Tag Archives: pull-ups

One Badass Workout

I promised to keep you, my two loyal readers (Mom got bored), up to date on my progress with my new bulking/shredding program called BodyBeast which is designed to get me huge and ripped.  Previously I would have thought those were two things I wanted to avoid.

Last week I finished week 1.  True, I had spent the two previous weeks messing around with it.  It usually takes me a week or two to get things like a new diet under control (especially when that diet has me jump from about 1700 calories a day to 3400).  I had done some of the workouts using limited equipment I borrowed from a friend and a stability ball I picked up at Walmart.

Last week, though, I was set and committed.  It’s either going to happen or it’s not.  What motivated me was the knowledge that if I had been so committed in the first two weeks I’d be approaching the end of the first phase right now.  OK, just get it done.


That’s what I’m talking about!  A nice looking set of dubmbbells and plates right there.

On Friday I went to the trainer’s house.  Yes, the point of this workout is that you don’t need a trainer and you do it all at home.  But, I like the guy.  He’s given me great advice and stuck by me while I wallowed in the many failures I’ve endured trying to get into his shape.  Most of the time, he hasn’t even laughed too hard at me.  He and I ran through a 45 minute workout on the pavement of the driveway behind his house.  We each had sufficient weights, each had a stability ball.  He has an awesome pull-up bar rigged up over his 8 foot fence and that came in handy.  At the end of the routine I was pleased to discover that he judged my form to be great and he was impressed at my ability to complete a pretty tough workout.  Did he have a drop of sweat on him?  What do you think?  Nonetheless, I felt confident that I was doing something good.  If this guy, who is a training god, came very near to expressing pride in his wannabe-protege, then I can’t be too off.


A closer look.  These range from 10’s on the left to 40’s on the right with a set of interchanging weights in the middle and some plates for the bar.

Today, it was back to chest and tri’s.  This time, though, I’ve expanded my arsenal.  From yet another friend I managed to borrow even heavier weights.  For many movements lighter weights aren’t a bad thing.  I’m thinking of shoulders.  At the end of a workout, you try lifting more than 15-pounders in a military press over your head.  It’s hard!  But for chest workouts, I can definitely go higher than the 20’s I had maxed out with.

A note on all these friends who have weights to spare…  It seems a universal truth to me that in America when a young man enters his 20’s and has a trifle bit of spare change he invests it in weights.  He uses the weights religiously for a short while, then trails off.  Evermore the weights remain in his possession until his wife, who long ago gave up caring what he looked like naked, puts them on eBay for extra Christmas money.  Either that or he repurposes them into a coffee table in his pseudo man-cave.

Anyway, I’m definitely feeling this.  It’s going great and I feel great too.  I also was one of those who had weights once.  My excuse was the two spinal fusion surgeries I had so I’m going to stick with that.  It’s been years since I lifted anything and it’s taking some time to get back into it but I feel it coming back to me.  Drop a prayer now and then, if you would, that I don’t injure myself and that I complete these twelve weeks so I can be “beastly”.

The Backhanded Compliment

Do you know what “trainer” said to me today?

During a conversation about what qualifies as a “real” pull up – yes he and I have these kinds of convos at work – we were comparing the two standard varieties. There’s the US Army standard of pulling up from a bent arm position and the US Marine Corps standard of pulling from a complete dead hang.

Guess which kind he does. That’s right.

Hey, I’m working on it.

“The dead hang,” he said, is the only way to get it done.”

He’s transforming…”

Then he went on to regale me with his prowess at how he had once done 170+ of these in a single day. OK you already knew I was impressed. Thing is, he wasn’t. He went on to speak at length about how weak he felt and how he wished he could have done more.

For the record I can do like three of these.

Here’s the kicker…

pull ups

Neither Army nor Marine Corps; these are the REAL deal here.

He continued, “One time in college my suite-mate saw me doing the Army kind. He told me those weren’t real pull ups.  We had seen each other shirtless before and here’s the thing. He really didn’t have room to talk. I mean I looked – well, I always look good. He was, well,” he said “He was transforming.”

This is when he went on to say that the guy was basically a fatty who was “trying to get in shape. “Eventually,” he added, “he got to looking somewhat decent.”

The implication is, of course, that us lower beings have no business addressing the genetically superior.

Why didn’t I think of that?!

Here’s why. I’m just transforming or is it transfiguring? Maybe I’m just transitioning as in from fat to not quite as fat but never be on the same level. Perhaps one day I’ll be in the ranks of the “somewhat decent”. I’ve poured my heart and soul, blood, sweat, and tears into this effort for almost a year now. I’ve gone from not running to running several miles at a stretch; from one push up to dozens; from a carefree diet to a rigorous regimen loaded with veggies – the bane of my existence. But I wonder if that’s ever going to be good enough.

I take his words for what they are – the advice of a friend and he’s been really helpful too. If not for him I’d be nowhere near as healthy as I am now. So no offense taken.

One day, though, he’ll be somewhat decent at lifting people up. And I’ll be somewhat gracious (and possibly an inch closer to somewhat shredded).

Getting Really Real

I noticed something after my 15 minutes of planking last night.

Planks suck.

But, I also learned something else.  A few something else’s, actually.

The first thing is that planks, though sucking the big one, must actually be really effective.  My core was on fire today.  It was a good kind of burn; not sore just really engaged.

Another thing I learned was that my trainer is not the cruel psychopath I had begun to think he was.  At work we discussed my plank.  And if you didn’t know I was writing about a workout plan that sentence would be positively dirty.  As I mentioned, I had been feeling quite confused about the training plan he set me on this time out.  It seemed like he was all over the map.  He had me do tabatas one day, a kettle bell workout the next, then run, then more tabatas, then that plank thing.

This all seemed very different than the workout routine from last summer where he stressed short workouts and consistency — like six weeks of the same thing — before switching it up.

Then he dropped that automated trainer on me and I seriously thought he was saying “I’m done with you.”  It felt for a minute like he was telling me that he didn’t trust my level of commitment enough to continue training me personally, like it wasn’t worth his effort anymore.

So I moved past that assumption pretty fast and realized he was just adding something into the mix with the pre-planned workouts from Spartan.

Today at work he showed me another workout.  “This one’s crazy,” he said.  That sounded encouraging.  He opened up his inbox to reveal somewhere around 1400 emails from Spartan and searched for one in particular.  “It’s one I did that time that I told you about.”  He had, in fact, told me a few months ago about a particularly grueling workout.  Funny thing is I didn’t know he had been using these workouts himself for a long while.

“Try to do five sets,” he said.  Then he let out a maniacal laugh before restating that it was all about consistency and having the desire to just do it.

I came home and took care of a few things like dinner and getting the kids to bed.  And then I got changed for this “crazy” workout.

Looking over the plan in my email I started with the warm-up.

75 jumping jacks and a 5 minute run.  What was cool was that I had discovered that I still had some fight in me.  After my 5 minute run I wasn’t in the least winded.  Just a few months ago I couldn’t go more than a minute without breaking down.  Now it seemed I could do this with ease.

The workout proper was every bit as crazy as he had suggested.

But I did it.  OK, I only did three sets but I did them with good form and to exhaustion.

The truth is that this was the best workout I’ve ever had.

I finished up and grabbed some water before heading to the shower.

As I did I was overcome with the need to say a prayer thanking God for my trainer.  He seemed to know this time exactly what I needed to do.  I have never felt this good after working out.  More importantly, he’s given me the right routine at this time to quickly boost my ego.  After this workout, in fact after this week of workouts, I’ve noticed quite a few changes.  I’ve actually put on 3-5 lbs. of muscle and my clothes are fitting better.  Maybe he’s been reading my blog and realizing I’m desperate to reach my goal and that my goal is to look like him.  At least I’m grateful that he’s taking me seriously (not that he hasn’t before) but there’s something different this time.

I think it’s getting really real now.

I still need help with a few things.  OK, I need lots of help.  When he reads this maybe he’ll take pity on me.  I mentioned form.  I’m big on using and keeping proper form.  I’m of a mindset that 1 burpee with the proper form is better than 100 crappy burpees.  So I’m focusing on little things like that.  My burpee itself could still use improvement.  But where I really need help is with my pull ups.  I need to find a way to rig up a decent pull up station at home so I can just do them.  It may take a long time but if I commit to doing at least 3 a day than I know Ill get better at them.  He bangs out ten at a time and that inspires me.  So if he reads this or if anyone reads this, say a prayer I get better at this one.

On that note, I think I’ve earned a little rest.

Getting Pumped

Lest you think Langan’s plan fell by the wayside, check out my numbers from tonight’s trip to the gym.

May not seem like much but it’s better than it was and it’s better than doing nothing!

Just Say Your Prayers

Getting tired of seeing this place in my blog? I think I am too.

I came home from the gym this evening.  My arms are dead.  I’ve been following Langan’s masterful plan.  This is the first full week, thanks to bronchitis and other general malaise, that I have followed through.  I’m glad I took my time getting to this point, though, because the fits and starts just provided a way to ease myself into this hellish torture.  More than once at the gym tonight, while on the floor doing my 200+ push-ups or the ten sets of pull-ups, I found myself muttering “Why, God, why?”  This greatly amused my new gym friend, Jule, an older black woman who comes to ride the bike and lift “light weights”.  If they were any lighter I could probably inhale them with a drinking straw.  She and I have taken to playfully staring each other down for use of “the good bike” — the one out of three that sits higher and doesn’t feel like it’s about to break the hips of the rider.  We actually made an agreement to claim her (the bike’s a chick) on alternating nights.  She (Jule, not the bike) reads her fiction novel while I watch Fox News and the History Channel.  It’s a working relationship.

The cool thing is that I actually do feel myself getting stronger.  I can’t say I’ve seen too much in the line of physical results yet.  Hopefully that will come soon — you know, the waist generally losing dimension with the chest and arms generally gaining.  But I leave the gym feeling good.  I feel good about myself for accomplishing something and I feel physically good, free of pain.  The stretching and pulling and pushing seems to be ideal for my spine.  The strengthening is definitely good for my spine.  And best of all, I’ve been keeping a log of my sets and I can see that I must be making strides.  On my first try a few weeks ago I managed to squeeze out 199 push-ups and 19 pull-ups.  At the start of this week I did 215 and 37 respectively.  Tonight I was at 230 and 37 and I kind of cheated.  Did I mention that my arms were dead?  Yeah, I hadn’t eaten much today.  That’s a no-no.  I could not bring myself to do the last two sets.  If I had, my numbers would have been huge.  Then again, my arms might have become huge as well.  Oh well, I prayed for God’s help and the grace of perseverance.

The signature steel beams of the Twin Towers can be seen beyond the freakish looking dancers.

When I arrived at home my wife and kids were finishing up movie night.  Tonight we were fanciful and found The Wiz on Netflix.  I like the music, my daughter likes the dancing, my son is fascinated with the weirdness of it all, and my wife liked that my kids were happy and not hurting each other.  I came in just the four principle characters had arrived at Emerald City.  I had forgotten that these scenes were filmed in New York using the World Trade Center as a stand-in for the wizard’s abode.  I got a little sentimental.  “Son, those buildings were in New York and Daddy used to go there all the time.  They were the tallest buildings in the city.”  He looked up at me.  “Can you take me there the next time we go to New York Jersey?”  He still hasn’t figured out that they’re actually two states and I don’t have the heart to tell him.  And I surely don’t have the heart to tell him I already have taken him there when we visited the Memorial this summer.  He would ask where the buildings were and I don’t want to tell him — not because he couldn’t handle it; but because I still can’t.  So I said a little prayer to myself.  “Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord…”

Finally it came time to put the kittens down for bed.  We’ve taken to praying the rosary with them as they drift off.  The gain exposure to spending some meaningful time in prayer, learn our faith, and the rhythm of the repetitive Hail Mary’s knock them out cold.  It knocks them out, that is, unless the little boy lying next to you, nodding off into snooze-land, is observant and curious and questions everything that does not make the least bit of sense to him.  I started in with the Fatima Prayer, the one that separates the decades.

O my Jesus, forgive us our sins.  Save us from the fires of hell.  Lead all souls to heaven especially –

Here I was interrupted by my darling boy.  “Um, Daddy?  You know our house won’t be on fire, right?”

-Especially those in most –


-Most in need of thy merc-



“Daddy, our house can’t be on fire because it’s made of brick.”

And so while saying my prayers (really saying my kids’ prayers for them) I stopped and said a little prayer for my self.

“Thank you, Jesus, for such beautiful children and such an amazing life!”

No say your prayers and go to sleep!

Blog. Rosary. Cool.

A Break Already?: The Langan Plan Day 2

Lord help me.  Kyle forgive me.  I’m working hard on getting into the swing of this.  The gym had to take a pass today.  Despite a half-day of work, I had to attend to some business at the airport that included picking up my visiting niece.

OK, so I skipped this one.  I should have been up on the bike for an hour.  Truthfully, I know I have six routines in seven days so I can recover (especially since I started a day earlier than intended).  No excuses, I know.  But there is this growing stiffness in my pectoral muscles that indicates I’m going to be in pain from a lack of stretching.  So Kyle if you’re reading this, remember those old theology classes.  Say a prayer for me that I don’t fall flat before I really get started.

We’ll pick up again tomorrow.

Gym dandy.

One of Us Is Going to Die: The Langan Plan, Day 1

Today I jumped the gun.  I was planning on beginning my new workout tomorrow and just resting this Sunday.  And then, while enjoying a leisurely lunch at my mother-in-law’s house, my wife said “Do you want to go to the gym today?  They close at five so we better head home.”  OK, I thought, I guess I’ll just give this a shot today.

First I want to talk a little about my trainer.  Kyle Langan is a young man who graduated from the school where I first worked as a teacher.  Although he was never my student, we knew each other and became “Facebook friends” over time (after his graduation).  In the intervening years, he has graduated from the same college I attended and works as a personal trainer.  I reached out to him for advice recently after seeing pictures he had posted of a milestone in his life.  He had just completed an Ironman triathlon.  I was impressed.  “I tend to think that if you want fitness advice then you should turn to people who seem to know what they’re doing,” I opened.  He was not only receptive but also extremely professional.  He even emailed me within hours of an email I had sent him simply to acknowledge receipt of my email.

He wanted some of my stats so I shall share them with you as well.  To start with, I am 6’2″ tall and currently weigh in at 202.6 lbs.  Believe me, I only wish it was all solid muscle.  I told him about my struggles over the past ten years; of being able to put on muscle quickly but never being able to lower my body fat percentage without also losing muscle.  I told him all about my spinal fusion and how I am slightly limited in my range of motion and in what my body will actually let me do in a gym.  Finally, in answer to his question about my ultimate goals, I looked up at the TV.  The news was on.  “Have you seen that Paul Ryan guy?” I asked half-jokingly.  His response and his plan for me took everything into account and even addressed my vice presidential aspirations.  He told me about how when he was a kid his father had asked him what kind of haircut he wanted.  His response was to point to a picture of Leonardo DiCaprio on a magazine.  His father explained that you kind of had to be born with that kind of hair.  I got the point right away.  I might not get to a particular “look” but I can certainly make the most of what I’ve got.

I got to the gym and, as expected, there was no one there.  Well, no one other than the old man carefully and deliberately lifting small weights off to the side.  It’s nice to see people trying to stay fit at any age.  I looked at the email Kyle had sent me yesterday.  It was on my phone.  I had been studying it.  In fact, I had some questions about it so I emailed him last night and he responded promptly today.  He had broken it into two main directives.  First there was the fitness plan, then there was a nutrition plan.  All of his phrasing, by the way, was thoroughly sourced and made sense.  The diet stuff was common sense and, once I decide to vehemently stick to it, should be a piece of cake (cake that I won’t be eating for a while).  The fitness stuff looked a bit, well, um, grueling.  In fact, it hurt to even think about doing this stuff.  And yet it was glaring in its simplicity.  He wants me to work my body like a machine by using gravity for resistance.  If you’re able to put that together it means a lot of push-ups and pull -ups.

Primarily, I am to do what amounts to ten sets where each set consists of as many push-ups as I can do in a minute followed by as many pull-ups as I can do in a minute.  There should be a slight rest period and then this gets repeated nine more times.  This is done, by the way, three times a week.  I don’t remember the last time I did a push-up but I remember that I was able to do them pretty well.  Pull-ups, too, were never excruciatingly hard for me.  I just couldn’t imagine doing all that many the way he described in the plan.  Oh, and I was supposed to record everything that I did.  So without further delay, I’m including screenshots of my notes.

Don’t ask me why I thought an alien skull looked better than a zero.  If you cannot make sense of the chart, what you’re looking at is the list of sets in order from 1-10 in the format “push-up/pull-up”.  So the first line is my first set.  In that first minute I did 45 push-ups (not bad but could have been better) followed by five pull-ups.  As you can see, Kyle, I gave up on the pull-ups around set number 7.  Literally, my arms were about to fall off.

Toward the end I was actually thinking that I would give up.  Then I remembered that he had told me to do 100 core movement exercises to round things out.  So I did 100 crunches on the machine.  How I am not dead right now is beyond me.  Clearly, toward the end I rejoiced that I had completed ten sets.

So, how did it go on day one otherwise?  Well, I don’t know if it’s cheating or not but about halfway through I could not get down on the floor anymore so I started doing my push-ups using a weight bench.  It was still torture.  I know I could have picked up the pace a bit and not rested so much between sets.  I’ll have to work on that and start recording the rest times as well.  But all in all, I’m thrilled to have gotten through the first day.  Now there’s just three more months of us; but then again, I did ask for it!  Still there was a time about a third of the way through were I thought that one of us would die — either me from exhaustion or him because I was going to kill him.

Now the serious stuff…  If any of my incredible readers are in the market for some one on one training with Kyle and would like to contact him, by all means, please do so.  His email address is kelangan@gmail.com.  Hopefully he’ll have more to work with in you than he does with fusion-boy, AKA: me.  So far, I think this remote training is going to work but only because the trainer’s excellent and the trainee is nothing if not dedicated.

Weight bench I used for my later push-ups. Also, drink plenty of water or you’ll look like Joe Biden.

Pull-up station, my nemesis.