Have you had enough of personal finance bloggers coming at you with their physical fitness makeovers? No? Awesome. Because I’m about to fire up a few paragraphs on how to do more pull-ups!
After all, they are the end-all and be-all of strength exercises. And as a bonus, yours truly is going to be pulling another stunt (i.e., experiment) over the next several months. Let’s get ready to pull our weight, slackers!!!
Pull-ups strengthen your top half. It’s the exercise that puts the V shape on your back. Pull-ups hit the lats, biceps, even your abs while strengthening your grip. It’s a compound maneuver that works multiple muscles at the same time. Also, they are hard to do.
Additionally, if you’re like me and back pain is an occasional issue, pull-ups can help a lot. Imagine what sheer gravity does to your spine, day in and day out.
Well, when you’re hanging off a bar, gravity has the opposite effect of stretching your spine, rather than compressing it. I wouldn’t argue that pull-ups will keep you from shrinking with age, but I might just keep this experiment around for a while to see how this 6 footer fares…
Pull-ups strengthen your grip. This is important for all sorts of reasons. If you’re like me, on occasion you’re handling heavy equipment or power tools. Working on a remodeling project, hauling lots of stuff.
Heck, being able to open a jar of pickles comes in handy sometimes. But also later in life, as your ability to kick ass diminishes somewhat, strength exercises can keep you in the race a lot longer.
How Do You Get Better at Doing Pull-Ups?
This write-up is inspired by Mr. 1500 Days to Freedom. Carl is on a mission to improve both his strength and endurance. Pull-ups, push-ups, running 10Ks and half marathons. The guy is your quintessential early retiree: Showing off what you can accomplish with all that free time!
I figure if Carl can get to 10 pull-ups, I can too. Where am I at now? 6. Last week I was at 5 when I started this ambitious new venture. My goal is to get to 20 pull-ups in a single, uninterrupted set by the end of 2018.
The tactic I hope to employ is pretty simple. I’m taking a page out of the book of Mike Joplin. This guy (rest in peace) developed a massive upper body by simply doing one set of pull-ups, every. single. day.
The story in that link is a hoot. He’d use a door frame if he didn’t have access to a pull-up bar.
I don’t advise you take up the boozing and overeating Joplin did as a young enlisted man. If you’re not in your 20s, your metabolism will not allow you to burn those excess sugars and calories away. You will want to focus on:
- Clean eating: Limit your carbs and sugars. Stick to whole foods.
- Sleep! Get 7-8 hours of good uninterrupted Zs every night.
- Hydrate. Start your day by drinking two tall glasses of water. Prime the body.
The Personal Finance Connection
Physical fitness is a cornerstone for ensuring better odds at longevity without ailments. It isn’t a cure-all, but for folks like yours truly, who have irritating inflammation issues from time to time, exercise is non-negotiable. In early retirement, you’re no longer covered by an employer-sponsored health plan. And Medicare coverage, weak as it is, is years away.
I already have the biking thing down. And I’ll sneak in an occasional 2.5-mile run. So cardio? Got you covered. This post is all about strength training.
Studies have proven the effectiveness of hoisting heavyweight objects for living a longer, healthier life. If you’re a finance geek and like money, then avoiding Rx and medical deductibles via rigorous and consistent exercise ought to be a priority NOW.
Essential Pull-Up Training Gear
One of the things I love about the gym I go to in the wintertime is the elastic bands they keep hung from the pull-up bar. There are four bands with varying thicknesses.
The thicker the band, the easier the pull-up. You simply put one foot in the band loop and start hoisting away.
Simple, elegant, and cheap technology. You simply work your way down to the skinnier bands as your strength improves. Eventually, you’ll use the bands only for special drills – like grooving a 50 rep set of pull-ups!
Installing a Pull-up Bar at Home
A long-time back I had one of those el-cheapo bars you install in a door frame. The kind that has anchors that get screwed into the door jamb. A good solution, if you have a door you don’t need to keep closed. For those of us in small houses however, we gotta get creative.
My solution? I went for something SOLID. For Christmas a few years back I asked for and received, the sweetest dang pull-up bar you can get for home use. Bad boy is joist-mounted! Check it out:
The pull-up bar I got came from Amazon and costs around 50 bucks. Once installed, that thing will not move. Admittedly, it was a bit of a workout just to drill the holes through that 1946 timber. But now I can do pull-ups from home on a gym-worthy bar. AND bonus, we can hang stuff from it to dry when it’s not in use.
So there you have it. Another day, another life experiment fired up.
Every morning on my way down to the basement office to write these edifying blog posts, I make a pit stop into the laundry room to get in a set of pull-ups. On the way upstairs an hour and a half later, I stop to do a single set of chin-ups.
We’ll see if the chin-up count keeps up with the pull-up count, but right now, the chin-ups are a little easier for me. Chin-ups isolate the biceps a bit more, while still hitting the lats. Pull-ups, with the overhand grip, are still a better overall compound exercise.
Extra credit: If you want to hit those biceps hard, try a slow release hang from the bar, using the chin-up grip.
Feeling pumped up? Ready to join me on this latest knucklehead experiment and propose a mutual challenge? Let’s see if fully employed Cubert can keep up with that notorious early retired guy out west. Not putting any money on it just yet, but it’ll be a fun test.
As for the health benefits? Can’t argue with that.
Speaking of fitness in early retirement: My friend Fritz has quite a thing going with his habit of swimming across giant bodies of water. I’m going to give myself a few years before I try tackling anything close to that! For now, pull-ups will do just fine.
Here’s the Scorecard!
- Single set max June 1: 6
- Single set max July 1: 7
- Single set max Aug 1: 10
- Single set max Sept 1: 12
- Single set max Oct 1: 14
- Single set max Nov 1: 15
- Single set max Dec 1: 17
- The goal for Jan 1: 20!
I’ve noticed the best results are when I hit the bar every other day, rather than every single day. Since the August 10 max was hit, I’ve focused on “greasing the groove”, where I’ll do approximately one-quarter of my all-out max for three or four sets, with a day (or two) of rest in between.
So far so good. If I can keep adding two to my max each month, I’ll hit 20 right on Jan. 1!
Featured Photo by William Randles on Unsplash