started eating and lifting right, and just broke 210 going the right way for building some mass.

I figured that mounting would be the biggest problem, so an alternative would be great.[/quote]

Let me make it more clear. No one in their right mind would have a HUGE 400lbs person start off with pull ups. That’s retarded. There are pro bodybuilders who can’t do pull ups in the off season because of how much they weigh. Once they lose weight for a competition, they can add them back in. Until then, many of them do lat pull downs to compensate along with several rowing movements. In other words, give up the idea of having your gigantic friend mount a bar and do any sort of pull up until they get to a more “normal” weight range.

lol I’d like to see a 400 pounder try a pullup

Let me make it more clear: I understood that without the condescending repeat. Hence my query for alternatives. I looked up fatman pullups… we don’t have a squat cage at his house, but I figure some good stepstools/sawhorses and a good length of pipe will be a start, and I’ll figure out how to elevate and make it more difficult when we get there.

Christ, my friend knows he’s big. Just the fact that we can’t get an accurate weight on him or know how much he’s lost, because most scales only go to 300, is evidence to that fact.

If anyone else has some helpful advice, I’d appreciate it. I posted this because I figured one of the Internet’s largest sites on bodybuilding might just have some experience with getting started as a fat boy, considering I think this is where the term former fat boy (FFB) came from. If you just want to hurl fat jokes by proxy at someone who’s making an effort to improve himself, or say I’m retarded for admitting this is something outside my own experience and asking advice, feel free to go fuck yourself. Thanks.

[quote]ggypsy wrote:
Let me make it more clear: I understood that without the condescending repeat. Hence my query for alternatives. I looked up fatman pullups… we don’t have a squat cage at his house, but I figure some good stepstools/sawhorses and a good length of pipe will be a start, and I’ll figure out how to elevate and make it more difficult when we get there.

Christ, my friend knows he’s big. Just the fact that we can’t get an accurate weight on him or know how much he’s lost, because most scales only go to 300, is evidence to that fact.

If anyone else has some helpful advice, I’d appreciate it. I posted this because I figured one of the Internet’s largest sites on bodybuilding might just have some experience with getting started as a fat boy, considering I think this is where the term former fat boy (FFB) came from. If you just want to hurl fat jokes by proxy at someone who’s making an effort to improve himself, or say I’m retarded for admitting this is something outside my own experience and asking advice, feel free to go fuck yourself. Thanks.[/quote]

Everyone’s seemed respectful to me - it’s just that any sort of pull-up isn’t going to be in the cards till he gets somewhere in the 200-250 range.

I’d focus on getting a cheap or free barbell, dumbells and bench. Check out rumage sales, classifieds and craigslist. People usually just give away stuff if you come to pick it up.

[quote]ggypsy wrote:
Let me make it more clear: I understood that without the condescending repeat. Hence my query for alternatives. I looked up fatman pullups… we don’t have a squat cage at his house, but I figure some good stepstools/sawhorses and a good length of pipe will be a start, and I’ll figure out how to elevate and make it more difficult when we get there.

Christ, my friend knows he’s big. Just the fact that we can’t get an accurate weight on him or know how much he’s lost, because most scales only go to 300, is evidence to that fact.

If anyone else has some helpful advice, I’d appreciate it. I posted this because I figured one of the Internet’s largest sites on bodybuilding might just have some experience with getting started as a fat boy, considering I think this is where the term former fat boy (FFB) came from. If you just want to hurl fat jokes by proxy at someone who’s making an effort to improve himself, or say I’m retarded for admitting this is something outside my own experience and asking advice, feel free to go fuck yourself. Thanks.[/quote]

Who hurled fat jokes? You were told that some pro bodybuilders don’t even do that exercise in the off season and what they do to compensate. What were you told? Were you told that they replace it with lat pull downs and variations of rowing movements? I do believe you were…so what are you talking about? how is it someone can give some of you exactly what you need to know and you act like you weren’t told anything?

First, why would you be that concerned about his back development alone? His entire body is in need of work and if you can’t afford a gym or don’t have access to equipment that mimics lat pull downs, ROWS ARE YOU YOUR ONLY OTHER OPTION. Why did this need to be spelled out again? You claim it didn’t need to be repeated…yet obviously it did.

[quote]HoratioSandoval wrote:

Everyone’s seemed respectful to me [/quote]

I swear some people are just a few cards short of a full deck. You can spoon feed them info and they will act like they can’t see it. How much more clear did that have to be for him?

Maybe you should chew it up and have him eat it, that would make the process easier.

Google is your friend. Fat Boy Pullups from Eric Cressey and Mike Robertson.
http://www.T-Nation.com/readTopic.do?id=535872&pageNo=0

One and One-Fourth Inverted Row: Also known as the “fat-boy pullup,” this is an upper back exercise with a good carryover to the bench press.

Set a barbell up on the pins in a rack (or just a Smith machine; scary that they actually have a good use, huh?) at about mid-thigh. Now, position yourself on the floor under the bar with your hands positioned as if you?re going to do a bench press. Instead of pressing the bar, pull yourself up until your sternum touches the bar. In order to modify resistance, change the position of your legs and feet. The progression from easy to difficult is as follows:

1) Knees flexed, feet on floor

2) Knees extended, feet on floor

3) Knees extended, feet elevated on bench

4) Knees extended, feet on bench with weight plate on chest

You want to keep your entire body in a straight line; don?t allow the hips to sag. Remember that we?re doing one and one-fourth reps, so after touching your chest to the bar and retracting the scapulae, you?ll drop one-quarter of the way down and then go back up to the bar before returning to the floor. That?s one rep. Enjoy.

[quote]ggypsy wrote:
Let me make it more clear: I understood that without the condescending repeat. Hence my query for alternatives. I looked up fatman pullups… we don’t have a squat cage at his house, but I figure some good stepstools/sawhorses and a good length of pipe will be a start, and I’ll figure out how to elevate and make it more difficult when we get there.

Christ, my friend knows he’s big. Just the fact that we can’t get an accurate weight on him or know how much he’s lost, because most scales only go to 300, is evidence to that fact.

If anyone else has some helpful advice, I’d appreciate it. I posted this because I figured one of the Internet’s largest sites on bodybuilding might just have some experience with getting started as a fat boy, considering I think this is where the term former fat boy (FFB) came from. If you just want to hurl fat jokes by proxy at someone who’s making an effort to improve himself, or say I’m retarded for admitting this is something outside my own experience and asking advice, feel free to go fuck yourself. Thanks.[/quote]

First off, nobody really did anything that disrespectful to you. I didn’t notice anybody “hurling fat jokes”… You’ve gotta check yourself. If you want people to help you out you better calm down and stop being so defensive.

Yes you came to a site with people who have a wealth of information and guess what… they’re telling you that a 380 lb man has no use for a pull up bar. Quit worrying so much about how your going to work his back… he’s 380 lbs… he needs a good nutrition plan and a fitness plan that is going to help him become a more healthy human being.

Right now his obesity will limit what he is able to do, and you HAVE to take this into account. 380 lbs is beyond FFB level, walking up the stairs is probably a workout for him.
Start him out with some treadmill work, maybe use some cable exercises for his strength training… these are things he’ll actually be able to accomplish… but pull ups??? come on, you’ve got to think about this.

Edit: I forgot you said he cant afford to go to a gym… so instead of using a treadmill and cable machines, get him to walk around his neighborhood and get him to buy some bands he can rig up in all sorts of ways to accommodate a strength training workout. I think bands would be a good starting point for him and they are relatively cheap.

Have him do pseudo dumbbell rows with the half filled water jug you mentioned. He can easily changed the exercise by row to his hip or his chest, changing the angle he holds his torso, and hand position as he holds the water bottle. Good luck.

ggypsy,

When your friend is ready for pullups he may have a psychological block against them since he has not done them in years (if ever). If he needs to get some “practice” in pullups before being able to do several perfect reps, consider having him do “negative pullups” – a technique from Arthur Jones (founder of Nautilus) from the 60’s and 70’s:

  1. Safety is always the top priority
  2. With a big block/platform, have him step up and get himself into the top position of a pullup using his legs. For his size, this would probably be safer than a chair or weight bench.
  3. At the top of the pullup (which is the starting position) he would then lower himself slowly until he reaches the bottom position. This “lowering” may take between 5-20 seconds.
  4. Assuming he is ok for a few more reps, have him climb the block again and get himself situation to the top position. Repeat lowering, although this time he may not be able to control his descent for as long.

Stop him after 5-6 lowerings; and immediately terminate the set before the 5-6 “reps” if he even thinks something is wrong – better to be safe & conservative. Negatives are pretty grueling and he will definitely feel it for a few days.

This should give him the pullup’s equivalent of “batting practice” or “spring training” so that he gains familiarity with the pullup bar, builds a positive expectancy that he will be able to do pull-ups when he becomes leaner, and allows him to work on his mechanics (staying tight, good grip, etc.).

Hope this helps your friend, and please remember to always keep him safe (and follow all of his physician’s recommendations) as his mechanics may or may not be ready for a full-time lifting program. I wish him well, and congratulations to you for being willing to help someone out who wants to make such a dramatic change in his life.

  • Matt

ggypsy,

I want to re-emphasize that if you offer my recommendation to your friend be sure that he has medical clearance to do so AND after he has built up a level of conditioning. Like the others who have posted on this topic have said, your friend may find walking up the stairs or doing rows with a gallon of water to be very taxing.

If he can find one cheap on eBay or somewhere else (and if he is medically cleared to do so), consider having him do light sled dragging as it is a wonderful tool to improve conditioning. Many big powerlifters (with a high bodyfat percentage) use it to improve their conditioning levels.

We wish him well in his pursuit!

  • Matt

Sorry I did not post a link to fatman pullups. I found these very useful initially, but what I found much more useful (not suitable for your friend ubtil he gets below 300 or so imo) was the gravitron assisted pullup machine. It is my experience that bodyweight exercises assist in preferential fat loss when there’s a slight deficit.

Also Please ask him to check out Burn the Fat feed the muscle by Tom venuto for a comprehensive (imo) body composition bible. Its 340 pages of valuable information that will definitely help him (also a yahoo group under BFFM which is excellent and has lots of experienced members). While T-dawg and stuff are great fore someone who UNDERSTANDS the effect of food, BFFM is very useful to “change” your perspective on food and give you the basic “fundaes” before you embark on an advanced plan.
Now I’ll be off to f&^k myself, but I’ll need to consult my manual :))

[quote]ggypsy wrote:
Let me make it more clear: I understood that without the condescending repeat. Hence my query for alternatives. I looked up fatman pullups… we don’t have a squat cage at his house, but I figure some good stepstools/sawhorses and a good length of pipe will be a start, and I’ll figure out how to elevate and make it more difficult when we get there.

Christ, my friend knows he’s big. Just the fact that we can’t get an accurate weight on him or know how much he’s lost, because most scales only go to 300, is evidence to that fact.

If anyone else has some helpful advice, I’d appreciate it. I posted this because I figured one of the Internet’s largest sites on bodybuilding might just have some experience with getting started as a fat boy, considering I think this is where the term former fat boy (FFB) came from. If you just want to hurl fat jokes by proxy at someone who’s making an effort to improve himself, or say I’m retarded for admitting this is something outside my own experience and asking advice, feel free to go fuck yourself. Thanks.[/quote]