It turns out that what I grew up thinking were pull-ups are actually chin-ups, and real pull-ups are harder to do than chin-ups. When my friend Larry (of Move, Damn You! and mercilessly making fun of me every chance he gets fame) asked me if I had any fitness goals for the year, the first thing that came to mind was working on my pull-ups. I spent a lot of time playing with my little brother and sister over Christmas break, and they both enjoyed doing pull-ups on the bar in our grandfolks’ house. I used the time to figure out how many I could do and was pretty dissatisfied with my performance, so it was on my mind.
I figured that going with a flexible training regimen would be easier to manage and allow me adjust what I was working and how hard I was working it. The only things I made it a point to do every day was doing thirty pushups after rolling out of bed, doing thirty pushups before crawling into bed, and doing as many matched sets of pull-ups and chin-ups as I could manage several times a day.
I matched my pull-ups to my chin-ups for simplicity’s sake. In terms of effort, I focused on doing what I knew I was capable of plus at least one. When I could do four pull-ups, I pushed for five and sometimes managed six. When I could do five, I aimed for six and struggled toward seven. At six, I winced my way to eight.
In terms of schedule, I did at least two sets of pull-ups and chin-ups in the morning for a minimum total of 8 and 8, and often threw in a third on my way out of the door to be late for the bus to make it 12 and 12. When I got off work, I would come home, sit down for a minute, and then do at least two more sets, and sometimes a third (or fourth, or fifth, depending) before bed. I’d stretch before and after each set, too.
Around a month and a half after choosing a goal, on 2/18 to be specific, I beat ten pull-ups for the first time in my entire life.
It turns out if you do thirty pull-ups & chin-ups a day, and eventually graduate to something horrible-sounding like sixty to seventy pull-ups & chin-ups a day and more on Saturdays because there’s nothing else to do besides video games and naps, it’s easy to hit ten. Well, not “easy,” that’s not right — I mean to say that it’s doable. It’s reasonable. Feasible. With every pull-up I added to my tally, the better I felt and the more I felt I could do.
I focused my aggression this time, instead of just trying to go hard like I usually do and I hit this goal much sooner than I expected. I overreach a lot, honestly. I overestimate my abilities and then I get frustrated when I miss the mark. This time, I planned it differently. I chose a reasonable goal — double what I was capable of, plus two for a nice milestone number — and then I thought about what I was capable of doing at that point in time. After that, I just focused on consistently aiming at a level that was slightly better than my then-potential and trust that, in working those muscles, I would gradually increase that potential. That’s how muscles work, right? Science!