Lent Challenge Day 8 – Moving up a gear

Hello my Rhomboidian Lenteneers. It’s the beginning of our second week of observing Lent and it’s time to kick it up a notch.
I hope you are all still with me. I realise last week was not not perhaps the challenge the title suggested, but it was more of an an-ramp to ease us all into the thing. This week we will be getting into it a little more.
Today we are going to have at last start with the Pull-Ups for the Puller Uppers among you, and for those who have opted to stay on the ground there will fun too. I

So first for the Puller Uppers:
I’m guessing by now all of you have sorted yourselves out with a Pull-Up bar or somewhere to perform your Pull-Ups.
The first thing we are going to work on, before we actually start pulling ourselves up to the bar is hanging. Hanging is as simple as it sounds: you hold on to the bar with your feet off the floor (either jump up to the bar if you are in a gym or have a high bar, or just tuck your feet up behind you if you are using a bar fitted to a doorway in your house), and hang there.
There are two ways of hanging: the Dead Hang and the Active Hang.
The Dead Hang (or Passive Hang) is a great place to start and has plenty of benefits of its own: it will improve your grip strength, which is usually the weakest point when one is starting out with any kind of bar exercise. When I first started doing Obstacle racing and found myself falling off the monkey bars, it was always because my grip strength had given put rather than my actual upper body strength. They will also strengthen your rotator cuffs and shoulders and are excellent for decompressing your spine. Whenever I feel scrunched up and have backache after long journeys or long hours sitting at the computer, I hang from a bar for a few minutes and feel much better for it. I would high;y recommend you practice doing the Dead Hang just for its own benefits, and incorporate it a couple of times a week just for mobility’s sake.
As a start point for the Pull-Up, however, it is the Active Hang that we want to focus on. This is essentially the same as the Dead Hang, only you are pushing your shoulders down and activating your lats (upper back muscles) to pull your shoulders into their sockets, rather than having your neck disappear between your shoulders.

Start off with the dead hang. At first it may be difficult to hold it for any length of time, but keep practising. Aim to do 10 seconds and repeat this 6 times. Don’t do it every day. Try it maybe 3 times a week. Aim to increase by a few seconds each time. When you can hang for 30 seconds, start working on the Active Hang as well. MAke it part of your weekly habit. You will feel better for it and your grip and shoulder strength will improve quickly.

And for those of you who don’t want to do engage with the Pull-Up, we are going to bring in one of the other great exercise movements: The Burpee. I’m sure most of you must be familiar with the burpee, either if theory or practise. It is one of the most fundamental exercises, if not one of the most fun. Unfortunately, for what is essentially a really simple exercise, it is also one of the most frequently performed with really bad form. The most common is the burpee looking more like a squat thrust, simply bending over, kicking the legs out and jumping back up again. Or stepping up one leg at a time.
The burpee should be:
Place hands on floor shoulder width apart.
Drop down to a Push-Up position with feet together.
Lower chest to floor.
Push back up again and jump feet back up to hands.
Jump upright again and leap vertically. Handclap over head optional.

So, do a burpee. And…  those of you who did the squat challenge will be familiar with this: get out your phone and film yourself doing it. Watch the video back. Are you doing the burpee properly? It doesn’t matter if you do it slowly, just that you do it properly. If your burpee doesn’t look like the one in the demo video,  why not? Work out what you are doing wrong and do it right. Slow it down if you need to…

Now on to today’s workout. It’s an EMOM. Which stands for Every Minute On the Minute.

If you are not a Puller Upper, and did not do the Active Hangs, I want you to do 5 Burpees on the minute, every minute for 5 minutes.
If you are a Puller Upper and did do the Active Hangs, I also want you to do 5 Burpees on the minute, every minute for 5 minutes. Do your burpees properly. Chest to floor every time. Set a timer or watch the clock.

When you’re done, well done. I did mine earlier on and followed it up by having a celebratory sandwich: I still have a week to go before the diet phase kicks in so I treated myself to bread while I can still have it: two slices of wholemeal with half an avocado, 3 tomatoes, wasabi rocket, cheddar cheese, fresh basil and some ginger relish, washed down with a protein shake. Post workout snack of champions.


  1. Julia Holman

    I found this vid helpful when you shred it in FB. I have now progressed to doing 4 X 30 second dead hangs with a 30 second rest inbetween. I am finding my hands struggle the most and I am developing thick ridges on my palms. So I will celebrate and move on to an active hang. Should I carry on with 4 sets a day and do 2 deads and 2 actives? I then am doing 10 negative drops a day. I will start burping tomorrow. Protein shake ?( sick emoji).

    1. Post
      Billy Rhomboid

      good work on the negatives. Given the headstart you had on the rest of the class I would say do 2 actives and 2 top hangs get up to the top position and hold there.

  2. Lindsay/Anniemurph

    Oh dear. Dear oh dear oh dear. 6 seconds of hanging, and that was my longest, I think. In my defence, I did do an hour of upper body and arms yesterday at the gym and I definitely feel that I did, but even so.

    One can only get better. Or fall off, and wreck the door jamb.

  3. Gill

    Oh my, what if you can’t do a burp?
    I can’t do a push up so that bit of the burped isn’t working for me. Once I’m lowering towards the floor my left arm just gives out (still painful following a mastectomy and reconstruction 2 years ago). Not sure what I should do…
    Any suggestions?

    1. Post
      Billy Rhomboid

      I am sorry I really don’t have the knowledge of how to modify the move to accomodate the discomfort in this instance, and really don’t want to suggest anything that might cause you pain. I will enquire of people more knowladgable in this area and get back to you. In the meanwhile I would say substitute with a different exercise squats for eample. You can never do too many skwaats.

  4. Julia

    Today I did 2 active and my SM friends say I have improved. Am I top of the class now? No burping yet. This is the third fucking attempt, it keeps spitting me out.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *