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I want to use a ladder program to improve my pullup numbers; I’m familiar w/ the approach, but I am not sure as to how many ladders I should be doing per training session and how many sessions per week I should be conducting in order to yield optimal gains. Thanks to anyone who is already familiar w/ the optimal protocol.


My initial thought woudl be to base it on Poliquin’s critical drop-off point. Poliquin recommends that an exercise protocol aimed toward maximal strength be terminated when performance drops off by 5-7%. Performance is performance measured by losing several reps or having to lower the load between sets.

Since you’re training more for muscular endurance, I think that you could get away with a higher critical drop-off percentage (e.g. 10%). I think that your best bet would be to try the 10% and monitor progress.

Joel: You must use trail and error at first. Years ago when I was a gymnast we did what are now called ladders once ever four days. If I remember the protocol correctly, I would do one, then my partner would do one. And so on until we topped out (After few years of doing this we got so we would top out around 45. We changed this program because we were spending a just over an hour doing pull-ups super setted with dips). Our strategy was to fight our way down the ladder. That is if you did 15 on you last set, try and do 16 if not go for 15. If you started to burn out around 12, your training partner would spot by holding one foot against his abs and you would do assisted reps until you reached 14. Hope this helps and Best of Luck.


Do as many ladders as you want as long as you don’t go to failure (quit right when you start experiencing slight fatigue). When you go to failure all you are doing is training your nervous system to failure. This is what Pavel Tsatsouline recomends and it has worked wonders for me. I’m up to 48 pullups right now. I’ve switched up my routine right now but will probably start hitting them in the next few weeks. What is your max number of pullups right now?

48 pull-ups at what tempo?

Clarence Bass has an article on his website about his experience with a ladder type approach to increasing his pullup reps. Might be worth checking out.

I have seen Pavel’s article on ladders for pull-ups. Basically just try to get 1 or 2 extra each time. Don’t go to failure. This is a sure sign come up short on your goal.

speaking of poliquin’s drop offs… "The percentage for drop-off indexes are 7% for neural drive methods, 20% for bodybuilding methods. "

I’ve never checked my tempo. I just go at a speed that I can get as many pullups as possible. I usually go faster on the way up and then controlled on the way down (but not real slow going down).

I know this is gonna sound like a lame question…but what exactly is a ladder program for pull-ups…could you give an example, i’ve never heard of this term before.

Ladders, 1 rep, rest time it takes to do that rep, do 2, rest how long it took to do 2, same with 3. When form drops of you are either done or you can start over at 1, e.g. 1,2,3,4,5,1,2,3. I would think 3 sets if you get on the higher end, say you can get to 8. 2nd training session I would cut volume back, alternating. Another program is to take your current rep max, add up to 10% or more if you are relatively untrained at the lift. (goal too high is not more effective) double that total. For instance, if you can hit 10, use 11 as goal, and use 22 as your multiplier. do a set of 2 on every minute for 11 sets, (10 minutes). When that gets easy do 3 reps every minute, do 7 or 8 sets. Easy? then sets of 4 for 6 sets. Don’t go to failure. If you can get to 5x5, I’d retest.