My Mortal Enemy: The Elusive Chin Up

Why Must You Mock Me, He-Man – With Your Chin Resting On That Impossibly High Bar?

You know your workout isn’t off to a great start when your husband challenges you to do a chin up and you immediately wonder, “Which chin?”

Hey, it’s a serious question. Do I need to pull all of my body weight up towards a metal rod of random height and merely touch the tip of my chin to the bar – or do I have to haul my waddle up there too and dangle it over the other side? I bet you George Lucas wonders the same thing all the time. Do I stuff all of my waddle under my shirt collar or do I allow it to drape over like Miss Snarky Pants’ muffin top? 

Oh yeah? Well, the dialogue in Star Wars sucks. Hear that, fat man!

George Lucas And His Pet Chins – Two Are Hidden Beneath The Beard.

In my case, the issue was moot because I can’t do a single chin up. Nor could my hubby. In my defense, after six weeks of working out, Hubby is only up to four. Not four reps of ten, but four chin ups. Of course, he’s only 140 pounds soaking wet, so he doesn’t have the same, erm, challenges that I have. I’m not just pulling myself up; I’ve got a monkey on my back. Make that a full-grown gorilla. With hypothyroidism and a penchant for eating anvils.

In practical terms, imagine that you’re a person of average weight for your height, unless you already are – in which case, imagine me glaring at you because you insist upon mocking me with your perfectly fit body. However, despite the fact that you are constantly rubbing your toned abs in my face like I’m a puppy that’s pooed on the carpet, I’m still a thoughtful friend. I’ve bought you a lovely, sturdy belt for your birthday – and then, because making a point is ultimately much more important to me than your friendship, I’ve looped that belt through the handles of six, one gallon cans of paint. Though you wish I’d given you a book or maybe some earrings, you still fasten the 60+ pound belt around your waist. And when I ask you to go ahead and do a chin up, you tell me to fuck off.

“Do you realize that I’m wearing enough Sherman Williams to paint the White House?” you ask. “Inside and out?” Of course I do; welcome to my life.

When I Get Done Painting This MoFo, A Chin Up Will Be a Piece Of Cake

While researching the elusive chin up, I came across an article on stronglifts.com which insists that “[y]our body-weight is not the problem. Strength is. If you want to get stronger at Pull-ups & Chin-ups, do them more.” Let’s see now…if I do 5 times the chin ups I’m doing now, I’ll have done, erm, zero. Great advice, douchebag.

I was surprised to discover that even my slimmer and testosterone-infused friends are similarly challenged. My friend, Evan, recently lamented to me that he can’t complete a single chin up – or pull up, depending upon your definition – unaided. The worst part is that he has to rely on the “assisted pull up machine” in the gym to train so that he can eventually accomplish this tremendous feat of strength. “As soon as you climb onto the assisted pull up machine, you’ve just announced to everyone in the gym that you are a pussy you can’t do a chin up on your own,” he complained. “Having the muscleheads know this is worse than not being able to do a damn chin up in the first place.”

Don’t Feel Bad, Evan. “Sixteen Candles'” Jake Ryan Couldn’t Do One Either.

This reminded me of when I used to work for a pharmaceutical company that formulated a little, blue pill which lifted the, erm, heads of many a man.  While I was practically assaulted in the waiting rooms of each and every doctor’s office I visited by decrepit, old codgers just dying to shoot their wad, not one of them accepted my offer of a pen or notepad with the pill’s name on it. No, they wanted samples – a request that only their doctor could fulfill – and lots of  ‘em. Prescriptions were useless as they announced to everyone working in the pharmacy that Flopsy was not the name of a member of your four-legged family, but the pet name for your, erm, member.

Still, I’m perplexed by why this seemingly simple exercise is so damned difficult. By the age of six, I could complete hundreds of one-armed chin ups in a row, hang upside down from the monkey bars until all of my blood pooled in my brain, and contort myself in such a way that I once crammed my entire body into a pillowcase. Why can’t adults do something that kids can do so effortlessly?

Latissimus Dorsi – No, It’s Not The Hottest New Baby Name For 2012

I suspect the answer lies in knowledge. As children, we don’t know that we can’t do things, so we just do them. Second graders don’t know the first thing about their Latissimus Dorsi…and, frankly, neither did I until I Googled it. Apparently, it’s not the name of the roguishly handsome, but tragic hero in an Italian romance novel as I’d initially believed – and instead are big ol’ muscles in your back that make a pronated (overhand) grip pull up/chin up possible. My problem lies in the fact that I’m aware that muscles are involved in exercise, thereby making chin ups an impossibility for me. Moreover, my back muscles and I aren’t on speaking terms and haven’t been since I allowed numerous cars to plow into mine over the years.

Were I to try a supinated (underhand) grip instead, I could rely more heavily on my biceps – which is kinda like Tony Stark relying on the phrase, “Stop! I’m a rich dude” to halt criminals instead of donning his Iron Man suit and crushing them beneath his metallic red foot. However, my biceps cooperate only when alcohol is involved – and it’s simply too difficult to attempt a chin up with the stem of a wineglass clamped between your teeth.

So for now, I will celebrate the fact that I’ve lost 9 pounds (and have been placed in the Witness Protection Program so that they can’t find me again and re-staple themselves to my ass cheeks) and, thanks to the miracle of technology, I can watch Bravo on every single cardio machine in the gym. As Hubby conquers one more chin up after another, I will have to revel in the knowledge that if he brags about it and pisses me off, I can easily crush the ego out of him by merely sitting on his lap.

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Photo credits:
Chin Up: Menshealth.com
George Lucas: Georgelucasneck.tumblr.com
White House: WhiteHouse.gov
Sixteen Candles Chin Up: Tumblr.com
Latissimus Dorsi: Wikipedia.com

97 comments

  1. 1pointperspective

    Quite possibly the best opening sentence of any post, ever. As always, the sentences which followed did not disappoint either.
    I think I can do some chin ups, I’ll go find a sturdy enough bar and report back on how many I’ve done.

  2. Tim Anderson

    Being that I have more chins than a Chinese phone book, the only way I am able to do a chin-up is by tilting my head backwards.

  3. WSW

    Chin ups are for boys. Unless you want to end up like Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2 (Judgement Day), don’t even try doing them. Crazed, ripped and snarling is no way to spend the middle years, my friend.

    • Miss Snarky Pants

      I like the way you think, Sweetie! I used to want guns like Linda Hamilton, but have you seen her lately. Chills are rippling through my body and I can only vaguely remember how awful she looked the last time some tabloid slapped her face onto one of their pages.

    • Fathead Follies

      First of all, I have to admit to you and WSW that Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2 is my hero. I long to be able to do chin ups on an overturned jailhouse bunk bed and strut around in a wife beater, racking rounds one handed. Just think how quickly people would get my cocktails. *sigh* Alas, I have to settle for “assisted pull ups” with an exercise band over a door frame despite the fact that Hubs helpfully showed me some inspiring footage of a pregnant woman easily doing pull ups in a Cross Fit training class. It was truly inspiring as it inspired me to send that gym a letter bomb and feed Hubs tainted chicken breasts so that he could do some toilet bowl chin ups. You are not alone, Cristy. I will join you underneath the pull up bar for a cocktail.

  4. Zainab Khawaja

    As someone who has never, in her life, been able to do a single chin up, much less four – my sincere congratulations to your husband! And as for you, don’t worry about it. Who says we need chin ups to be cool? Heck, I say going up and down the stairs twice a day should be good enough. We’re people, not machines! On a serious note, bravo with the attempt to exercise. I get winded just walking two or three blocks.

    • Miss Snarky Pants

      I know I should just be happy with my body the way it is, but the nearby marine laboratory gets flooded with phone calls every time I’m spotted on the street. People are certain a manatee is on the loose – and it has learned to walk. I’m not sure what scares them more.

      • Angry Demon

        Wow , Thats like the original story of Golden Age Aquaman,seriously.just look it up,its even in the wikipedia.Golden Age Aquaman is actually a boy that was experimented and conditioned by his dad to live at the bottom of the ocean floor.Why? No ,Idea.

      • Angry Demon

        Hey, Aquaman has Sharks as his pets.Who doesnt want that?Its cool…sorta in a supervillain way.Oh and dont forget the Dolphins ( the animals not the ones from Miami …although if he can make them his pets…hmm…Miami Dolphins as Stormtroopers?) and the Squids.

      • Angry Demon

        Because Raj dont have sharks as his pets and Miami Dolphins as his personal StormTrooper.Besides he’s not refering to the Golden Age one.The golden age Aquaman is a US Navy / MARINE wet dream come true.He’s the ultimate amphibious super soldier ( super NAVY SEAL ) that can breathe underwater.
        So dont feel bad.

  5. Angry Demon

    Your Husband can do four ?Four?4?Wow,thats alot.Congratulations to him for joining the 1%……of those that can really do a chin up.HAHAHA. :)

    • Miss Snarky Pants

      I’m starting to suspect that four chin ups is quite an achievement. Damn, now I’m going to have to congratulate Hubby. I suppose I’ll have to make him some chocolate chip oatmeal cookies, too. Angry Demon, you’re making my day quite complicated, you know. I hope you’re following my blog; I like complications.

      • Angry Demon

        It is for most of us men….who is not a gym rat and on steroid.Even a gym rat that is on steroid can sometimes doing it wrong.
        So yeah ,give him some cookies.And an invitation to a WWE tryout.Hey, He earned it,Right?

  6. Laura

    Yay! You’re back! And a mere shadow of your former self! Okay, that’s your ass that’s becoming a mere shadow of its former self, or something, but congrats anyway. Nine is almost 10, and ten is, well, where percentages start to mean something. I don’t do math, but lots of zeros always look good and clean on a page. I haven’t attempted a pull up or chin up in so long… yes, I’m the dork that uses the ‘assistance’ machine at the gym. Fortunately, the gym seems a dork haven rather than fitness freak heaven, so I haven’t seen anyone else do that, either! Yay again! Keep up the good work, loved the writing as always. Esp. the image of you dangling on a bar with a wine glass clamped between your teeth… a woman after my own herart! xx

    • Miss Snarky Pants

      Thanks so much Laura. Have you posted recently or are you just not showing up in my Reader? We need to talk and catch up. Glad to be back and am loving seeing all my blogging buddies.

      I’d totally use one of those assistance machines, but I don’t think our gym has one. It’s the only way I’m going to do a chin up any time soon.

      Miss you,

      xoxo CCL

      • Laura

        I assume the break was to work on your book??

        I posted at the beginning of the month, another middle school horror story, this time seasonally-appropriate (Halloween). Will put up a fun little something next week as well.

        Do need to catch up! This month has been insanely busy, and going away this weekend (wink, wink), but after that… I’ll give you a call! xxL

  7. tomwisk

    Doing a chin-up is designed to tone your back muscles and biceps. If you want to look like a gym rat keep trying. If a healthy trim body is what you crave try stationary bike, treadmill and the occasional foray into the semi-wilderness. We don’t need anymore ripped bodies, though the latest shot of J-Lo’s abs was nice, we need trim adaptable people.

    • Miss Snarky Pants

      Awww. You’re making me feel a lot better, Tom. I spend quite a lot of time on the stationary bike and the treadmill. Recently, the elliptical machine and I have become friendly, but my calves are pissed off at this new relationship. Dr. Oz says that you should be able to do 20 chin ups in a row in order to be a healthy person. I say, that’s easy coming from a damn wizard.

  8. ksnapped

    Oh, honey, I think there’s been a mistake. The device in the top picture? The one with a yummy looking male hanging from it? Yeah, I have one of those in my house, and it’s not for “working out” – its to hang my wet bras from when I take them out of the washing machine. But high-five for the 9 lbs! :D

  9. lostnchina

    You know, when I had a “personal trainer”- back when I still gave a sh*t – my trainer had made me do chin ups with one foot hooked in one of those bands. The force of the bands would “snap” me right up (of course the arms still have to do the work).

    Why the hell are you doing chin ups anyway? Start with push ups and let me know how that goes.

  10. runesandrhinestones

    This post made me laugh so much :) I fail at doing chin ups and press ups! There is no way on god’s green earth that I’m ever going to reach a fitness level where I can pull my entire body weight up to a bar!

    • Miss Snarky Pants

      Thanks! If you do decided to attempt a chin up, I’d suggest doing it at home or use a tree branch in your backyard. It’s pretty humiliating to wrap your hands around the bar in the gym and then just hang there because your muscles are like, “What the fuck?”

      • AngryDemon

        Have you ever consider a career as a stand up comedian?You ARE Funny.And the way you deliver it….BAM, you beat every other comedian outthere by a 100 km ( yes , I use the metric system ).

      • Miss Snarky Pants

        Angry Demon, are you really a recruiter for Jay Leno because if you are, please tell Jay Leno that I think chin ups must be A LOT FUCKING EASIER for him than anyone else on the planet. Thank you for your kind words. Unfortunately, I have Dilatory Epigram Syndrome; this means that I’m funny exactly 52 minutes after I need to be during human interactions, so stand up is probably not in my future. If I got heckled, I’d be like, “Your baby is ugly.” That’s all I got.

    • Miss Snarky Pants

      Why, thank you. I’m rarely complimented on my honesty because I’m such a big fat…erm, honest person. Yeah, that’s the ticket. I tell the truth all the time. Like now, I’m hangin’ with Robert Pattinson and I keep telling him that I just can’t leave Hubby for him, but he won’t listen. He’s threatening to climb a tree and race across the forest at top speed and is ignoring my pleas to stop because he’s not actually a vampire, but I think the Ecstasy has gotten to him. Anyway, welcome to blog of my ever so humiliating life.

  11. AngryDemon

    No, I’m not associated with Jay Leno,at all. He stop being funny around 2006 .And I prefer Conan O’brien.
    And you Miss Snarky Pants are better than Ellen DeGeneres and Leah Bonnema COMBINED TOGETHER.
    Imagine that.

    • Miss Snarky Pants

      Hot damn! Yeah, I actually have to agree with you about Leno. O’Brien is much better, but Hubby and I are more Tosh.0 kinda folks. We enjoy pushing boundaries. Matt Stone, Trey Parker and Seth MacFarlane are certainly paving the way for humorists today. Then, of course, there is always my idol – David Sedaris. But it’s harder to push boundaries in print because there are so many literal people out there. You know, the kind who find “A Modest Proposal” to be really offensive.

      • AngryDemon

        Agree,pushing boundaries in print is harder today because all of those “political correctness” thing.I remember waaay back when a church going friend told me that south park is offensive for potraying Jesus as a TV host.Many people doesnt understand satire as a comedy.Luckly, we got the Internet, where Satire bloom.

  12. Pat .

    Hi, just found you, coming over from Moonbeam.
    Glad I did – I am following now to see if I can catch up to your husband – do keep me posted on how many he can do – I am trying to get back to 1 – hmmm, I better get back to the gym. Its old age by the way. When I was a teenager I could do 7 hand-stand press ups – now I would just break my neck if I tried.

  13. Carrie Rubin

    I’ve decided given how difficult life can be for a woman in this society at times, I get to exempt myself from certain activities to make up for it. Chin ups are one of those activities…

      • Miss Snarky Pants

        If you’d like another giggle, just glance at my photo. It’s like a middle-aged-goth-poseur-turned-period-romance-writer visited an Olan Mills studio and they made sure to rub a lot of vaseline on the lens. And no, I don’t write romance novels, so not a good look for me.

      • Carrie Rubin

        Well, I went to JC Penney’s for my author head shot so I’m not one to talk. At least yours has some mystery to it, as compared to my head shot which says, “Hi, I’m posing for a picture.” (And I’m not talking about my Gravatar pic–that’s even worse; I popped on a hat and snapped a photo of myself, bad lighting and all.)

      • Miss Snarky Pants

        No, I disagree. The Gravatar pic is awesome – it’s a little Molly Ringwald with a cool expression mixed in with the kind of hat that counselor dude on Celebrity Rehab wears. It’s a rock star move, if you ask me.

  14. creeped

    How did I miss this post? Are you posting (shock horror) more than once a week now?? Being able to do chin ups is highly over-rated. Seriously, when are you ever going to be able to utilise them? Even for show-off purposes? How many over-hanging bars does one even come across in daily life?

    That being said, I do revel in the fact that I can do far more than JD. However, the gay world is a very strange one, indeed.

    • Miss Snarky Pants

      I dunno about that. I have a whole lotta gay friends and very few of them are buff. I know the whole chin up thing really isn’t important in the big picture, but it pisses me off that I’m too weak to do something that I could do without even trying when I was a little kid. And anger is about the best motivation I can think of right now. I’m gonna get this body of mine back in shape if it’s the last thing I do.

      Considering that I took a combined total of about two months off from blogging this summer, I figured I owed you guys some extra blogs. But I like to average one, maybe two, a week. I do have other writing to do…

  15. Lawrence Grodecki

    Hang in there, and if it gets too tough you can always lower the bar!

    If you’re so busy, I’m wondering whether you’ve tried any yoga? And not necessarily the ‘nouveau’ power variety. As an old fart I find it much more enjoyable and flexible than going to the gym and all that equipment. Good luck with all of it! :)

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