Sunday, May 5, 2013

the tyranny of pullups

If there's a quintessential firefighter exercise, it's the pullup, or its cousin, the chinup.

The Rock is strong, but he should be doing these from a full extension.
Some people say they are easy.  Those people are annoying.

Hmm.  If you want to see her do this, go to here.
I was once able to do seven of them in a row.  This was when I had a job where we were regularly tested, not only on pullups but also situps, pushups, and a timed mile and a half run.  Situps were no problem.  I'm a female:  we start doing them at about age 12.  I would regularly do 40 pushups while I was standing outside the helicopter, waiting for it to spool down.  And I usually left a lot of guys in the dust during the run.  But pullups were a different story.  I grimly trained until I could do them, motivated by the prospect of "remedial PT", which was conducted during our (unpaid) lunch hour (was this even legal?)

It's been awhile since I've done seven pullups.  For so long this simple exercise hung over my head.  I obsessed about it when I would go on fire assignments for two weeks, sure that I would lose at least one or two repetitions.  Test days filled me with anxiety, as I imagined myself flailing, unable to do even one pullup.

Every once in awhile, I approach my pullup bar and attempt to do a few.  But if I can't do many, I forgive myself.  This is hard, because I tend to obsess about exercise (okay, about pretty much everything).  But after all, while I won't be doing 20 pullups anytime soon, there are a lot of things I can do.

I could do a few back then (Pullups and/or chinups. This is a chinup).


  1. Alicia Weber = Arrgh. Bet her arms and shoulders were dead for days. Never quite understood the need for "records" but.... Also bet you can outrun and out-pushup most of the team! (If you want to.)

  2. I got a pull up bar in the entrance to my kitchen in February, and I've been trying since then. Finally did my first full pull up last week! So maybe I can do 7 in a few years :P Definitely the hardest exercise!

  3. Nice work! I really think the first one is the hardest to get. I bet it won't take you long to get more.

  4. Wow! I consider myself in good shape but I can't do a single pullup :) I never have been able to my whole life, I wonder if it's something I can ever work up to?

  5. Sabrina, I bet you can, if you want to. There are all sorts of training programs that supposedly get you there, anything from doing negatives or hanging from the bar, or doing lots of lat pulldowns. I didn't find any of that worked for me when I was regularly doing pullups. The only thing that worked for me was actually doing them, even if it meant I could only pull myself halfway up, I would do that. And I had to do them a LOT.


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