Will I manage to do a one-arm pull up by end of February 2024
resolved Feb 29
  • One rep max for two-handed pull ups is +61% body weight in November (up from +50% in February).

  • One rep max for one arm chin ups is:

    • 82% body weight, measured using weights, pulleys, force meter (December)

    • a 40-80lbs resistance band around my feet. (May, August, December).

  • I can go from 90 degrees to the top (Chin up, December).

  • I can go from the bottom to the top with an assisting hand on the bicep of my pulling hand (Chin up, December).

One arm chin up also resolves YES.

If I manage this before the deadline, market resolves YES early. If I decide to give up, I may resolve NO early. (But there's a bit of a grey area around "giving up" so I'll have to see. I'll only resolve NO early if I'm sure.)

I will not take a NO position in this market, but I might sell some YES if I think it gets overpriced, and I might put in NO limit orders for the same reason.

This description used to be much longer. I have removed some waffle and also removed my commitment not to provide updates or bet after end of February 2023. (I asked bettors for permission first.) Feel free to read the description history. I will try to keep this one vaguely up to date if I pass any concrete milestones. Feel free to ask for any other relevant benchmarks and I'll add them.

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@Fion does not continue his challenge, but he motivation me to do a similar one

A fun ride.

Thanks everyone for participating! Thanks to the NO bettors for incentivising me, and thanks to the YES bettors for believing in me. Thanks especially to everybody who gave me advice and encouragement. A few of you may receive a small "thank you" in your managrams...

In the end, I didn't do a final attempt today. My tendons in my elbow have been hurting this week, and I don't think there's any point in risking injuring myself when realistically I probably wasn't that close. Also, Monday was a better day for it. I had the day off work, I was at a climbing wall with more space than I have at home, I was with people who were helping get me psyched. Today was never going to be as good a chance as Monday.

More thoughts to follow in reply comments.

Thoughts on the market design

I've already covered this, but my biggest regret with this market is that I said I wouldn't participate right at the start. (See the description history and/or some of the older comments discussing this commitment and my request to be freed from it.) I was new to the site and somehow I thought it would be "unfair" if I was giving updates and making trades. But in the end, giving updates made it much more fun, and making trades increased my incentives. (When I made the market I was a small fish, so even though I threw all my mana at it, by a few months later that was nothing to me. Being able to add more mana in the middle of the year allowed me to keep the incentives up.)

Did the market actually create incentives? I'm not sure. Probably a bit. I do care about my mana profits. But probably a bigger factor was the engagement. Being able to discuss training strategies and progress was helpful and motivating.

What about selling? When setting up the market I gave myself permission to sell my stake. I did this a few times, because the market got way overvalued. Some people say that incentive markets work better if you never sell and only buy, but I don't think my brain works that way, and I think I would do this again if I made another incentive market.

Thoughts on the training

Man, there's a lot I could say here. This was 13 months of my life. I was dedicated to it. I think I trained smart and hard, but there were mistakes.

Possibly my biggest mistake was specialising too soon. I stopped doing 2 arm pull ups in August, six months before the deadline. My intention was to focus more on the neuromuscular adaptation rather than general muscle growth and building strength. For that I thought I had to be training an exercise that was specific to the goal. But at that time I could only pull up about 61% of my bodyweight, which I don't think is enough. Next time (if there is a next time) I'd probably aim for something like 75%.

But also, I think my neuromuscular adaptation was already pretty good (even if not fully specialised to one-arm pulling). My muscles are tiny. There's got to be a limit to how good your neuromuscular adaptation can get, and I'm not saying I was at that limit, but I might have been at the point where it's pretty hard to go further without pro-level training. So with that reasoning maybe I should have been focussing on building muscle mass for a bit longer. (But then having said that, I spent months trying to do exactly that and my muscles are still tiny so idk.)

Should I have tried greasing the groove sooner? After my 3-4 week period of trying GTG I did feel pretty good. And it was really fun to be doing lots of easy exercise. Maybe next time I would alternate 3 weeks GTG, 3 weeks close-to-max effort. (However, while I say "I felt pretty good", I don't think I have strong evidence that GTG helped me significantly.)

Should I have done more non-pull-ups training? I've kind of stopped running (except for like 10 minutes jog as a warm up for other exercise). Would a bit more running (maybe intervals) improve my fitness on a holistic level somehow? I'm skeptical of that sort of thing but it seems possible. At the very least, it might have removed a kilogram or two of fat.

Finally, I should have done much, much more shoulder stuff. I should have been hanging from the bar multiple times a day. I should have been working one-arm scapular shrugs in more than I was. I should have tried Kongo's suggestion of hanging on one arm and rotating. I did do a bit of one-arm scapular shrugs, but I didn't enjoy them, and I think I thought "right, I can do 6 of those, I don't need to be stronger", but in retrospect I think I should have taken all the shoulder strength I could get. Hanging one arm from a bar should be easy for me. I'm going to do more of this in the future even if I don't take on this challenge again. Hanging from one arm will be easy for me!

Thoughts on the challenge

I've spoken above about how effective the market and my training were, but should I even have bothered?

On the one hand, obviously yes. Doing a one arm pull up is the most beautiful exercise there is, and it's a spectacular achievement. I'm good at pull ups. I should work on this goal.

On the other hand, I put quite a lot of things to the side for this. I didn't climb as much as I would have liked, I didn't run as much as I would have liked, and I neglected resistance training of other muscle groups (not entirely, mind you - I was doing weekly legs, core, climbing antagonistics, and upper-body pushing for most of the challenge - but less than usual). Having a single focus might have increased my determination, but it decreased my enthusiasm for training.

I don't regret the decision to take this on, and as I've said, this market has been really rewarding. But I also accept that there was an opportunity cost.

The future!

As you've probably guessed from the comments so far (if you've read them, in which case, thanks for indulging me), I'm not going to continue with my current level of dedication. I'm not going to immediately create a "Will I do a one-arm pull up by July 2024" or anything like that. I do still want to do a one-arm pull up, but it's going on the back burner for a while.

I'm also not going to go back to my old ways*, at least not straight away. I've been following that approach for years, and I think it's time to mix it up. First of all, the biggest change is I'm going to focus on having fun rather than surgically following a plan. (You should see my spreadsheets - it's a bit much.) I'm not going to shy away from climbing two days in a row if that's what I feel like doing. I'm not going to refuse going for a run because I think it'll tire me out for my scheduled upper-body-pulling day the next day. I'm going to climb if I feel like it, run if the weather is nice. If I only have 30 minutes to exercise, I'm not going to say "that's barely enough time to warm up - I might as well skip it"; I'm going to just do a short session.

In short, I'm going to optimise less and just do what feels good, at least for a while. Partly just because I want to, but also because I'm not even sure I was optimising in the right way before. Let's try some stuff and see how it goes.

*My old ways were something like:

  • 3 weeks on, 1 off

  • Weekly, hard sessions on:

    • Upper body pushing

    • Upper body pulling

    • Fingers (x2)

    • Bouldering

    • Running

    • Yoga

    • Core

    • Climbing antagonistics

  • Tracking all my max weight, for all combinations of sets and reps for each exercise; using this to identify low-hanging fruit.

@Fion have u tried front lever? In terms of pulling strength, u should be quite close!

@Dvorakgigachad I've tried it a bit, but not worked hard on it. I think I can do a reasonably good one-leg-tucked one but not hold it long.

bought Ṁ50 YES

Have you tried generally accepted performance enhancing drugs? Creatine, Caffeine, etc?

@RobertCousineau I take 5g creatine every day. I'm not a caffeine user but I sometimes take a tiny bit before training (couple of squares of dark chocolate). I expect this isn't enough to do anything, despite my low tolerance.

Gonna do an attempt today!

3 traders bought Ṁ40 YES

@Fion did not succeed. Will try again on Thursday

@Fion how close were you? still looking possible? Thursday is the final attempt? good luck!

@shankypanky very hard to quantify how close I am. I can't "break" the straight arm lock, which makes it feel like I'm miles away, but maybe not. I do think it's still possible, but I think the market is too high. (I think it's quite funny that it jumped up for no reason. Not sure what drove that...)

Yeah, Thursday is the final attempt. :)

bought Ṁ20 YES

@Fion you got this man

Today was the last day of the plan I've been following for the past 4 weeks.

With the 2 arm work, I found I could "easily" do 10 reps on my 5th set of what was supposed to be 5*8. At the start of this 4 week block I couldn't even complete it at the weight I set, so I definitely got a wee bit stronger.

With the 1 arm work, I managed to remove 1kg of effective weight (so slightly more than 1kg of actual weight) from my pulley assistance. But that was partway through a session, so I never did 5 sets at that level. Hard to say exactly what it is as a % of bodyweight because it depends on how you count clothes and stuff, but 85% probably isn't too far off.

Today I actually broke from the pulley plan because I was at the climbing wall and didn't have my pulleys. I used rings, which allowed me to twist as I went up and generally felt much easier than the bar. With an assisting hand on my shoulder I could do one-arm pull ups fairly comfortably. Crazy that a hand on a shoulder makes so much difference! I also had a nice chat to somebody who can do one-arm pull ups. He got there with resistance bands, doing 5 reps in a set for most of the progression. He also weighs 10kg more than me. Madness.

Anyway, it's a rest week now and I feel like I need it! I normally only go 3 weeks before a rest week, and it's been 4, so I'm feeling a little bit delicate. The only thing now is to choose my attempt day and decide exactly how to do it. I think it probably needs to be at the climbing wall. My bar isn't as easy to hold as theirs (plus I'm quite tempted by their rings) and I don't have as much space to kick my legs to generate momentum. (I think this counts - I don't recall ever saying that I would do a "strict" pull up. But I also don't think it'll help much, since I've not really been practising coordinating the motion.)

@Fion time for an update. How are you doing?

https://www.instagram.com/reel/C04NBBrNVpz/?igsh=MTIzM25wbG8yMWdhcw== motivation. Second level of difficulty of the same exercise.

bought Ṁ10 YES at 12%
sold Ṁ47 YES

@KongoLandwalker Jeez, that's just nuts

predicted YES

Ok, time for an update!

I've done two weeks of @CanlumNodel's training suggestion. This means 4 days of 1 arm practice and 2 days of 2 arm practice. The 1 arms are done with pulleys and are max effort but low volume. The 2 arms are high volume.

I had a bit of a mishap in week 1, where I went too heavy in the 2 arm 5*8 session. I couldn't complete the 5 sets and ended up dropping the weight and also dropping the reps for the last few sets. (I also climbed afterwards and pulled a muscle in my back. It's healed now.) In week 2 I was less ambitious and I still didn't quite complete it. (The very last set was only 7 reps.) Concerningly, this was 2kg less than my 5*8 max from May 2023. Have I got weaker? Or maybe it was a bad day.

The 1 arm sessions have gone a bit better. I have done a bit of experimenting to find max effort and I think I've got it. It's pretty similar to what I managed to do on 26th December, but on that day it felt really sketchy and now it feels quite reliable and I can do it 5 times with plenty of rest in between.

I have also decided to just focus on my stronger arm for the last few weeks. Until a couple of weeks ago I probably couldn't have said with confidence which arm was stronger, but now I'm pretty sure it's my left. (Weirdly, my non-dominant hand.) Today when I did week 2's second 1 arm session, I did 5 "sets" with my left arm and 3 with my right arm. I had 2.5kg more on the counter balance with the right arm but it still felt harder. (2.5kg seems to equate to roughly 2kg of true assistance with my setup, with the other .5kg lost to friction.) I'll probably keep doing a little bit of exercise with my right arm just because balance feels worthwhile (although I'll obviously be training it in the 2 arm sessions as well) but I'll be concentrating on the left.

On a more personal reflection, I'm looking forward to finishing this. I used to exercise like 12 hours a week, and while I was probably "overtraining" in some sense, I felt great when I was doing that, and I pushed myself very hard with all sorts of different exercises. These few weeks, the only thing I'm doing max effort for is my pull ups. Everything else is just ticking over, making sure I don't exhaust myself too much and making sure I can give everything to the pull up sessions. It's less fun. I want to just do things, not worrying so much about optimising my training. I'll go back to that after the end of this month.

2 more weeks of the current programme, then a rest week, then Attempt Day.

predicted YES

As decided on the accompanying decision market, for the final month and a bit I will be following the training suggestion of @CanlumNodel. Buried in the comments below, paraphrased here:

  • Start on 25th January

  • Each week:

    • 2 days of 1 arm pull ups at 75-80% body weight (realistically this will be just one rep per set)

    • 1 day of 2 arm weighted pull ups at whatever weight I can do 5 sets of 8 (I reckon this will be 12-15kg)

    • Option to replace 2 arm session with climbing

  • Try to walk up the percentage by a point or two each week on the one arm sessions. Goal is to hit max effort, not exhaustion.

  • Do some other exercise if you want, but don't exhaust yourself with it.

  • After 4 weeks, take a rest week and then do an attempt on the 29th or before.

predicted YES

@Fion Clarifying questions for @CanlumNodel:

  • Can I start sooner if I want to? I feel fairly well rested right now and the sooner I start the more time I have at the end to pick my best day.

  • Have I understood right that you intended the one arm practice to be just 1 rep? How many sets should I do in one of these sessions? Should I do both arms, or now that we're in the final straight should I just pick my stronger one?

  • These 1 arm sessions sound like they won't fatigue me too much, if it is just a few sets of a single rep. Am I allowed to climb after I've done a one arm session?

  • Do you care what grip I use for the two-arm sessions? In my latest block of two-arm work, I used a mixed grip, trying to replicate the one-arm body position as closely as possible (hand nearest me palm towards me, other hand palm away). This is quite asymmetric, so I tried to do an even number of sets, so I could alternate sides.

bought Ṁ20 of YES

@Fion The goal of the 4 weeks is to make sure you're not having too many days of continuously working where you build up enough to injure you. You can totally start now, just be really conscious of how everything's feeling toward the end, and stop if it's feeling 'bad' sore.

I was suggesting doing 1 rep, maybe 5 sets - the honest answer though is if I were doing it I'd modify until it felt right. As for whether to specify an arm, I don't have a strong feeling; I think there are arguments both ways. Probably I would just do the strong one, given where you're at, but I don't think you're messing it up if you keep with both.

In terms of what goes into the 1 arm session, I'd be doing a thorough warm up - for me an optimal warm up for max pullups is 30 minutes of climbing, well within my limit. Climbing afterwards is fine too, but I'd keep it all fairly easy. Fatigue isn't the goal.

No strong opinion on grip for two arm session.

bought Ṁ48 YES

It’s not over till I say it’s over!