Starting last month, I decided to start putting in extra work to really focus on improving some of my weaknesses. In August, I targeted my upper body strength with strict pull-ups and ring dips twice a week. (My ulterior motive: get a muscle up!)
So, how did I do?
I am happy to say I didn’t cheat on my training: I did my prescribed extra work twice each week for the whole month. And it paid off!
On August 1st, I was able to do only 1 strict pull-up. On August 31st, I did 5 strict pull-ups unbroken, meeting my goal exactly!
On August 1st, I was only able to do a partial strict ring dip. On August 31st, I did 9 (yes, 9) strict ring dips unbroken, blowing my goal of 3 out of the water.
And now I’m confident I have the strength to start working on muscle up technique! Booya!
Observations and lessons learned:
1) For the ring dips, a HUGE thing was simply learning how to position and stabilize myself on the rings. Strictly speaking, I probably did have the strength for at least 1 dip at the beginning of August, I just (apparently) didn’t know how to hold myself properly during descent and ascent. I’m sure I also built strength, but positioning was huge.
2) Having done it for a month, I 100% recommend the box assist method for ring dips. All you have to do is place a box underneath the rings, stand on the box while you mount the rings, and put just enough weight into your feet so that you’re still working hard, but getting enough help to allow you to complete the number of reps you’re going for.
3) There is A LOT to be said for the mental and neurological work that goes into focusing specifically on one or two exercises. Even just the act of saying “this month, I am going to get better at pull-ups and ring dips” set my brain to work on making sure I accomplished those tasks. It gave me a specific goal besides just the vague notion of “get stronger and get better”. Besides the subconscious effect, the physical/neurological act of repeating an exercise regularly also helps to solidify the precise action. As a crossfitter, it’s easy to just come in, do the WODs, and not think too much about skill work. If your goal is to be an awesome and well-rounded athlete (in the functional sense, not only the aesthetic sense, ya know?), there is definitely a balance between “constantly varied” and directed focus to get you to your fitness goals. There are benefits to both.
4) Ok, I have to question whether my baseline pull-up number was accurate. I wonder whether I could’ve gotten a second one if I had REALLY tried… We’ll never know, and I’m happy I can do 5 now anyway so why question it. ;)
So, what about September? That’s the subject of the next post!