Now i have seen a few quotes in t-mag (perhaps mostly in poliquin articles) that to test how good a coach is, you should ask him how to develop your chin-up strenth as fast as possible. Now at two scenarios, being one guy not being able to do a single chin-up, then some other guy who can already do 10. What would you explain him to perform? Time frame = 12 weeks.
First of all there is no universal way to improve the amount of pull-ups someone can do. As we all know everyone is different and will respond to different training protocols. Anyway, what I would do, for both situations would be to first work to increase their maximal strength in the pull-up, since all qualities of strength are based upon maximal strength. Now with the guy who can’t do any pull-ups you’re going to need to accomplish this through negatives. Without going into detail after you took them through a maximal strength phase and they’ve peaked out, that’s when I would shift the focus to strength-endurance training…and of course there is half a million different techniques that could be employed. Obviously I just skimmed the surface because, there are so many different methods that could come into play depending on the individual’s body type, fiber make-up, and so on…
There are a lot of variables to consider including bodyweight, training goals etc. and many varying type of programs have proven effective. If one is wanting to increase mass then it’s going to be a lot harder because generally the more muscle one develops the harder pullups become. The techniques Poliquin recommended to increase pull-up strength in someone who couldn’t do any were negative accentuated chins with the spotter helping the lifter on the concentric and having the lifter control the eccentric. Start spotting from the waist and gradually progress to holding 2 feet and then 1 foot as they get stronger. After this the individual should be able to do a pullup on their and from here additional strength could be gained by doing as many concentric reps as possible and controlling and prolonging the eccentric and by using additional loads. Since pure relative strength is the goal total set T.U.T. should be lower then typical hypertrophy training. For the other person who can already do 10 pullups this is more about strength endurance so I would say the ladder method would be a perfect fit.
Just to correct Kelly, Poliqun recommends this type of progression, (1) negatives only, (2) assisted from both ankles, (3) assisted from one ankle, (4) assisted from waist, (5) regular pull-ups. Naturally, assisting from the waist makes the pull-ups harder than with the ankles being supported. Just thought I’d clear that up.