Calisthenics Intoxication: Can Muscle-ups Make You Muscular and Ripped?

Summertime. Harry TheBicepsFlexKilla was working as a waiter in a luxury restaurant. It was a seasonal well-paying job, which he found on a popular job site. At the beginning it was nothing but a fairy tale – clean restaurant, unusually polite manager and good tips from the customers. However, there were two major downsides – Harry’s legs were killing him from staying upright for long hours every day and there was no gym nearby. The place was located in a tourist area 10 km away from the city. The trip to the nearest training facility was 90 minutes and required the usage of two different buses. Not an option.

In-between serving a rich businessman and his wife or daughter (hard to tell these days), Harry decided to ask his magic phone how can one build muscle without a gym or weights. Millions of answers flooded the screen, but the first thing that got Harry’s attention was a video of an older guy in his 50s doing pull-ups in the local park. The guy was ripped, vascular and his arms appeared enormous. Harry was inspired by the way this man looked, especially compared to the majority of middle-aged individuals with fat guts visiting the restaurant.

“I would be very happy to look like that at my age let alone in my 50s,” thought Harry.


It was decided – calisthenics were going to make Harry’s summer anabolic.

Harry subscribed to a few forums and started watching more and more videos of guys pumping muscle on the monkey bars. For the first few days he tried doing pull-ups in his small rented room using socks attacked to the doorway, but he failed miserably. He even damaged the door.

“This is it. I am going hunting for pull-up bars,” said Harry.

It was almost 8 o’clock in the evening – the peak of the summer day. After about 40 minutes of walking in various directions Harry saw something resembling a pull-up stations like the ones you see in videos. At first glance, it seemed like a false alarm, but as Harry was approaching the image became real. “Is it really happening? Did I find my muscle preserver for the summer?”.

It was indeed a very old playground designed for pull-ups, dips and many other bodyweight exercises. Everything was rusty and the neighborhood was questionable, but when you are in love you can’t see the imperfections. Harry was in love. A few second later he was hanging off the uneven contaminated bar, which was also a little too thick for Harry’s preferences. It required extra grip strength.

Harry did a few pull-ups with really good form despite being out of shape. How? He felt like somebody was watching him, and we all know people perform better when they are trying to impress strangers, correct?

Harry turned around and saw a crew of teens doing teen things. Harry didn’t like teens at all. In his eyes they were annoying, stupid and before all unnecessarily cruel. He also hated the typical look of a spoiled teen who thinks he can be something without daddy’s money. Those adolescents were fitting the stereotype nicely. Their clothes were from famous brands too – Lacoste, Gucci, Adidas, Nike and others. There were two boys and a blonde girl. She seemed mentally unstable, which explained why she was in such a bad company.

“A rich bitch and two boys with questionable sexual orientation,” said Harry to himself in order to calm down.

Harry was one of those people who always use bad words when they talk to themselves, but he was rarely relying on similar language in public.

He decided to do a few more sets of pull-ups and dips and then go home. It was getting dark already. In the middle of his second set, which was a grinder, he heard the sound of fist exchange. Harry turned around to see what’s going on. The two spoiled teens were fighting. They were probably trying to impress the girl or determine whose daddy is the bigger baller.

“What are you looking at,” said one of the teens.

His stats were: 17-18 years old, already receding blonde hair, dumb look, iPhone with a broken display, Adidas lover.

“There’s that line again: ‘What are you looking at?’ Everybody uses it these day. I am looking at you bitch, can’t you see,” said Harry. He felt like those words were not his. Maybe that rusty pull-up bar had channeled some sort of testosterone demon into him? “Is it me,” asked himself Harry.

The Adidas lover got close to Harry and pushed him. Harry was a lightweight, but he had that age advantage. It’s like an older dog fighting an inexperienced younger dog. The younger one has the power and the endurance, but the old dog knows more tricks. Harry was convinced that people who use the “What are you looking at?” phrase are usually less likely to hit you. “Mommy called. Dinner’s ready,” said Harry.

Boom. A fist in Harry’s face. “I guess I am wrong,” thought Harry while trying to stay upright. The Adidas lover grabbed Harry’s chin and started suffocating him. “Bitch move,” thought Harry. The Adidas lover punched Harry in the face once more. Harry was no stranger to this kind of punching. It was the punch of a guy who is a coward in love with fighting weaker victims.

The Adidas lover was not done. He grabbed Harry and started dragging him like a sled. After a few steps Harry’s keychain got out of his pocket. He saw an opening, grabbed the keys and stabbed the Adidas lover straight in the lower ankle. “Eat this iron,” said Harry. The Adidas lover started screaming and there was blood all over his white sneakers. A nice wound was formed, and there was even skin on Harry’s key. What happened next? The other teen and the girl beat the hell out of Harry.

After an hour Harry woke up. His sunglasses were broken in half, but they were fake anyway. No wallet, no phone. He was dragged about 200 meters away from the pull-up playground. Harry got up, dusted himself and started walking. He was too tired to think about how bad his life was.

To his surprise there was a muscular old man in a swimsuit doing dips, muscle-ups and pull-ups under the moonlight. The man’s movements had a nice flow. It was obvious that he was not new to the world of calisthenics. Normally, Harry would have avoided passing close to this peculiar specimen, but this was the shortest path, and the desire to get to his small room was stronger than ever. He wanted to perform detailed examination of the damage those brain dead teens have caused to his body. Also, he was trying to avoid any possibilities of getting questioned by the police because without ID he was a target. You gotta have a serial number in this world.

Once he got closer to the veteran pull-up master Harry saw that the dude was ripped to shreds. The dark lightning was complementing his leanness too – your muscles always look more defined when it’s dark outside. The light kills the cuts. At this point the guy started doing muscle-ups on the straight bar and got a clean set of 8 without cheating. “Not bad for a lunatic in his undies,” thought Harry.

“Hello, stranger,” said the old man while Harry was trying to pass behind his back in order to get out of the cursed zone as fast as possible. Then, the old man got off the bar and continued talking without turning towards Harry: “I saw you 100 meters away. Don’t be surprised,” he added and finally turned around.

Now that Harry was close to the psycho he was able to see explicit details. The old man was wearing some sort of shiny metallic posing trunks and flip-flops. His face reminded Harry of the eccentric bodybuilding guru Vince Gironda.

“You look like they’ve beaten you pretty badly. How many were they,” asked the bizarre muscle-up master.
“About 5. They had a knife too.”
“No baseball bat?”
“No, just a knife.”
“How did you manage to stay alive?”
“Kung fu movies and lots of bodybuilding training. I have almost 14.5 inches arms with a pump.”

At this point the old man knew Harry was selling him lies because there are not many people in the world who care so much about their arms size and yet have the strength to get out of a fight with five armed guys without getting hospitalized.

“How many? Don’t lie!”
“Ok. Two guys and a girl. About 17 years old. Happy?”
“Look, what’s your name?”
“Harry.”
“Look Harry, son, you just have to get stronger, my friend. How many muscle-ups can you do.”
“I’ve never tried muscle-ups. Do you think they are good for size?”
“How do you think,” said the weirdo and flexed his arms.

Striations everywhere. Harry was all in. He climbed and tried to do a muscle-up. He got one. It was probably the ugliest muscle-up ever done on this Titanicesque pull-up bar and yet for a second Harry felt at peace. It was a good day after all.

“This is a good start, but you have a lot of work in front of you,” pointed Harry’s new hero.
“Teach me.”

Thereupon blood started running from Harry’s nose and he had to get on his back. While he was laying down on the sand he was able to see the clean sky and the stars. He didn’t know their names because he was not into astronomy. The main priority of his thoughts was his future as a muscle-up master. In his mind he connected a few stars and formed a pull-up bar. “Magic. It’s going to be an awesome summer.”

Over the next two months Harry trained under the guidance of the old man almost every night. He was only training his upper body because the long shifts at the restaurant were killing his knees. On the good side he had access to free protein – the leftovers of the bourgeoisie. By the end of the 8th week Harry was able to do 6 strict muscle-ups and 8 with a little swinging. It was a great improvement over his previous state. However, he wasn’t any bigger and that was bothering him.

“I am not getting any bigger, master,” stated Harry during another evening training session.
“First, don’t call me master! Second – who said you were going to get bigger?”
“You did.”
“Not really.”
“No! You showed me! Don’t you remember? You are ripped.”

“I didn’t. I just manipulated the angles. I am not really that big and muscle-ups don’t make you much bigger either. I am ripped not because of muscle-ups, but thanks to my diet. I lied to you because I wanted you to work and enjoy the process instead of constantly thinking about arm size like a girly man.”
“What are those muscle-ups good for then? What’s the point?”
“Imagine that you are running from a bear and you have to climb a tree. I would rather be the guy who can do many muscle-ups than somebody who can bench press 160 kg / 350 lbs while weighing about as much.”
“Sure. Like I will have to run from bears one day,” replied Harry and thought of the last time he was in the forest. It was 10 years ago.
“You never know.”
“Cool story. I spent most of my evenings this summer doing muscle-ups in the company of an old crazy guy in golden underwear who apparently is preparing for the zombie apocalypse. Are you one of those doomsday guys who have a bunker in their living room too?”
“Get down,” said the old man and covered Harry’s head.

A gang led by the Adidas lover was throwing empty bear bottles at them. One hit the right pillar of the pull-up bar and broke in million pieces. One small part scratched Harry’s face.

“Are those the guys who broke your nose?”
“Yes. Are you going to obliterate them with your ninja skills?”
“What skills?”
“Muscle-ups, pull-ups, dips?”
“Are you kidding me? Those are close to useless in a fight.”

Another bottle hit the pull-up bar. There was a dog barking in the background too. A brown pitbull with cut ears – probably the dog of the insecure Adidas lover.

“We have no choice! We must resort to the oldest martial art in the world.”
“I knew you had some fighting skills in you, old man. What is the oldest martial art in the world? Paleo-karate?”

“Running!”

The old man pulled Harry’s T-shirt and they started running under a rain of beer bottles. After a couple of hundred meters the crew of the Adidas lover was far behind. They were intoxicated teens and couldn’t catch two men in optimal form, although Harry was slower than usual because of his fatigued legs. The dog, however, didn’t give up. It was running after Harry and his teacher.

Luckily, there was a tree nearby.

“I told you so,” said the old man to Harry while they were doing swinging muscles up on two separate branches of the tree.

At the end, Harry TheBicepsFlexKilla did not get any bigger thanks to his muscle-up summer, but at least his muscles weren’t eaten by a mad dog either.

“The muscle-up will not make you enormous, but it can definitely preserve your muscles,” wrote Harry in his dairy the next day.

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