Many of us have experienced that dreaded moment: when you step up to the bar in gym class and are asked to do as many of that terrible exercise as possible. Pullups. I have not heard of many exercises that people do not like as much as that one. Yet, I also hear that it is one of the most essential exercises in existence and one that true fitness is measured.
It is an area of the gym I have failed.
I am not by any means a newbie in the gym. I am not a fitness expert either. But being able to bench north of 200 lbs, perform a full squat (all of the way down) with over 250 lbs on my back (knees cracking all the way), and deadlift a set of 340 lbs AFTER 3 full sets of 270 lbs, I am not slack in the gym by any means. What I cannot do however is more than 10 pullups in one shot.
To be in comparison to where I am at in other exercises, I should be able to pound out close to 30 in one shot. So where’d I go wrong?
There’s a lot that can be said as to that: 1) not enough focus on my back and biceps, two areas crucial to pullups. 2) being too heavy (I am over 200 lbs). 3) not doing fucking pullups… in many of my routines they would not exist, and there was seldom a good substitution for it.
Now given that I’ve posted all of these blogs on improving and getting better, one would wonder why I haven’t also applied it to my gym-going. Besides the fact that pullups flat out intimidate me because I was never good at them, there was never a good reason that I didn’t try to do better with pullups. I mean, I used to only be able to deadlift 135 lbs.
Trying to figure out what to do, I turned to youtube channels like Athlean-X, Buff Dudes, and Strength Camp all with various tidbits of advice… but one common theme: if I wanted to do more pullups, I’d have to do more pullups.
So I did.
Last week I added pullups to all 5 days I lift weights. And today I achieved 10 in one shot… the first time in 6 months I was at 10. Then I remembered something my wife told me about where she stood with pullups using the assisted pullup/dip machine, and it hit me, I could use that machine! So right after my 10, I walked over and with an 80 lb assist (not sure how true the 80 lbs was and 60 lbs is the lowest setting) I performed another 5 until I couldn’t do another. Then I went up to 120 lbs and did another 6. Essentially it was like doing a drop set. 10 regular, 11 assisted.
For the first time in my life, I feel like I exhausted my lats. They are sore. Tomorrow, I’ll repeat and go until I pretty much max out the machine.
The point of this is getting better. Even as I talk about getting better in so many things, I often forget that pain and discomfort are partners with improvement. Doing things when I am not good at them, or feel like I am not good at them is something I avoid. But because I avoid it, I never change; I never get better. It’s called practice. Practice isn’t supposed to be pretty, although it can end up being pretty as skills are built up.
Tying this back to my writing, I will not be able to be a better writer without writing. I will not be able to sell more books without publishing more. Like with my pullups, if I don’t accept the discomfort that will come along with putting more of my work out there, that comes along with creating those pieces, I will never get better. And I will have to accept all of the pain and effort that goes along with it. Otherwise, what would even be the point.