For most people, the strict wide grip pull-up is a phantom. I do not care what athlete you see crushing pull-ups, and how effortless those pull-ups look, that athlete had to start somewhere. The fact of the matter is that the majority of people are still at square one. Hell, I spend the first 20 years of my life at square one.
The pull-up and I go way back. Our first date was my sophomore year of high school, and boy was she mean! In gym class we all had to take a fitness test consisting various tests including how many pull-ups you can do. The whole class filed into the weight room to get their pull-ups score. The guys had to do one pull-up for one point, and the girls had to hang from the bar for time. When it was my turn the teacher said, “John, you can just hang from the bar if you want.” Now I know what you’re thinking, well that’s embarrassing, but it wasn’t at the time. You see I was obese, I knew it and everyone in the class knew it. An out of shape 200-pound kid is not going to jump up there and look like a Crossfit Games athlete, much less squeeze out one or two reps. That’s just basic physics.
I make a couple fists to prepare for battle and my name gets called. I walk over and stand under the bar, ready to jump up and hold on for dear life while I racked up some points. I jump, my fingers lock around the bar. As quickly as my hands said hello to the bar they were already saying bye. If you count the jump I maybe got a second, but one thing is for sure I wasn’t hanging from that God forsaken bar anytime soon.
Needless to say, that was the last time the words pull and up crossed my mind. When I started on my journey to get fit, I mostly got my sweat on in the basement with my dad’s old dumbbells, classic. That concrete floor and unfinished ceiling was my battleground. I always joke about those old commercials where they find a love handle on the beach, or a belly in the park and someone says, “Look! A love handle! Someone must have lost it running on the beach.” Well if that was true my basement would have looked like a scene from Dexter. I grinded down there for an hour about 5 days a week, but one crucial piece of equipment was missing, the pull-up bar. Enter my handy man dad. I asked him if he thought it was possible to get a pull-up bar for the doorway. Two days later I have a 1.5-inch thick pluming pipe hanging from some scrap wood screwed into the ceiling. It wasn’t ideal, but then again beggars can’t be choosers.
It was in that dark basement I had my second date with the pull-up, but this time was different, I was determined. The process took months, but nonetheless it happened. Not a single movement went to waste, and all of them as a whole got me where I am today. The first step was standing on a beach-cooler and pulling up as much weight as I could, this progressed to one foot, then the jumping pull-up, then finally the unassisted pull-up. However, if your gym doesn’t have a beach cooler grab some resistance bands, tie them to the bar, and string them under your feet. The lat pull-down machine is nice to build size, but in my opinion getting your head above that bar keeps you hungry for more.
I still remember the feeling of wrapping my hands around that bar, picking my feet up and pulling with every once of strength I had. As my body started to defy gravity I realized holy smokes you’re doing it! From there it was straight adrenaline and determination that got my head above the bar. I dropped down and had a rush of emotions better than any donut or cookie I had ever eaten. I had won, the sweat dripping off my nose and a small man tear slid down my face.
This story of triumph isn’t to toot my own horn by any means; it’s to hopefully show you that anything in the fitness world is attainable with determination and perseverance. I’m not talking about new years resolution determination, I’m talking about the determination that consumes you, the kind that you can feel in your bones. This isn’t a whim, or a “if I get the time” goal. This is a “by any means possible” goal. All things are possible for those who believe. So if you are ready to make a change and get fit, let it consume you. Put your health first because most material things will come and go, but you only get one body. So if you’re goal is to shed pounds, build muscle, or even just do a pull-up, consider yourself lucky. You are about to get the chance to challenge the norm. Get under that bar and start pulling like your life depends on it, and don’t you dare stop until you finish what you started. I’d be willing to bet you are going to love the view from up there.