Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Negatives: Mastering the Pullup

Teammates, nothing pisses me off more than others making fun of someone’s progress – no matter how slight – progress is progress – and the key to progress is never giving up, especially when others (who don’t have the guts to try) are encouraging (laughing at you – making fun of you – telling you to “give it up”, etc.) you to quit. No where is this memory more vivid for me than during gym class in fourth grade while hanging on a pullup bar and not moving an inch. All the other kids thought it was pretty funny that the biggest – toughest (back then being big equated to being tough – kid logic – go figure) kid in class couldn’t get his chin over the bar…not a good day for Alden. My gym teacher wasn’t much help – he just moved on to the next kid (who didn’t do much better, but his failing wasn’t nearly as funny as the tough kid failing), then the next, then next until it was time for recess.

It took years later for me to master the pullup and I did it by one super simple technique – negatives. I was a freshman in high school and was introduced to the sport of rowing – from the moment I saw the eight man boats rowing down the river I knew that was my sport - two reasons: I love the water and I suck at balls sports (wasn’t blessed with great hand/eye coordination). One problem – rowing depends on pull strength and the ultimate barometer of rowing strength – you guessed it – pullups – and not just one or two – you needed to at LEAST ten to even be considered for the rowing team.

That’s when I met Charlie P. – a junior who took me under his wing and introduced me to the world of negative Pullups. He’d get a step ladder – I’d stand up until I could get my chin over the bar, he’d pull the step ladder away, and I’d try to slowly lower myself to the bottom of the pullup for at first 5 seconds, then it was 7 seconds then 10 seconds…by the time I reached 10 seconds I was able to do a pullup! I kept doing negatives in my routines – just like doing pushups on your knees after you can’t do anymore full body pushups – by junior year, I won the squad pullup competition with 51 pullups in 2 minutes – by the time I was at the Naval Academy, I led the rowing team with 35 pullups (without stopping – however, I was dethroned by some lightweight oarsmen who broke the 40 barrier – very impressive!) and at SEAL Team, I more than held my own as a 250lb/6’ 3” frogman banging out 62 pullups in the 3 set two minute challenge (you have two minutes, but can only touch the bar three times – add up all your reps and that’s your score – mine went something like 28 – 19 – 15)…my struggles on the pullup led me to think of a better way than using a step ladder – hence the swing arm of the Perfect Pullup.

That being said, if you find yourself at a plateau, get that step ladder out and start doing negatives – I promise you – if you do the work, you will be rewarded with success – the key is DON’T EVER GIVE UP – and don’t ever ever ever let the hecklers get the better of you – remember, Misery loves company – so let’em be miserable, while you Pull your way to victory!



Unknown said...

That is exceptional, Hero!

Lisa A said...

Alden, read your blog and immediately got up from the computer and did a set of negative pullups... thanks for the reminder!!

Unknown said...

negative was magic for me
thanks a lot

guy from Paris

Alden Mills said...

JET (aka Guy from Paris) – thanks for the feedback and glad to hear that negatives worked for you!

Keep’em Fired Up in France and enjoy your new strength.