Stepping off a Cliff

It’s about 9:50 pm (2150 for you military mofos) Thursday night and I just got through with my pull up training and my Yoga session. I’ll schedule this post to publish some time tomorrow, but I wanted to share my thoughts/experience of this pull up training program while they are still fresh in my mind.

As a result of my incredibly poor performance during my pull up baseline test I’m starting with the most basic rung of the regime. This first level doesn’t allow me to do pull-ups, which works out well given the fact that I can’t. Instead it focuses on training the descending component of the pull up, often referred to as negatives. The program instructions recommend that each descent or negative take 3 seconds, or in other words control your descent.

Here’s my experience so far, keeping in mind that “so far” means two days in. Day 1 had me do 5 sets of negatives with 2,7,5,5, and 7 reps for each respective set. I made it through pretty well, controlling my descent on each rep until my last 2 reps of my last set when my muscles started to fatigue. I was a little sore on my rest day yesterday, but I stretched and the soreness disappeared.

Fast forward to Day 2 of my pull up training and I’m now scheduled to do another 5 sets of 3,8,6,6, and 8 reps for a total of 31 negatives. To get ready I put on some Foo Fighters, warm-up with some arm stretches and shadow boxing and then step-up on the bench to do my first set. I should maybe mention that I’m working out in my garage, so at least no one gets to witness firsthand what happens next. I grab hold of the pull up bar, take a deep breath, step off the end of the bench, and drop like a rock.

I fell so fast that for a split second I was pretty certain that the bar had somehow ripped out of the ceiling. Then I realized that my feet were still dangling off the ground, and when I looked up sure enough I was still holding onto the bar, which was still securely fastened to the ceiling. There was certainly no controlled 3-sec descent on rep 1. Reps 2 & 3 were much more controlled as I focused on engaging my traps before stepping off the bench, which gave me confidence going into my two minute rest between sets.

The thing about having confidence in yourself, is that sometimes it’s a false confidence. And false confidence puts you directly in the way of the oncoming train that is reality. So I stepped up onto the bench knowing that all I had to do was engage my back muscles and ride out the descent. I grabbed hold of the bar, tensed my traps, lats, and biceps, stepped off the bench, and plunged into space.

I’d like to think that I didn’t free fall, that my exhausted muscles put up some kind of defense. And maybe I did slow my descent on that 4th rep of 31, but each of the subsequent 27 negatives I did was exactly akin to stepping off a cliff. Or perhaps more accurately like going through the trap door of the gallows, complete with the short drop and the sudden stop.

On a positive note, because I’m dedicated to following this training regime to the letter, I did make sure to hang from the bar for a count of three each time before stepping back on the bench. By any math that averages out to at least 3 seconds per negative.

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