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Pull-ups and a Lesson In Simplicity

Below is a brief video that I recently posted to Facebook.  Within the clip, you will see a man performing chin-ups on his 73rd birthday.

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Clearly, his display is impressive particularly when considering that he was born in 1938.  This man can perform more chin-ups than most healthy males born in the last 30 years.

So what is his secret?  He must follow a highly touted routine, right?  I wonder what form of periodization he is using.  Perhaps he receives daily training updates to his inbox that allow him to display such strength?  It’s got to be something, right?   Maybe a new supplement?  What could it be?

Unfortunately, those looking for an overnight secret are not going to find one.  The secret to this man’s ability aren’t found in a book and can’t be purchased in bulk from the supplement store.  This elderly man’s ability is the result of hard work and consistency over many years.

In a previous Youtube video, he mentioned that began performing pull-ups at age 40.  When he started, he would do pull-ups every day.  He’d always try to perform one more than he did the day before.  He didn’t have any fancy rep schemes or periodized programs to follow.   What he did have however was the determination and perseverance to keep showing up day after day.

Showing up and legitimately pushing yourself regularly are two of the best ways to produce results in the gym.  You don’t need a fancy plan.  And no, I’m not knocking the potential value of a well thought routine.  My point is that while some people obsess over program creation, others just wake up and train.  What they do may not always be right, but their repeated effort makes up for it, often allowing them to surpass those who possess more book knowledge on the subject.

There is no denying that most men cannot perform a fraction of the chin-ups that this man performs.  Many half his age who are physically active and so-called experts in training cannot even perform as many chin-ups as him.   Who knows what they will be doing in their 70′s.

So what’s the lesson to be learned?

Keep it simple.  You don’t need to know everything.  Keep showing up and keep pushing yourself.  In time, you’ll see what works and what doesn’t.  You’ll learn more by doing than you will with anything else.


If you want to learn to swim jump into the water. On dry land no frame of mind is ever going to help you. – Bruce Lee

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12 Comments so far

  1. tom July 5th, 2011 12:35 pm

    Ross, I agree 100%…keep it simple, consistent and work hard. I meet Derrick Brooks, linebacker with the Bucs, once when I lived in Tampa, I asked him what his secret to success was, “it is actually pretty simple, show up and work as hard as possible.”

  2. Gene July 5th, 2011 4:04 pm

    “History is written by those that show up”
    Benjamin Disraeli

  3. patrick steppe July 6th, 2011 3:04 am

    Thank you ross for alls the goods advices and principes

  4. Rory Connell July 6th, 2011 3:20 am

    “You don’t stop playing because you get old. You get old because you stop playing.”

    I think that sums it up nicely.

  5. Paul Edward Conway July 6th, 2011 12:44 pm

    Thanks for the reminder. I’m working on building up to 100 push-ups and almost got sucked into a complicated program that made me want to quit. Simple action is the best answer.

  6. Danny Kavadlo July 8th, 2011 4:10 am

    Wow. Spectacular post. 100% true. Talk is cheap. “Just wake up and train” Well said.
    For Paul’s comment:to train for 100 pushups, do as many as possible. Consistantly and frequently (thats the hard part!) Check out link below from last summer. I trained pushup specific (as many as possible) for a few weeks. Good luck!

  7. John Sifferman July 8th, 2011 11:13 am

    Good reminder, Ross. Showing up is the hardest part, but it makes following through so much easier. The bar is set pretty low for my generation, but excellence is only one choice away.

  8. dell August 9th, 2011 2:39 pm

    Awesome video and great point! your site is full with a wealth of information… Great Work!!!

  9. Brandon Richey September 20th, 2011 12:34 pm

    Another great post Ross. This old guy obviously has worked at being fit. It shows not only in his ability, but in his appearance of youth. Simplicity, hard work, and discipline can be a very powerful formula! At least that’s what I say to my clients. Great post my friend.

  10. Workplace Training November 3rd, 2011 1:44 am

    Hey I just wanted to say that I really enjoyed reading your blog. You have good views, Keep up the good informative info

  11. Eric November 19th, 2011 3:51 pm

    Awesome level of fitness displayed for a man of 73. Pullups and chinups are often eschewed because of their difficulty for the far easier pushing-type calisthenics like various pushups and parrallel bar dips for upper body strengthening. You wonder how many people who can knock out 100 consecutive pushups, or say 30-40 dips, can perform 20 strict dead hang pull-ups?

  12. Steve February 21st, 2012 7:27 am

    What Ross says in this article is gold. I love working out strength training routines, making up workouts and periodised training plans – I have to I’m a trainer.

    But if I was only allowed to give you one piece of advice it would be something like this. Turn up, train hard and keep trying to do more – that my friends will give you amazing results.

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