The worst way to improve at anything is to train for the purpose of satisfying the short-term ego. The ego forces us to take shortcuts that are typically detrimental to overall progress, ultimately bruising our future egos anyway.
I’m glad I captured my ego-driven performance on video today. Without the video, I honestly wouldn’t have noticed just how bad my form really is.
Tomorrow, let’s see if I can train with pull-ups that are slow/controlled, back-powered, and fuller in their range of motion.
To help me with this month’s challenge, I hired a personal trainer, Matt, who I’ve been working out with once per week (every Friday) since February 2017 (as part of my preparation for this month).
Matt will continue to come once per week, but we are working together to create a program that I can follow for the rest of the week.
While I could theoretically pursue this month’s challenge on my own, I prefer working with Matt for a few reasons:
- Knowledge: Matt has a much deeper understanding of fitness, the human body, and the range of possible exercises. When I work out on my own, I tend to repeat the same exercises over and over. Matt helps me build programs that are more diverse and better targeted.
- Intensity: In the past, when I work out by myself, I tend to only push to about 90–95%. Matt is very good at pushing me until failure, ensuring I’m getting the most out of each movement. (However, it seems that I’m also finding extra internal motivation as a result of the stakes of this month’s challenge).
- Structure: I like having one workout per week strictly scheduled, allowing me to structure the rest of my week around this constant. For some reason, I find it much easier to mentally plan my week of training when I have this anchor point.
Since today was Friday, Matt came over and we worked out together for an hour.
I mentioned to him my struggle with my ego and bad form (as I explained yesterday), and I tried to focus on quality pull-ups today (slower, pulling from my back, increased range of motion).
I still haven’t fully escaped my ego, but today was a step in the right direction…
Before I can do 40 pull-ups without resting, I need to be able to do 40 pull-ups with minimal (1–3 minute) resting. Since my current one set maximum is around 20, I figured I’d be able to 40 pull-ups in two or three sets (with a few minutes of rest in between each set).
This isn’t exactly the case…
Today, I was able to do one set of 19 pull-ups. After two minutes of rest, I could only do 8 pull-ups. And, after another two minutes, I could only do 5.
During the past six months, my weekly pull-up/back training has focused on strength, and not endurance, so this drop-off wasn’t unexpected, but it’s much steeper than what I imagined it would be.
Clearly, I need to start training with endurance in mind as well.
To facilitate this, I’m going to set a one-week interim goal: Complete 40 pull-ups within 5 minutes (with as much as resting as necessary, but as little resting as possible).
If I can get to this point, I can start shortening the interval, until the rest periods are no longer necessary.
For the past six days, I’ve been working out hard, in hopes of building both the strength and muscle endurance required to complete this month’s challenge.
While the strength training is important, my diet may be even more important: If I don’t properly feed myself, I won’t have the necessary nutrients to transform my body in the way I’m hoping. My workouts can only be as effective as the foods I eat.
In the past, I’ve struggled with consuming enough calories. I’ve also tended to not consume enough leafy greens or healthy fats.
So, this month, to supplement my diet, I’m adding a liquid component to breakfast and dinner. In particular, I’ve found that I’m more easily able to consume the necessary nutrients if I throw all the ingredients in a blender and slurp them down.
It’s not the most delicious thing, but it tastes like 40 pull-ups, so I have no problem drinking it up.
Here are the ingredients to the magic pull-up shake.
- For protein: The main source of protein is a plant-based protein powder. My body has a bad reaction to whey-based proteins, so I’m sticking with the plants. The peanut butter also has a little bit of protein, but that’s not its main role.
- For fiber: I’m using two spoonfuls of flaxseed as my source of fiber. I’m not exactly sure why fiber is healthy/recommended, but apparently it is… So, it’s in the smoothie.
- For fat: I’m using walnut oil and natural peanut butter as my sources of fat. The walnut oil is particularly good for Omega 3's.
- For all the other stuff: Leafy greens give the body lots of good stuff. I’m starting with spinach, since it’s pretty neutral in taste. Maybe I’ll eventually graduate to kale, or something a little bit sharper in taste.
With the all the ingredients laid out, I throw them in the Nutribullet cups…
And then blend them until they are a nice, appetizing green color.
I’m officially one week into the pull-up challenge. I’m definitely getting stronger, but not at the rate I was hoping, so I need to start thinking about ways I can augment my pure strength approach.
With this in mind, I decided today to experiment with hanging rests. In other words, I wanted to see if I could somehow rest while just hanging lock-armed on the bar, allowing me to theoretically extend my single set pull-up maximum.
Today, I worked out at a friend’s place, and on my way over, as I was visualizing how I would incorporate these hanging rests into a set of pull-ups, I was genuinely worried — Worried that I would easily do 40 pull-ups in this way and that the rest of the month’s narrative would be ruined.
Luckily, at least for the narrative, it’s a lot harder to rest on the bar than I thought. Although, I’m not sure today’s experiment was fully informative: I was too anxious and didn’t allow myself to rest for long enough on the bar.
Tomorrow, perhaps I’ll try resting for a full 20–30 seconds between each grouping of pull-ups. I’m not sure this will make things easier, but it’s worth a try.
Also, if I want to use this hanging method as a way to rest, I clearly need to increase my grip strength. Especially if I want to shake out one arm at a time — which may be more tiring than helpful anyway.
I’ll continue experimenting with this on-the-bar resting concept over the next few days, and see if I can get anything useful out of it.
I’m experiencing an unusual problem today…
Commonly, men focus their workouts on their chest and arms (the vanity muscles), often neglecting their back. As a result, as their chest gets stronger, their pecs pull in, overpowering a relatively weaker back, resulting in a rounded, hunchback kind of posture.
I’m having the reverse problem: I’m mostly neglecting my chest, but hitting my back very hard. Because of this, my back muscles are pulling in, overpowering my chest and drawing my shoulders back.
In general, this is a recipe for good posture, but I’ve surpassed that point. My shoulders are being pulled back so hard it feels like I’m going to snap in half.
This is clearly not a good thing, and something I must remedy. To do so, I skipped my back workout today, and focused fully on my chest.
Hopefully, tomorrow morning, I wake up and feel a little bit more balanced.
Yesterday, I took the day off from pull-ups, so I could balance out my bodyand come back today fully rested.
However, tonight, once I got on the bar, I still felt soreness in my back, biceps, and especially forearms, and decided to take another day of rest.
This is a bit frustrating (since I’m excited to train), but I need to let me body recover, so I can have high-quality workouts, rather than tired, half-energy sessions. I also want to make sure that I’m not overdoing it or hurting myself.
Still, I would really love to train every day if I could. Mentally, I have more than enough energy to workout daily for as long as necessary, but my body refuses to keep up.
This is the frustrating part about physical challenges (especially when they are constrained to a small period of time): My body’s capacity to recover is mostly out of my control and dictates my ability to make forward progress.
It’s a careful dance: If I wait until I’m fully fresh, the month might pass me by. If I push too hard, I might hurt myself, ruining the entire month.
Today, I decided it made sense to rest my back, and work up a sweat in another way: High intensity interval running.
I turned the treadmill up as fast as it can go, ran for one minute, rested for 30 seconds, ran for one minutes, rested, and so on for fifteen minutes.
My cinematography wasn’t the best today (It looks a bit like a war movie):
Running in this way doesn’t really contribute to my pull-up abilities, but hopefully it helps me have a better night sleep tonight, which is always welcomed.
This morning, like every other morning this month, I woke up, meditated, and then consumed my liquid breakfast.
For the first time today, the shake didn’t sit quite right with me. My body spent the rest of the day trying to decide which direction the shake should exit my body (it still hasn’t made a decision).
This wasn’t the best day to have digestive problems: Although he typically comes on Fridays, Matt, my trainer, came over today to train (since I have family visiting this weekend), so I had to fight through the bubbly stomach feeling while trying to have my best workout of the week.
To add to the challenge, my left elbow was still bothering me (as it has been for the past few days). Matt thinks my overworked muscles are crowding/pinching a nerve in my arm, which apparently isn’t too unusual.
Despite the stomach and arm problems, I actually had a very successful day today: For the first time, I felt what a good pull-up feels like.
Up until this point, I’ve relied too heavily on my arms (hence my problem), and not enough on my back. Today, I realized that, if I point my chest at the bar, and pull my elbows down, instead of around, I can shift most of the work from my arms to my back.
While I wasn’t in the best physical state to train with this new form, mentally internalizing what I’m “supposed to do” is a big step forward. I’m hoping that the improvement in my form will result in at least five incremental pull-ups.
I failed to capture a video of my new pull-up form, but here’s a video of my first set from today (where I’m pulling too much with my arms and resultingly approaching the bar in an arced motion).
Once my left elbow is healed, I’m excited to get back on the bar with this new approach.
Today, to let my body heal, I didn’t workout. Instead, I watched pull-up tutorials on YouTube, in hopes of better understanding common mistakes and internalizing proper form.
Then, as I was clicking around, I came across this video of a man doing 118 pull-ups in one set, by resting on the bar between reps. He manages to hold onto the bar for over 19 minutes, which is just crazy.
But, it gets crazier: He has another video where he completes one set of 70 one arm pull-ups, staying on the bar for 42 minutes.
His grip strength is insane, and massively inspiring. After all, this is exactly the technique I had imagined and tried a few days ago. Clearly, it’s much harder than he makes it look:
Nevertheless, I love seeing videos like this, where another human completely shatters my mental model of what’s reasonably possible. I’m very inspired and can’t wait until my body is ready for more pull-ups.
Today, I continued my streak of not training (a.k.a. resting my arms) — although, I have a decent excuse: My sister is visiting from New York, so we spent the day exploring San Francisco.
As part of our touristy day, we covered a lot of ground on foot. So, while I didn’t directly train my pull-ups today, it was still a fairly active day: We ended up walking a little over 13 miles.
If anything, I probably had a calorie deficit today, which isn’t great for building muscle, but means I have slightly less weight to pull.
50 Pullups Programme is a training programme which will help you develop your strenght and physique.
Most people can do less than 10 pullups and very few can do more than 15. With our programme you will be able to improve your results. Our training programme is designed to help you reach at least 30 pullups.
30 or 50?
The programme is written up to 50 pullups. It is a lot and it is extremely difficult do reach.
We created such plan so that anyone can aim at perfection.
To be honest though, when you reach 30 pullups, it will already be a really impressive achievement. You will have developed your strength and physique substantially. 30 pullups is absolutely enough to maintain healthy, developed muscles and you don't need to do more than that.
However, if you want to aim higher, we have 50 pullups for you :)
Before you start
- familiarize yourself with rules of the programme,
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