A Banner Day

One of my goals for 2005 is to climb the rope all the way to the top by March. I was feeling lame because I hadn’t been practicing. Last week I realized March will be here soon, and I’m not going to make my goal of climbing the rope without, well, climbing the rope. Still, I continued to find one reason or another not to try… too tired… there’s no mat under the rope any more and what if I fall off? Can’t climb it without a mat underneath…. But last night Tom and I were both there and after the workout I said, okay, I’m supposed to practice my rope climbing, so I’m going to. I jumped and pulled myself up, grasped the rope with my shoes one on top of the other, and climbed all the way to the top! Hooray! Boy, did that seem like a long way to climb. Tom and Dave at the bottom were encouraging me and I felt like a little kid, listening to their excited voices and thinking, “Ooh! They’re so proud of me! I better keep going!” At the top, feeling like I was on top of a mountain in thin air, I reached up and touched the metal cap at the top of the rope an inch from the ceiling.
Coming down in a controlled manner was as hard as going up. The temptation was always to jump off. You feel like you’ve come down a long distance and surely it is safe to jump. Then you glance down and realize your feet are still way higher than people’s heads. I kept going hand over hand and managed not to rope-burn any part of myself. Near the bottom, I jumped down and was so fatigued and giddy that I almost fell on my face. I was breathing really hard and was boiling hot and thrilled to have met my goal. I just need to find out how high the rope is—probably not as high as it felt.
I made another landmark last night toward another 2005 goal, to do a muscle-up on the rings. Nancy and I and a few other women and guys have been working up to it. We use the set of rings that has a harness and pulleys attached, which support half your weight. In the harness, anybody who’s been working out for a while can easily do an assisted muscle-up. But I couldn’t when I started. Part of the ability involves sheer strength, and part of it requires learning how to pull up and throw your weight forward between the ropes at the same time. The harness is great for helping people learn the skill portion while working up to the needed strength. The next step is to add weight to the harness so that it supports less than half your weight. Nancy and Tom had built up to adding a significant amount of weight, concentrating hard, and successfully getting all the way up. I was excited for them and determined to catch up. Nancy seemed sure I could do it if I flung my weight forward more forcefully.
Last night I found out she was right. I tried the muscle-up with full assistance, added a light weight, did it again, practiced some deep dips, then muscled up with 24 KG attached to me. When I did the math later, with respect to my own weight and how much assistance I’d used, I was very happy and felt I’d had a breakthrough. I was lifting half my weight plus 24 kg, a total of almost 117 pounds… which is only 11 pounds less than my full weight… which means I may be almost strong enough to do an unassisted muscle-up. The terrible part of the muscle-up is when you’ve pulled up as high as you can, the rings are next to your armpits, and your elbows are still pointing slightly down. You have to somehow press down and back with the hands, and forward with the shoulders, until the elbows point straight back and the palms of the hands face down. That’s the mysterious part that requires so much practice (and strength). Then, once the palms are facing down, lots of strength is required to press up out of that super-deep dip.
Even if I keep doing the drill in the harness, adding weight so that I get little assistance, it may still be harder than I think to get the muscle-up on the rings without the harness and pulleys. The pulleys allow the rings to come down toward you when you pull on them, at least until you jump off the ground, when they then hold half your weight. The plain rings are not going to have any give at all, so if I jump into my pull-up, I won’t have even an inch of pulley momentum to work with. But I shouldn’t psych myself out—I should think positive. I’ll try the weighted, assisted version for several weeks, and I’ll start trying the unassisted one when I feel confident (as opposed to totally self-conscious). Tom is really, really close to doing an unassisted muscle-up. I think the only thing stopping him now is that his elbows fly out to the sides instead of staying tight against his ribs. You don’t have enough leverage that way unless you have loads of strength to spare.
Muscle-up technique photos here (scroll down), video here.

One thought on “A Banner Day”

  1. Congrats on reaching your goal with the rope! It’s funny. I *just* posted to the crossfit discussion board asking how to get to rope climbing from zero. I’m glad to read of your progress.
    Thrilled to death about the muscle-up news, too. Those are a long way off for me, I feel. But I like the notion. In 2005, I’ll probably get rings.

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