T Nation

Chin-Up Woes

Hi everyone. I was wondering if any of you could shed some light on why I suck at pull-ups/chin-ups? It seems that my recovery ability is just terrible for this particular exercise.

For example, I’ll plan to do 4 sets of 5 pull-ups, or something like that. I can do 7 or 8 pull-ups max, so the first set feels easy. I rest about 90 seconds I’m able to do about 4 pull-ups this time. Rest another 90 seconds and I can’t do a single pull-up, not even close!

For any other exercise I can follow this set/rep scheme using my 7RM weight, but not for pull-ups.

To give another example, I tried starting Thib’s “keep your chin up” program today. I decided to do the workout recommended for those who can do 4-6 good pull-ups. The first exercise is 5x(10-12) eccentrics at a tempo of 6 seconds per rep with 90 seconds of rest between sets. The first set isn’t so bad and I do 10 reps with what feels like plenty left in the tank.

The next set I can do 5 at the prescribed tempo. Next it’s 3, etc. The next exercise of the workout is to do 20 pull-ups in as many sets as it takes. Unfortunately, I am no longer able to do a single pull-up after the eccentrics. I imagine there are people out there for whom Thib’s program works wonders, but for me it seems impossible.

I know that everyone is different and my weakness at pull-ups may not be correctable, but if anyone could satisfy my curiosity by offering some insight as to why I have this problem I would be very grateful.

Yeh I know wat u mean, I get bigger drop-offs in reps per set with chin-ups. I’ve have made some gains recently tho by
a) doing chins earlier in the week
b) doing them earlier in the training session

I’ve just been doing 3-5 sets as many as I can do without actually failing.
Progressed close grip chins >wide chin > close pull-up > wide pull-up.

Each exercise for 3 weeks and i’ve gone from 7 close grip chins to 9 wide-grips and I’ve gained a few pounds( I wuld’ve been flat out doin 2 to start with).

But yeh that’s the first set I’m down to 4 by the 3rd set. Also been doin BB rows (3-4 sets very little forward lean for lat emphasis) on another day with varied grips changing every 3 weeks.

You could… or if you haven’t already make pullups and variations your first back exercise focus every backworkout… or…

Try making 1-2 seperate pullup workouts only a week. All you do is pullups and chins. If you can’t do anymore sit there and stare at the bar til your damn well ready. Then attack it again. Sometimes you just need longer rest and if that doesn’t work, time for static hangs or sets of partial pullups to work on the point where you can’t make any upwards progress.

Another thing you can do is pysche yourself up by screaming then go do a pullup or find some really vicious music to listen to. Any work done will help you on your next workout.

Afterwards feel free to do 2-3 different pulldown exercises to hammer yourself into guaranteed hypertrophy!

Congratulate yourself afterwards.

  • pyramid method : Do a progressive pyramid.

set 1 : 1 pullups
set 2 : 2 pullups
set 3 : 3 pullups
set 4 : 4 pullups
set 5 : 5 pullups
etc to 15.

Just some things you can try :slight_smile:

Enjoy!

Right now I do 5-6 variations.

I’ll do standard pull-ups til I can’t do anymore. Then I switch to a wider grip til I can’t do anymore. Then I do chinups, 1 armed-towel pullups, 1 armed-towel chinups, behind the back pullups, or I’ll grip the bar with both hands (hands facing inward) and do variating or side specific pulls to my shoulders.

Sometimes I’ll try to go to failure or I’ll switch to 5-8 reps and do 2-3x more sets instead. I try to shock myself everytime by never planning out what I’ll start with or limit myself to a specific # other then to break number of continuous reps or change rest-times. Keep at it with a dogged determination!

Since you can do about 7 reps, why not grab the weight belt and hit your muscles differently.

Add 25 pounds and max out… maybe two reps or something. Rest, drop it to ten additional pounds and max out… maybe two or three reps. After your normal rest, leave the weight off and max out again.

Alternately, you could drop to a fairly light weight and do some pulldowns after your chins are failing. Do a weight that lets you get 12-15 reps for one or two sets.

Additionally, consider resting for longer, so you can recover and keep working the back for more volume than you are hitting it with now.

[quote]vroom wrote:

Additionally, consider resting for longer, so you can recover and keep working the back for more volume than you are hitting it with now.[/quote]

That’d also be my recommendation. You most likely are simply not giving your nervous system/muscles enough time to recover.

One other idea is to pair pull-ups/chin-ups with an overhead pressing exercise (not superset, pair). I remember reading an article that said that athletes who performed an exercise, then rested 60 seconds, then performed an exercise for the opposing muscle group, then rested another 60 seconds before performing another set of the first exercise, actually were able to perform more reps than athletes who just did straight sets.

Hope this helps.

Good training,

Sentoguy

check out GTG by pavel. I did that for dips and now i can do sets of 10 with 50 lb.s attached to me :-). im currently doing it for pull-ups, and am getting in an average of 25 a day.

i superset them with squats, makes for efficient squat rack usage

Thanks for the great advice, everyone. I’ll definitely give some of these suggestions a try.

[quote]vroom wrote:
Since you can do about 7 reps, why not grab the weight belt and hit your muscles differently.

Add 25 pounds and max out… maybe two reps or something. Rest, drop it to ten additional pounds and max out… maybe two or three reps. After your normal rest, leave the weight off and max out again.

Alternately, you could drop to a fairly light weight and do some pulldowns after your chins are failing. Do a weight that lets you get 12-15 reps for one or two sets.

Additionally, consider resting for longer, so you can recover and keep working the back for more volume than you are hitting it with now.[/quote]

best advice on this post…this is how I got my training partner to break his sticking point now he does 20 reps with ease from 5 last year at weight of 240 pounds

It might just be me but I had a really hard time doing pull ups at first but all it took for me to change that was doing one workout where I just did pull ups.

I did as many reps as I could, rested and repeated. When I wasn’t able to do any at all anymore I went to the the assited machine and did the same there.

Then I rested for two days and started my normal routine again.

[quote]Sentoguy wrote:
vroom wrote:

Additionally, consider resting for longer, so you can recover and keep working the back for more volume than you are hitting it with now.

Sentoguy[/quote]

+1 on that. I once was working at a gym and my prick boss wouldn’t let me workout during slow times. So on back day instead of my normal workout I did a set of chinups every half hour for my eight-hour shift - It was awesome.

I’ll agree to the “more volume” posts as well.

ABBH has you doing 5 sets of 10 with 60%, 65%, then 70% of your max.

Then you switch around and do
10 x 3 at 80%
10 x 4 at 80%
10 x 5 at 80%

I guessed my 80% to be around bodyweight based on how my first 3 weeks went. I had no problem at all getting through 10 sets of 3 chins, so I did a few more sets. These are paired with dips and 60 secs rest between sets so you get a little over 2 mins rest between each set of 3. You can do a LOT of volume this way.

(Thank you Waterbury!)

If you don’t have a weighted belt, just use your feet to grip a dumbell.

if you’re maxing out @ 2 sets of 4 i would just buy a home chin bar and do 4 every morning and 4 every night or however many you can do twice a day for 3 weeks. underestimate. then take 2 days off and cut the volume in half for the rest of the 4th week.

If you want to make progress, try taking longer breaks, at least 3 minutes, 5 minutes at most. You could also do many sets of 2-3 reps with 60-90 second breaks if you absolutely want to use short breaks. Pullups and chins are hard work, progress takes time thats all.