I will try to document something great. Andree. She is uncomfortably great. I will say ‘she’ but know that traditional gender definitions do little to describe ‘her’. In fact, to experience Andree is to question your own identity.
About a decade ago I was bouldering at Pine Mountain with some folks I can’t remember when someone unremarkable whispers, “Is that Andree?”. I knew just about everyone in the small Santa Barbara climbing community so I looked up expecting either a familiar face or someone to re-file under forgettable. Rather, I was introduced to my life’s epoch. I said nothing. I think she was wearing Army fatigues and a tank top. Who knows. There was a look on her face that is to this day difficult to explain. It was not happiness. She looked mildly annoyed or a bit underwhelmed with Earth. I don’t really remember what happened after that.
Dree came over to train, of course, one-arms in my garage this evening. It was, of course, awesome. Imagine Prince strolling into your local gym to pound out several plates on the bench press. It is an awkward sensation to have someone simultaneously redefine your understanding of physical power and sensual desire. It is to experience, in a word, Andree.
At best, I can go through it a couple times taking ~50lbs off with the pulley. For variation I’ll either alternate arms when I switch holds are just hammer on one side for the duration of the set then go through it again on the other side. The first few reps are easier so I might hit those closer to body-weight then put some more on the pulley for the last few reps.
Given how much regular pull-ups suck it is a bit surprising how good one-arm pull-ups feel. Babes dig ’em, they’re super fun, everybody wins. My friend Andre, who is both into babes and a babe herself, is all about one-arms. Coincidence?
One-arms and babes are a natural segue into barbells and boobs. On the complete opposite end of the awesome spectrum is cancer. I found out about BarbellsForBoobs.org shortly after my friend Steve (Stainless) Edwards was cut down in his prime. If you’re talking barbells, boobs, and punching cancer in the face, you are definitely speaking my language.
Are you proud of your hangboard setup? If you sent me a photo of your work would I laugh, in a bad way? These are our garage/basement/bedroom door frames for Christ’s sake – let’s show some respect. Look, I’m not going to tell you how to live. I just want to point out that a lot of time and effort will be expended on your hangboard so you should make it awesome.
Some do not, to be sure, but I have basically an anatomically complete frame. And it all works fairly well (big shout out to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital). So while my passion for beefing arms, coupled with a disdain for leg activities, serves me well at the cliff I do acknowledge the utility a complete physiology affords. I do, after all, need to transport myself to said cliff. I should do some Olympic lifts. How better to reinforce all the physiological systems from tip to toe? There are probably some equally good exercises but let’s agree that the snatch does incorporate all our stuff. Furthermore, one could argue that those of us fortunate enough to benefit from the bump in weight loss missing limbs/organs affords would benefit even more from developing a holistic craft like Olympic lifting. By the way, this is truly awesome to behold:
Though not officially an Olympic sanctioned lift, still very rad. Zach Ruhl
So there, I have no excuse. I am also encouraged knowing I have never regretted rounding out my fitness. I have also never regretted lifting weights. Anyway, it’s settled. Remaining obstacles look like this:
My ankle mobility is fully fugg’d from non-use, broken legs, ignorance, etc.
My hip mobility is fully fugg’d from sitting professionally.
My shoulder mobility is markedly improved but technically still pretty fugg’d in the front-rack position.
I look at this list as a litany of reasons to get after the Oly lifts. Truth be told, I do enjoy activities beyond hangboarding and look forward to fixing my mobility issues. Here’s the plan:
I don’t know if everyone’s Beastmaker 2000 shipped with ridiculous 45-degree slopers, whether just us Yankees received wood jokes, or if mine is uniquely fugg’d or what. I like to think I just suck at slopers. As such, I am commencing Operation Stop Sucking on the Beastmaker Slopers, starting with this:
This routine takes place all on the 35-degree slopers. That’s the level I’m working at now. I’m not sure when I’ll start incorporating the 45-degree holds except that I know it will not be today. Sadly, the 35’s delivered plenty of training stimulus. I slipped off and landed on my back with one second to go on the last set. If only all sessions could end so perfectly.
Starting a few weeks ago, as I integrated indoor bouldering back into my life, I stopped hitting the hangboard so hard. But I want to keep up some semblance of Beastmaker 2000 prowess in the form of a weekly session focused on monos and one-arms. For monos, something like this:
Starting on open-hand slopers, into 2-finger finger pockets, this routine progresses through a dozen warm up reps before a half-dozen proper mono hangs. I tried it out on Monday. Though feeling awesome would not be an option I at least wanted to feel confident, so I took off 50 lbs and went through it 3 times. I’ll try to get that down to 25 lbs and, eventually/hopefully, less.
Sometimes I hate warming up. Even if I’m not totally blasted from sitting at my desk all day I really don’t love the boring bits I have to go through before the good stuff. If there was a quick, visual brief of what I should do before cranking begins it would look like this:
Get things stretched out
Roll out those pissed off back and shoulder muscles on a foam roller. Sit up and hit those rotator cuff muscles above the lat and under the posterior shoulder – that one’s always good for a sweet pain face.
Do some full body twists and bends. For extra credit stick that foam roller under your scapula to really stretch out the front shoulder.
I might have invented this one: back bend over a Swiss ball while pulling apart the chest and front shoulders.
Grab a hanging rope/webbing and stretch that lat all over the place. Kick a leg out and behind to get the whole side.
Say it: I will not be that guy. I will stretch my chest and shoulders so that I stand up straight like a human, not folded over like a walking taco (see: the local gym).
Start with low intensity movement
After or during the mobility work, simulate a mild version of the upcoming workout. If this is a pocket training day, hang a few big, deep pockets and slopers to get ready. If small crimps are on the agenda, start on false and half crimp buckets. One arm pull-up workouts could be preceded by pulls on the hangboard taking weight off with a pulley. This is the time to think about form, how the full value sets should feel once the intensity is bumped up.
Monday before last year’s Labor Day I broke my leg shredding gnarly knee-high widow maker’s (surfing my SUP like a gaper) at Ledbetter Beach. This gave me time to pursue other interests. In addition to Bourbon I rediscovered the hangboard. I actually knew it was down in my garage the whole time, only now I would experience its subtleties without distraction.
Not a difficult diagnosis.
Surgery, Round 1: titanium bits go in.
This couch and I would get to know each other well.
This was not all bad. I tried to see this as an opportunity to buckle down on the type of training that could put to rest my remaining climbing goals. Definitely my fingers would benefit from the concentrated effort and hopefully I would be a touch lighter with a titanium rod instead of right tibia innards. Weight loss turned out to be super easy – 15 lbs came off right away. Mom and Grandma tried to feed me but I knew projects would crumble if I could maintain the heroin chic look.
To beef up finger strength I replicated on my Beastmaker 2000 two Santa Maria routes I had projected the previous season. The subsequent year of downtime also provided me an opportunity to write a training app for just this purpose, thus: Stricly Ballroom and Bodyguard from Beijing.
Months ticked by. It wasn’t that I was crawling out of my skin to get back outside but certainly an unfulfilling monotony had taken hold. Regardless, full on climbing in this condition would not be safe (which I proved).
I tried but the boot would not crank.
The garage would provide.
For a few weeks in March I was walking around a bit, even got over to Kauai for a few days where I realized the TSA would flag me for inspection for the rest of my life. No longer would I be able to show up to the airport just in time for flights.
After about 6 months and easily (easily) 100 sessions on the hangboard I was ready to get back onto a rock. Instead, back to Cottage Hospital. Apparently things were infected. Now that makes sense. It was odd to be sweating all night during the winter and the appearance of colorful lump friends had me suspicious. In Latin they are called abscesses.
I love you, Cottage Hospital, but your coffee sucks.
Old hardware out, new hardware in, and back to the garage.
An impromptu surgery to remove the titanium gear, four more days in the klink, indefinite IV antibiotic treatments and I would be good as new. And one year older. It was unclear to everyone I asked at the hospital whether one could do pull-ups with a PICC line. Your mileage may vary but give it a shot if you find yourself here. I had no problems. In fact I thought it was so cool watching the tubes while I tried one-arms that now my left is stronger than my right arm.
Fast forward 10 months, I’m hobbling around with a sweet cane and my fingers have never been happier (at least since the previous hospital stint). I’m certainly over 200 sessions with the hangboard and, I gotta say, it was great. I never want to do it again but it was great.