Posted by: Chelsea Novak | February 27, 2007

Raising the bar

At the gym today I was overcome by a spell of ambition. The probability of wearing a strapless bridesmaids dress increased a great deal this weekend. As such I determined that the state of my arms and shoulders just is not going to do. I still run a few times a week and I’m pretty dedicated to my abdominal workouts, but I have let my work on my arms slide dramatically. I don’t really want to have to hold my arms in that “I totally havent’ done any arm work, so I’m just going to hold out my arms in an unnatural way” pose for an entire day.

After my run and my ab workout I gathered up my courage and made conversation with the group of guys at the gym who seem to dedicate their workouts to their arms and backs. They’re nice guys, not your typical gym jerks, but kind of intimidating because they have arms the size of my thighs. One of them was doing chin ups and I commented that if they wanted a good laugh they should see me try to do one. Remember that one time I was trying to do a chin up in the park and an older women riding a bicycle laughed out loud at my feeble attempts as she passed by.

So, I anted up to the bar and tried to hoist myself up. I managed about a centimetre of height and was pretty much just stuck there, flailing, hearing the woman’s laughing echoing in my head. I was trying really hard though and one guy actually grabbed me by the rib cage and hoisted me up so that my chin was level with the bar. He let go and then I managed to hold myself there for a couple of moments, laughing. Partly out of embarassment that I needed to be helped up, partly because it was actually pretty neat to be at that point of a pull up (as I’d never been there before) and partly out of the fact that when you’re the size that I am, you’re not used to people lifting you. It kind of freaks me out and makes me heart pound in an unhappy way. I always figure that laughing sounds better than screaming.

Once I let myself down the large armed people showed me a bunch of exercises I can do to develop the strength I will need in my arms and back to be able to pull myself up. My gym is part of a hospital, so most of the people using it are involved in medicine somehow. My lesson in upper body development also turned into a lesson in physiology where I learned what parts of my arms and back are responsible for the various parts of the pull up.

Some of the exercises I couldn’t do and they told me that actually most people can’t do them, as they’re really hard, but if I keep trying to do them, I’ll be strong soon. I had some respectable first attempts mind you, but I’m just not strong.

You all know that I love plans. As such I have a new one. My plan is to be able to do a pull up by September. M thinks that I’m going to have to develop really big arms muscles for this. But I honestly can’t see my arms being anything but chicken flabby. Guess we’ll see in September.




  1. Ah, my arms are two of my weaknesses. I think I have some strange genetic disposition against the tricep extension, since my failure at that was so epic that my trainer wondered if I had a dislocated shoulder or something.

    Best of luck! I admire your resolve!

  2. I agree….triceps suck! For some reason I can’t manage to do any exercises that actually make my arms hurt. Now don’t get me wrong, I think I must not be doing them correctly, because my arms are not shining examples of what they should be 🙂 Yay for Chelsea learning some new exercises to teach me when I get back from the Cleve!!

  3. The nice thing about arms is that the results show quickly. When I was rowing I had awesome arms, I highly recommend it for awesome arm, back and leg workouts. One of my best fit moments was doing 5 pull ups at a rowing practice. Of course, that was in the mid 90’s.

  4. My money’s on your doing a pull-up before September.

  5. I have an 18 lb baby you can carry around. It’s great for developing the arm muscles.


  6. One of the guys in our martial arts club has the hugest arms. Last night someone asked him about his workout regime.

    Push-ups. About 150 a day. He’s a tad obsessive about it and does them a bunch of different ways–hands wide, in a diamond, or posted in front of him. He does a bunch fast, not all the way down, and then a few slow, just to feel the burn.

    No gym, no fitness equipment, though he does like to do them with his 90-pound girlfriend sitting on his back.


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