I have successfully tackled the “man” push-up, the dreaded 2 minute plank, but there is one exercise that really has me working hard for a wee taste of victory. The upper body exercise Don, the big kahuna, the boss, it’s non-other than the mighty unassisted pull-up. To tell you the truth, I’m not even close to achieving this. The other day at the gym, I observed a woman doing a series of unassisted pull-ups. Between her deep breathing and reps, I could see she was watching me watching her through her peripheral vision. I couldn’t help myself from staring, and had to compliment her on her strength when she stepped down from the machine. I was staring because what she was doing is my ultimate goal. Okay, maybe not a series of pull- ups but at least a single pull-up. For those of you who may not be familiar with the assisted pull-up machine, the heavier the weight where you place the pin means you are using less of your own full body weight with more assistance from the machine, while and the lighter the weight you deduct means you are lifting more of your own full body weight with less assistance from the machine.
I have been working on my assisted pull-ups for over a year now, slowly, but surely, adjusting the pin to add more resistance and inch up closer to full body weight with less assistance. I started with deducting 64 kg’s of assistance and currently I am deducting 43 kg’s of assistance. The pin has not moved for a very, very long time, and pull- up progress has stalled. At the last and final set, I move the pin up to 36 kg’s to be closer to my goal, the coveted full body weight pull-up, but I can barely pull myself. I pull and pull and sweat and sweat and pull some more, (with a few unflattering grunts thrown in) but hardly budge. Do not make the slightest dent.
However, I know my upper body is still quite weak, so I will keep the final set where it is and continue to push (or should I say quite literally pull) myself. I think the pull-up has been my greatest gym challenge yet, and there are many days I become discouraged and feel it is next to impossible to reach my goal, however I know that this defeatist mind-set is doing me no good. This is where I have to be reminded of the classic children’s tale which encourages grit and determination, The Little Engine that Could. The little engine thought that ascending up that hill was impossible, until he worked hard and got closer and closer to the peak. The assisted pull-up machine is like my ascension up that hill. The moving pin is my ascension.
This is the ultimate story of perseverance:
I have inched closer to my goal and am using less assistance, however slow the process is. I will get there, it’s just going to take more time, energy, work and more unflattering grunts. Once this last challenge set becomes easier, I will be able to really determine if strength has been gained. The day I can do one unassisted pull-up, believe me you will know.
I think I can, I think I can…..I know I can, I know I can……