Reflections & Commentary: Page 1.1
Gymnastics-inspired Exercises . . .
By 1958 I had learned a variety of climbing-related muscle feats, four of which can be seen below: One-arm (front) levers , One-finger pull-ups (on a metal ring 3/4" to 1" diameter) , One-arm pull-ups with weights (20+ pounds) , and One-arm pull-ups on a 1/2" ledge . Plus a One-arm Lever Pull-up. Photos below taken about 1969 in Ft. Collins, CO.
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One finger pull-ups are related to the old Austrian & Bavarian tavern game of Fingerhakeln, and probably go back to the 18th or 19th century. Lillian Leitzel, a tiny Polish-born circus performer, is said to have done 27 one-arm chins at one time - but it's almost certain she did these dynamically, like her ring routine in which she flipped her body about on one arm. An Eastern European female gymnast about her size later did 6 proper one-arm chins - a more convincing record.
For further information about one-arm pull-ups and other feats of suspended body weight, go to this section of www.johngill.net:
"I recall watching you do one arm front levers at your Teton camp. My recollection is that you started from a two arm lever, released one arm, held for about three seconds, and then repeated with the other arm." - Ron Perla, 2003
"Thanks, John . . . I appreciate seeing that!" - Jim McCarthy, Tetons 1964, commenting on my one-arm front lever.
Rope Climbing : The 20 foot climb of the 1.5" diameter, natural fiber rope begins from a seated position on the floor, legs extended and straight, straddling the remainder of the rope. The initial pull from the floor is absolutely critical in generating momentum for the remainder of the climb. I would practice the start by doing 10 consecutive muscle-ups on the high bar, plus several reverse-grip muscle-ups. This is where I developed a lot of my dynamical strength for climbing. The world's record for the 20' climb - established by Don Perry in 1954 - was 2.8 seconds, but in the Southeast most times were over 4.0 seconds. I was determined to break through that barrier. A couple of years later I did with a time of 3.4 seconds. But - to the best of my knowledge - I never broke the formidable 3 second barrier.
Still Rings : The moves that I was determined to do - and I eventually did - were these: cross, L-cross, olympic cross, Azaryan, inverted cross, shoot to handstand, back uprise to handstand, front lever, back lever, giant swings, slow pull from straight hang through inverted hang up to handstand (mount), cross mount, butterfly mount (pull from straight hang into L-cross then to support) - eventually, I could do two of these in a row. But my Planche and Maltese Cross were pathetic, and a lack of flexibility hindered me at times. Although I conjectured it years before it was finally done, I was never able to hold what became known as a Victorian Cross - a front lever at the level of the rings - although I could pull into it at times.
Strength Exercises : Most of these are illustrated above. As for pull-up repetitions, I got up to 7 one-arm pullups with my right hand and 5 with my left. I never really worked on regular two-arm pull-ups, doing at most perhaps 25 at one go. But I also wanted to do squeeze-grip pull-ups and a squeeze-grip front lever. I was able to do these on exposed floor joists, and in one instance, in an old cabin, was able to pull myself up with one hand for a couple of seconds, squeezing a slightly warped and rough textured beam. I was never able to duplicate this on a smoother surface. My one-finger pull-ups were done on a standard gymnastics horizontal bar or my wide-bottom aluminum rings - never from a webbing sling, which reduces the difficulty. On one or two occasions I used natural holes in a rock surface for momentary one-arm supports, but gave this up after straining a finger. Using the middle finger of my right hand on a single ring, I could pull into a one-finger (one-arm) front lever - a feat that had been done by Jasper Benincasa in a New York gym about 1940 (he was 5'8" and 140 pounds). (Once one can pull into the lever with one hand on the ring and once one has a solid one-finger pull-up, putting the two together may look spectacular, but is no more difficult.)