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The Gray Iron Fitness Newsletter, Issue #157 What are your longevity odds?
March 01, 2015

March 1, 2015

In this newsletter . . .

What are your longevity odds?

How to do more pull-ups or pushups

What are your longevity odds?

The following story is three years old, but has perennial relevance. -LF

My doctor, normally a cheerful person, seemed somewhat subdued at a recent appointment. So I asked how things were going. She told me that a good friend and medical school classmate was just diagnosed with lung cancer. He is only 40 years old, and he never smoked.

When I later mentioned this to a friend, he said, “That’s just as I have always believed. You can avoid health hazards and be struck down anyway. So why not smoke if you enjoy it?” There’s some twisted logic there; but he is right about one thing: Regardless of having good health habits, there is no absolute guarantee of a long, disease free life. There are only good odds and bad odds.

Last May [it was in 2011 -LF], thieves got into our home while we were away. They stole computers, electronics, jewelry, money, and family heirlooms. We live in a nice neighborhood with a low-crime rate, always lock our doors when we leave, and we have a good watchdog. (The thieves drugged and abused her.)

Our neighbors were kind and helpful. But, surprising to me, some told us they never bother locking their doors or taking precautions when they leave. “If burglars want to get in, they will,” one said. “So why bother?” I agree that some thieves, if determined enough, will get in no matter what precautions are taken. But why put out a welcome mat?

When I was younger and feistier, I would debate with people about dietary practices. Their arguments with the “health nut” (me) usually included having a relative or acquaintance who smoked a pack a day, boozed it up a lot, and yet lived a long time. They didn't want to hear about Jack LaLanne. But they liked to tell the story of Jim Fixx, a well-known fitness buff and author who checked out fairly early in life. Yes, it does happen. Once again, there are no guarantees. There are only good odds and bad odds.

The good odds are that your lifespan and, more importantly, your health span will be longer if you live a fitness lifestyle. Smoke, booze it up a lot, get fat, and/or use drugs, and the odds greatly favor the onset of diseases brought on by self-destructive habits. Go with the good odds and take care of yourself. The good odds are that you will feel better throughout your lifetime and you will last longer. There is plenty in life that is exciting and rewarding without abusing oneself.

P.S. Lock your doors, too. It won’t stop every thief out there; but it will cull the criminal herd. Most of them look for the easiest entries. Unsecured doors and windows are like putting out the welcome mat.

P.P.S. The burglar who robbed us and harmed our dog was caught sometime later. A homeowner returned while a burglary was in progress. The thief ran through a neighborhood and hid in a compost bin. He had abused our dog and it was a dog from the police K-9 unit that sniffed him out. That’s poetic justice.

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How to do more pull-ups or pushups

Here's a routine guaranteed to increase your ability to do pull-ups (or chin-ups) and pushups. At the same time, it is quick and covers almost total upper body.

For my example here, let's assume your maximum for a single set of pull-ups or chin-ups is 6 repetitions. And for pushups, let's say it is 20.

What you do is superset the two movements in an escalating ladder. Now, the key point to remember is that it is going to be a sub-maximal effort. In other words, you do not go to failure on any set. The idea is to increase your pull-up and pushup volume. And it won't work if you do reps to failure. Burnout usually follows and your progress stalls.

Sub-maximal ladders practiced consistently work far better.

Start by doing 1 pull-up. Now imagine you have a training partner (if you don't actually have one), and he or she does 1 rep. That's the right amount of rest you need. Don't rush. But don't linger, either.

So when your workout partner completes the rep, you do four pushups. Now your partner does four. Next, you do 2 pull-ups. Your partner follows with 2.

Your ladder looks like the following:

  • Set 1 . . . 1 pull-ups . . . 4 pushups
  • Set 2 . . . 2 pull-ups . . . 6 pushups
  • Set 3 . . . 3 pull-ups . . . 8 pushups
  • Set 4 . . . 4 pull-ups . . . 10 push-ups

At set 4 you should be able to able to squeeze out 1 or 2 more pull-ups with decent form. But don't do it. Stop climbing the ladder.

Instead, begin at 1 rep and start a new ladder. Once again, stop when you reach that point when 1 or 2 reps would still be possible. It doesn't matter where you are on the ladder. As soon as you reach that point, stop.

If the ladders are done in sequence, that is, back-to-back, stop when you cannot complete the same number of sets that you did in the first ladder. That is the key. Your ladder workout is finished. Do not do more upper-body work.

Do your ladders 3 times per week with at least 1 day of rest between sessions.

If you are doing only 1 ladder at a time, you can do them 2 or 3 times per day, if they are done several hours apart. But be sure to rest one day before your next workout. The important thing is to not exhaust your self at any time. Your objective is sheer volume.

Suppose that you finish 4 complete sets of ladders (as in the example) in one session. You will have done 40 pull-ups and 112 pushups. Round out your workout with some leg and core (low back and abs) work and you are finished. Do not do more upper-body work.

Do the ladders for a few weeks or a month and then test yourself for how many consecutive pull-ups and pushups you can do. I think you'll be surprised and pleased.


You do pull-ups by gripping the bar with palms facing away from you. With chin-ups, your palms face you. Most people are a little stronger doing chin-ups than pull-ups. Use either method or mix them.

Chinning is tough for women and it gets tougher for everyone as we get older. If you cannot do chin-ups or pull-ups, the same laddering principle can be applied using a lat pull-down machine or resistance bands.

The Push/Pull Ladders workout is from my book, Living the Fitness Lifestyle.

The Kettlebell Boomer How to Defy Aging and Be a Human Dynamo Throughout Your Senior Years—Thanks to Kettlebells With Master RKC, Andrea Du Cane

Newsletter Policy

The Gray Iron Fitness Newsletter is a free publication sent twice monthly to subscribers. The purpose is to provide honest and realistic fitness information for people age 50 and above.

I have never been paid or received compensation of any kind to write a positive review or endorse a product. If I say that I personally use a product or service, it is because I find value in it and have paid for it with my own money.

Like newspapers, magazines and television, this newsletter and my web site contain advertising and marketing links. Naturally, I am compensated for these.

The newsletter and web site provide information to help users establish and maintain a fitness lifestyle. But fitness information is not the same as fitness advice, which is the application of exercise and dietary practices to an individual's specific circumstances. Therefore, always consult with your physician for assurance that fitness information, and your interpretation of it, is appropriate for you.

Your comments and questions are always appreciated. Simply click on the "Reply" bottom.


Logan Franklin
The Gray Iron Fitness Newsletter

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