T Nation

Improving Pull-Up Strength


Ok, I always thought I was pretty good at pull-ups. I mean, I can do 15 in a row and most people can't even do 1. Well, my opinion of my pull-up strength changed when I found T-Nation. In the ABBH program (doing it right now), it calls for 5 sets of 10 pull-ups. There's no possible way I can do that. So, I've been replacing them with Lat-Pulldowns.

However, I would much rather do pull-ups, and I don't think doing Lat-Pulldowns is really going to help my pull-up strength as much as I'd like. My question is, is it OK to train pull-up strength on my off days by actually doing pull-ups? If so, how would I go about this? Should I not go to failure? Not do it after a back day? Thanks for your help!


if you can do 15 pullups in one set, 5x10 is just around the corner. Give it a shot one day, attempt 5x10 and see how far you get. During abbh, I performed as many sets of regular chins as I could, then provided assistance using a chair to finish out the set.

the first week I failed on set three and finished out with assistance; by the last week I made it all the way through. I could normally do about 14 chins from dead hang (pulling to the sternum) before starting abbh.


I'd like some info in this area as well. I set myself several goals a couple months ago. i have accomplished two of four. The one that has made the least progress is my goal of five consecutive chin over bar pull ups. I can do two on a good day.

I have tried doing multiple sets of one. I have tried ten sets of three with assistance. I could really use some help.

Are there some other kind of supplemental exercise I should be doing?



I'll just add in what works for me. If you can do 15 in one set then I'd consider adding weight, either attached to a belt or hold a DB between your feet. Just do less reps and more sets and if you don't think you'll complete another rep end it there.

I constantly change my rep/set schemes fairly often. I know he may not be as loved around here anymore, but Pavel's PTP workout of 2 sets of five reps did wonders for my chin-ups. Also I would do chins on off days too, but very few. I'm no expert but thats what has worked for me.


Pull-ups often seem difficult in the beginning, but they are effortless after constant training. Take for instance, me in
November of 2004. I was only able to do 2x6 at bodyweight. At my peak, in February of 2005, I could do 2x15 and a subsequent 3x8 and 1x5 at 106% bodyweight.

My gains were largely neuromuscular, and being a beginning climber, I foolishly thought run-of-the-mill pullups woulf improve my climbing. My suggestion for back building enthusiasts is to pick up a Metolius Simulator at your nearest REI. Do some sets every time you pass by this sucker. I know because I practically lived on this thing.


If your gym has an assisted pull-ups machine then you can set the weight so that you'll end up doing 5x10. To me that feels a lot more "natural" than doing lat pull-downs.


That is one bad ass device. I was gonna go to REI Tuesday to get some climbing rope for pullups. I will definitily pick up that device while I am there. I'm assuming I will actualy need two to train with (one for each and). Looks like a great grip tool too. One of my other current fetishes.



When you can't do any more complete ROM pullups, do some partial ones. (I.E stop before you go to a complete hang if you feel you won't be able to finish) Also, when you can't do anymore, jump down, take a 10 second or so break, and jump back up. This will give you just enough rest to get another 2 or 3 pullups out. With every training session, shoot for doing less partials and more full reps.


If you can't do 5x10, try something like this:

(a) Try to do 10
If you can do 10, repeat (a) otherwise
(b) Do as many as you can WITHOUT failing. Leave enough energy that you could do one more pullup.

Do a combination of 5 (a)s and (b)s. Start with sets of 10, and then do the non-failure sets after.

In no time you'll be doing 5 sets of 10 at bodyweight, and then you'll have to start adding weight!


Just a little interesting tidbit. I used to only train back/pulling muscles once a week, and was stuck at 8-9 chins at 190lbs for about a year. Recently I've just decided to train more often in a circuit-like fashion and I did 12 pullups today. It's only been 2 weeks of pullups 3 times a week and I feel like there's lots of room for improvement. Go overtraining!


Rover, there is a very good article in the archives by Christian Thibaudeau. Its called "Keep Your Chin Up -- How to master the king of relative strength tests".
There are a few routines outlined including partials and negatives to bring that rep count up.

Helped me quite a bit :slight_smile:


Alright guys, thanks for all the help so far! I read the CT article... it seemed really cool. However, I still don't know how I should incoporate pull-up strength straining into my current training. So, if I'm doing ABBH right now (on 2nd week) how would I incorporate this training? I know CT's article said to use his program the first training day of the week... but then I'd be missing a day of ABBH.
Is it OK to train pull-ups on off-days, or will that just lead to overtraining?


You can always rest your feet on someone's hand and then push a little with your legs when you get stuck, or loop a mini band around your feet.


Can't say much more than CT did in his article dedicated to the subject matter:


[edit]doh: Just a link to the article that rapid already pointed you to![/edit]


Here's my experience with improving chins: one set of 6-8 negative chins with 50-60 pounds strapped to my waist. The negative cadence should be 10 seconds down and climb back up and start the next one as quickly as possible.

You will need a bench/stool/ladder or some other device to get back up there that quickly.

I alternate workouts between the negative chins one workout and 3 sets of 6-8 controlled and unweighted chins on the next workout. The cadence on the unweighted chins is 2-3 seconds up, hold for one second, 4 seconds down with a quick, smooth turnaround at the bottom.



Rover, try to read up on Pavel's GTG ('grease the groove') routines and try that on one or two of your off days. At least thats what I would do, beeing the none-expert that I am.
Only time will tell weather its too much volume.


do as many sets as it takes to get to 50. pretty soon the number of sets it takes you to get there will decrease


Climbing, grip and fetish ...I feel dirty!! Is this climbing rope thick rope or thinner?


Try doing some of these:


Or for rope climbing, do this:


Damn is all I can say.


I have never tried negatives before. I had a pretty good system that took me to a 144 plus bodyweight chin up, but now each pound is getting hard to add.
I will have to give the negatives a try with maybe 180.