Richie's

100 pull-ups and 100 dips per day challenge

If you got here from my index page, then please don’t be alarmed, but this is not an article about software development. Just back away calmly and pretend you never saw it.

One hundred dips man

Guru Anaerobic, who’s book, Gang Fit, I have been reading. Said that he did 6x10 pull-ups, 4x10 of something else (curls?) and 10x10 dips per day, every day, for a month. This resulted in a serious improvement to strength and muscle mass.

From everything I have read and experienced over the last 2 years, this kind of thing shouldn’t work. If nothing else, it should be suboptimal, resulting in over-training and injury. So I decided to try it.

My version of the challenge is to do 100 pull ups and 100 dips per day for a month (or until my wife gives birth). The only problem is that I can’t do that many dips (unless I spread it over a few hours), never mind pull ups. So I did as many full pull ups and dips as I could (in sets of 10 reps ideally) until failure. Then moved to a secondary exercise.

For dips, which I can do more of, I switch out of diamond press ups, then when I can’t do anymore of those, to regular press ups, then when that fails I put my knees down, until I am basically just flopping around on the floor like a fish out of water.

For pull ups I started switching out to various types of curl, but I hate curls, so eventually replaced these with bent over rows which I find more satisfying.

Log

What follows is a very rough log of the exercise. I didn’t record my rest periods or when I only did 2 sets of 5 reps instead of 1 set of 10 reps for pull ups. Also I did all of the pull ups on my door frame on some days and some on the monkey bars or football goal others. It is much easier on the monkey frame, which doesn’t a climber style finger grip to stop it from digging into my fingers.

So this comes down quite a lot to perception, but the numbers maybe help a bit. Below are approximately the number of sets I did of 10 reps.

Day Pull-ups Rows Dips Press-ups Notes
1 3 6 5 3 Didn’t actually do rows, just curls
2 2 6 5 5 Experimenting with secondary exercises, pulled back muscle
3 3 7 5 5 Also did some hill sprints, used park frame, slept 12 hours that night
4 1 9 8 2 Sudden improvement is dips (also did them with less rest between sets!), switched fully to rows, bicep hurts
5 4 6 7 3 Fatigued, less dips, but cleaner and less rest between sets, also did a few sprints, visible increase in muscle mass
6 7 3 10 0 Maybe more rest between sets
7 4 6 10 0 Forearms hurting in a novel way. Wife complains that I have ketone breath despite the fact I have been lax with intermittent fasting and carb intake.
8 6 4 10 0 Used park frame for pull-ups and did some sprints too. Did 2x20 dip sets and 6x10. Still had to do some of the pull-ups as 2 sets of 5, but feel like there is some improvement.
9 5 5 10 0 Increased row weight a bit, helps get the rows to a more similar difficulty to the pull-ups. Feel far less like I am over-training.
10 6 4 10 0 Not the cleanest sets, but less rest time.
11 5 5 10 0 I feel like my pull-ups are increasing in range and the reps are better quality.
12 5 5 10 0 Also did sprints, quite tired.
13 7 3 10 0
14 5 5 10 0
15 3 7 10 0 Also did sprints and jogging. It is hard to tell if I am going backwards or forwards with pull-ups.
16 2 8 10 0 Hung over, bit of a shambles
17 5 5 10 0 Sprints again and some extras. Had some pretensions about doing a 48 hour fast, but the thought of going to bed without eating was too much this time.
18 1 9 10 0 Woke up early so went for a run as well. Starting to feel fatigue again. Need to back off a bit, wife is near her due date. Did another 20 hour fast.
19 1 9 10 0 Ate lunch today and still backing off pull-ups, want to try and recover a bit.
20 2 8 10 0 Woke up too early and couldn’t go back to sleep, feel pretty knackered. 20 is a nice round number so I think I’m done!

Injury, fatigue and performance

Pull-ups are always a high risk move for me. Usually when I am trying to eek out one last rep is when something goes in my back and this happened on day two. However I carried on, it hurts when I sneeze, but somehow not so much during actually exercise. Conspicuous by its absence is the tendon strain I used to get in my arms when rock climbing. I suppose that plain two-handed pull-ups are putting less strain on my joints compared to many climbing moves where you often have most of your weight on one outstretched arm.

Fatigue is also present, but disappears during actual exercise. The effects of overtraining are clearly present, but qualitatively my performance improved in a noticeable way by day 4. At least for dips, pull-ups were harder to judge. Around day 8-9 I noticed that the feeling of fatigue was significantly reduced along with aches and pains.

Towards the end I was in a bit of a state some days. This could have been because some sessions were just harder due to extra bits I threw in. However it also seemed to be building up. I could have continued, but it seemed like the wrong time to be pushing myself physically.

“Theorizing”

Thinking about how our ancestors might have lived, the fact this works makes sense to me. When times were very good or very bad, they may have had to hunt or fight every day for a prolonged period. There is a fair amount of material suggesting just 1-2 hours of exercise a week, with plenty of rest in between sessions, is optimal. However I think in the wild it is likely you would get days or weeks of intense activity followed by a period of rest.

When large animals were passing by, eating grass and farting, hunters would have to track them for hours at a moderate pace, followed by an intense burst of sprinting and spear throwing. Then they would have to haul anything they couldn’t eat on the spot back to camp, home or at least away from any large cats or dogs. If it was too heavy to move, then maybe they would have to fight off anything which also wanted to eat it.

Of course this is just one possible scenario of many. It is just a thought exercise. I think it is reasonable to think about such things because it gives you some grounding outside of circular health and fitness metrics. The optimal diet and exercise for health and fitness depends on your environment and your environment provides your diet and exercise.

Assuming that some combination of habitats from the bulk of our evolution are optimal (excluding the occasional extreme stresses which result in death) is reasonable to avoid epistemological issues. If you accept that we evolved in a given set of environments, then we probably perform best in a permutation of those. It is not guaranteed by evolution and our evolutionary environment is non-extant. However it provides a counter to arbitrarily chosen metrics defining health and fitness.