If you’re going to be stuck at home for the foreseeable future (spoiler alert: you are), what you need is a way to trick yourself into burning calories and building muscle. Because when this pandemic is finally over (or close to it), you’re going to eventually have to face your colleagues, and what you really want is them to gasp at how good you look, not how bad.
Face it: You’re never going to carve out the time after a long day or soul-crushing Zoom calls to do 20 pull-ups, but what if you did two or three an hour throughout your working day? What if — dare I say — you found a way to make exercise tolerable?
What you need is a cheap pull-up bar like the hyperbolically named $25 “JFIT Deluxe Multi Exercise Doorway Pull-Up Bar with Comfort Grips” strategically positioned for maximum guilt-inducement / use-likelihood. For extra points, put it where, one day, visitors will inevitably see it. Imagining them looking bemusedly at it, and then you, and then it again can be surprisingly motivating. And even if you never do a full-fledged pull-up with it, you can hang on to it at the end of a long day of knowledge economy work to stretch out your weary, gradually atrophying, back and shoulders.
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Hang in there — If you work at a desk all day, your back probably hurts. Your setup probably isn’t sufficiently ergonomic, and as the day wears on, you likely slump in your chair under the inexorable weight of late capitalism. You’re only human, after all. What you need is a way to stretch out those shoulders, weary from bearing the weight of systemic racism, endemic economic injustice, and surveillance capitalism. You need to (literally) hang in there.
I’ve been hanging from my pull-up bar for 30 seconds to a minute at a time, a few times a day, and the reduction in tension in my shoulders and back is remarkable. So much so that here I am, remarking on it. Even if I never did anything else with the pull-up bar it would be worth it.
Installation is easy — The JFIT pull-up bar includes a pair of brackets you’re advised to screw into the walls or between a doorframe. Do this, even if — like me — you only use two of the three supplied holes / screws. This will significantly reduce the odds of you unexpectedly plummeting to the floor.
The bar itself extends from one side only as you rotate it, but the brackets make it a far safer bet than relying on tension alone. Rotate the broader portion until the bar stops moving and you’re good to go. There are also two, small, red plastic brackets you can mount a little above ankle height if you wish to use the bar for sit-ups, but not even I am that ambitious. Plus, I can’t be bothered to move the bar.
I’ve found the included grips wholly unnecessary and they’re gathering dust in a box of miscellaneous screws, hex keys, and other things I’ve gotten with purchases but opted not to use, but I guess if you’re planning to use the bar for situps (you masochist) they might prove valuable.
The journey of 1,000 pull-ups — There was a time I could do 10 to 15 pull-ups in a row without breaking a sweat. That time ended around the same time Windows Vista was released (2007). I yearn for those days. Well, I don’t miss the chronic uncertainty about my life choices, the tumultuous romantic life, or the gnawing anxiety that I’d somehow disappointed my parents, but god knows my BMI was in check and my metabolism could handle far more negligence.
The point is, those days are long gone, and if I’m ever to achieve anything resembling an approximation of them again I’m going to have to work harder than I did 14 years ago. That’s never going to happen on its own, so I have to turn to cheap tricks and subterfuge. I’ve positioned my “JFIT Delux Multi Exercise Bar with Comfort Grips” between my office (read: living room) and my bedroom (read: sanctuary). That means I can’t help but attempt at least one pull-up every time I lay eyes on it, which is at least 20 times a day.
Why this one? — There are myriad pull-up bars on Amazon, but I’m reliably informed most of them suck. How do I know this one doesn't? Because my next-door neighbor recommended it, and not only is he ripped, but he has three of them, one positioned like mine, another holding a hefty punching bag, and a third installed in the stairwell, to which he’s attached a pair of gymnast’s rings. To date, none of them have failed, and the state of his physique has never failed to impress. How much more convincing do you need?