Training One Rep at a Time

by Jack Arnow on December 1, 2015

Jack Arnow: One Rep at a Time

Several months ago, inspired and guided by Paul Wade’s Explosive Calisthenics, I started training for the “suicide jump.” From a standing position with a stick between my outstretched hands in front of my thighs, the goal is to jump over the stick which ends up behind my thighs.

Most of my best friends advised me not to train for the “suicide jump,” as they assumed injury was extremely likely for a 72 year old. There was much truth to their assertions, but I decided to train anyway. I thought the joy of training was worth the risks. It was!

I trained extremely carefully, discovering ways to make the training even safer, advancing one small step at a time. I really didn’t think I would succeed in reaching the master step, but that was a blessing in disguise. It allowed me to focus on each rep in each step with no distractions at all, improving technique, listening to my body, and trusting my intuition.

As a result, I loved the training. It was so much fun because I wasn’t overly attached to the outcome. To my surprise, after a few months, I jumped over a long straw, not a stick. Then a while after that I jumped over a rubber flex bar. Just recently I jumped over an actual stick!

The funny thing is that I thought I already had learned to train this way, focusing on the present, but in retrospect I wasn’t. This was particularly evident in my training for one arm chin-ups over the last several years. Even though I should have known better, I’ve been too aggressive in my pursuit to regain this amazing feat of strength. I’ve lived and learned a lot over the years, but certain lessons need to be continually revisited.

Recently I applied my lessons from training the “suicide jump” to training the one arm chin. I began varying my workouts based on how each rep felt. I will end or continue my workout based on my immediate feeling, not on a predetermined idea. I test new ideas cautiously to see if they help. I’ve learned once again that joyful creative training makes you stronger.

On September 20th 2015 I finally did a flat footed righty one arm chin, but continue training towards a full dead hanging one arm chin. The future is never really certain, in life, or in exercise goals, so enjoy and focus on the present.

Jack Arnow Flatfooted righty chinup

Having clear goals is important, but listening to your body in the immediate present is essential to make better training decisions, and especially to reduce the chance and severity of injury. Constantly strive to improve your technique. One small advance follows one small advance, eventually leading to clear gain, but there will inevitably be setbacks along the way, so be patient with yourself. Others may help you with particular training ideas or suggestions, but test these things carefully in your practice because we are all unique in one way or another.

Regardless of your exercise achievements, be proud of them because your hard work made them happen. If others inspire you, or you inspire others, that is fantastic. Most likely both things are happening. Most importantly, try not to make the mistake of thinking you are better than someone else because you can do something they can’t. You know the difficulties and obstacles that you had to overcome, but probably don’t know theirs. And they most certainly can do many things that you can’t.

Have fun and practice one rep at a time.


A student of calisthenics legend Jasper Benincasa, Jack Arnow has been practicing calisthenics for over 60 years. He can be reached by email at

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Previous post:

Next post: