old man pullup

No exercise is a truer test of one’s own personal strength and fitness than the pull-up. It is a simple exercise that, at the same time, happens to be very difficult to master. If you can do multiple pull-ups on a regular basis then you can officially say that you are in good, if not great, shape. But here is the far more important statement:

No exercise can feed your ego better than the pull-up. *

[*Please don’t confuse pull-ups with chin-ups. Though very similar, they are two different exercises. Pull-ups use an overhand grip and work the back and shoulders more. Chin-ups use an underhand grip and incorporate the biceps as well, making it a slightly easier exercise for some. Long story short: Pull-ups are more bad ass.]

Nothing else in the fitness world comes close to the sense of accomplishment one feels from doing a set of pull-ups. Crunches, tricep extensions, dead lift squats, overhead presses – all of those pale in comparison to the mighty act of lifting your entire body weight while hanging from a metal bar. There is more pride in banging out reps of close-grip pull-ups then there is in graduating honors from an Ivy League school – which I guess is more of a statement against higher education than it is about how awesome pull-ups are, but you get my drift.

“Wait a minute,” you might be saying. “What about pushups? Those are hard, too.”  Yes, pushups are a great, upper body workout. They are great for the chest, triceps and shoulders. Pushups are nice. Pushups are cute.

But they can’t hold a pull-up’s jock.

Again, you are carrying your entire body weight when you are completing a pull-up. That is a tall order for even the strongest human. With pushups, because your feet are on the floor, you are not pushing as much of your own weight up into the air. Ergo, pull-ups win.

And if you need further proof that pull-ups are all that and a bag of chips (chips that you really shouldn’t be eating if you are trying to master the fine art of the pull-ups), look no further than our nation’s armed forces, which consider pull-ups a vital way to determine strength among its service members. Are you going to go against the logic of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines? Well, are you, you commie bastard?

So what’s the best way to get really good at pull-ups? Do more pull-ups. That is not me being a smart ass – okay, maybe it is a little bit – but, truly, the only way to get good at them is to do more. Lat pulldowns, back machines and bicep curls will make you look good but they won’t necessarily assist you in pulling your full weight up and over a bar. If you can do one pull-up, do just one. The next time, do two. Keep building on each pull-up and after a while you’ll be ripping out double-digit pull-ups like it was nothing and screaming as you pull your chin over the bar, “I can do anything!”

Once you get good at pull-ups, tell everyone. Don’t just humble-brag about it, straight up brag about it. An activity that hard to accomplish is worth not only celebrating but annoying friends, family and strangers with. The context of the conversation doesn’t even have to be about exercise or fitness. If someone says, “I just got promoted to regional sales manager of my company,” respond with, “Congratulations! I can do three sets of twelve switch-grip pull-ups, so it looks like both of use are equally living the dream.”

And if your new-found ability to do a butt load of pull-ups doesn’t give you a sense of confidence, it at least will give you a sense of solace. You may not have a girlfriend, your finances may be in shambles, you may have an awful case of bacne, and your idiot cousin may be living on your couch but, hey, you can bang out nineteen wide-grip pull-ups in a row and most people can’t. So at least you’ve got that going for you.

Which is nice.