Obviously I’m a fan of the pull up and other body weight exercises. I would dare argue it is the best all around strength exercise there is. You could argue the push up could share this title as well. I would agree but what about the dip? Regardless, few exercises outside of the pull up require almost zero equipment (stairs will often do) and provide both a clear test and incubator of strength. Since my stint in the Marine Corps, I’ve been obsessed with pull ups. Our physical fitness test consisted of a timed three mill run, crunches and pull ups. Even though the most points you could abstain for the pull up event was maxed out at 20 pull ups, we jar heads never stopped at just the max. If you could run sub eighteen minutes, you did. If you could hammer out over 100 crunches in two minutes, you did. And if you could do more than 20 pull-ups, you damn well kept going till your fingers’ hold let go of the bar’s tape and thumped you chest loudly for being such a bad ass. At boot camp where most of us weren’t used to doing pull ups before showing up to Parris Island, we brought up our strength up by doing them as often as possible. There were pull up bars everywhere and I mean everywhere. Now I take a little joy in spotting a set of bars somewhere not associated with the military as if I came across a sweet nostalgic find. To keep my strength up after getting out of the service, I’ve kept a bar close by mounting one to a door way in each home I’ve ever lived – much to the chagrin of a taller friend who always found a way to smack his head against each one of them each time he came check out the new pad.
1. Back & Biceps: the pull up
During my last move I neglected to take the faithful bar with me so I needed a new one. I picked up the Iron Gym at the local Sports Authority. It was $10 more than a screw in model but this one could be put up and taken down at whim without having to worry about screws in the door frame which can be stripped or misaligned . I don’t like that the Iron Gym doesn’t come pre-assembled in one solid piece as it gives you the image that it may not be the most sturdy thing. Once put together though, the thing holds up well. I fell comfortable doing a full range of exercises on the bar to include simply farting around with hanging upside down by my knees or going completely inverted, legs through my arms, gymnastics style. Now all I need is a travel version.
2. Chest and Triceps: push ups and “SEAL push ups”
I even use the Iron Gym for push-ups as the curved handles seem to provide for a better grip and allow me to dip below my hands on the bottom end of the exercise - you can’t do that with your hands on the floor. I like to end my push-up sets with subsets of reps of what I like to call SEAL push ups – lacking the official name and having snagged the exercise from a Navy SEAL work out video.
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3. Abs: hanging knee raises
The bar can also be used for ab work outs. Knee raises absolutely rock. Hanging straight I bring my knees up to my arm pits. If your arms give out on you before your abs do, you can order a set of arm straps to support yourself from the manufacturer. But don’t worry, if you crank out some pull ups every time you go through the door, that won’t be an issue for very long.
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