I have also had the same issue… I can do pull ups when I can reach the bar from the ground but struggle when I can’t!
Until about 5 months back, I could not manage a single pull up. I progressed slowly using an assisted pull up machine until I could finally just about manage one. Then, as part of the 16 week mountaineering program, I decided to try the max strength pull up workouts described in TftNA. I have generally been using a pull up bar at home and in the gym I frequent where my arms are fully extended and I have to be on tip-toe to reach the bar. So far I have managed to do 2-3 pull ups in a set in the last workout wearing mountaineering boots and a weight vest with ~13 lbs of added weight. I’ve been feeling pretty good about myself. But here’s the problem – today, I was in a different gym, which had an assisted pull up machine. I folded back the bar that your feet rest on when doing assisted pull ups. In this case, when hanging from the handholds I was ~ 2 feet off the ground and felt like my arms were hyper-extended, and I could not get my chin up to my hands, even without a weight vest. Pretty deflating, because I got no sense that in my previous efforts at home or the other gym that I was boosting myself with my feet. Any suggestions for how to deal with this issue would be appreciated!
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