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Program to Increase Weighted Chin-Ups

The goal: 4 sets of 8 reps with 40kg added.

Where I’m at now: 4 sets of 7 reps with 37.5kg added.

I’ve never found any program that has worked for me to increase weighted chin ups. I was naturally strong at them when I first tried them, and I could pretty much do 4 sets of 7 reps with 37.5kg added before I even began to do any strength training. So, after years of training I’m not really any stronger at them than I was before.

The program I’ve just started on is pretty much Wendler’s 5/3/1 transposed to a slightly higher rep range. (I have to use a higher rep range because I can’t do really low reps since it bothers my shoulders).

In this program I always do 4 sets of 7 reps, but week 1 is light week (22 kg added), week 2 is medium week (30kg added), and week 3 is max effort week (37.5kg added). I just completed a max effort week, and the 7th rep of the last set was a real grind - nearly failed the rep.

Next cycle I have to increase the weights by 1kg, and I cannot see myself being able to get 4 sets of 7 reps with 38.5kg in 3 week’s time - given how hard it was with 37.5kg.

Will the program I’m on work?

I have tried things like Ben Bruno’s weighted chin up program routine, and it didn’t work for me mainly because I can never figure out how to do linear periodization because I can never figure out how much weight to add as I drop the reps/how many reps to drop as I add weight and how close to failure I should be going at each session. I end up going to complete failure on the high rep range (which I’m guessing also burns me out early), then under-shooting the low rep ranges because I haven’t increased the weights by enough as I drop the reps - and I can’t figure out a ‘formula’ of how to do it.

So, I’m doing this modified 5/3/1 program because it’s an easier way for me to be more scientific about the progression.

So, the two main questions - is this program I’m on (the 5/3/1 transposed to a higher rep range) going to work - do you think I’ll actually get the 38.5kg lift in 3 week’s time the way I’m going? If not, what program would you suggest?

Thanks a lot in advance for any suggestions.

Your really close to you goal congrats. Have you considered doing lower reps for 3-4 weeks to improve strength?

Like working up to a 3RM for that day and backing off and doing 2-4 more sets has popularized by some oly lifters.

I’m sure if you do lots of triples with 40-60kg over the next month or so you will get close or reach your goal.

I think a “strength block” would be a good choice.

I’m not actually close to my goal.

As I increase the weight by 1kg every 3 weeks, it will take me at least 9 weeks to get from 37.5kg to 40.5kg - and that’s only doing 4 sets of 7 reps.

I want to get to 4 sets of 8 reps with 40kg - and, the way I’m going will likely take over a year to get.

Am I doing the right sort of periodization?

What’s your whole program look like? Do you literally just do 4x7 chinups once a week for your back?

No, I do the 4x7 once a week, then a higher rep weighted chin up day another day of the week, then a light session of 30 bodyweight reps another day.

On each day I do the weighted chin ups I follow up immediately with seated rows and then with biceps curls.


As predicted, I failed to get the planned PR of 4 sets of 7 reps with 38.5kg of added weight.

At a loss as to how to progress. Sleep and diet have been OK as far as I know.

Should I try reverse linear periodization? Which is where you take the weight you want to work with (in my case, 38.5kg), and just smash out more and more reps each week or even each session - without going too close to failure?

So, I would take 38.5kg, and do;

Session 1: 5/5/5/5/5/5
Session 2: 5/5/6/5/5/5
Session 3: 5/6/6/5/5/5
Session 4: 5/6/6/5/5/5
Session 5: 6/6/6/5/5/5
Session 6: 6/6/7/5/5/5
Session 7: 6/7/7/5/5/5

Then, on session 8, I’d try to get: 7/7/7/7

(I do 2 session per week, so this is essentially a 4 week program)

Would that work?

If not, how would you bust this plateau?

Use a bench program. Make the best exercise substitutions possible. Base your 1RM on bodyweight + the additional weight: e.g. if your best is +60kg, and you weigh 75kg, your 1RM would be 135kg.

I’m currently just using 5/3/1 for weighted chins. I’m not as strong relative to my bodyweight as you, however. But if I wanted to specialize on my chinup strength, the above is what I would do.

Hey, I’m starting to think that Wendler’s approach might not be good for me because you train at a slightly lighter intensity, and then ramp up. I find that I lose strength very rapidly if I don’t constantly keep the load up. For example, I always come back noticeably weaker after just a week’s deload.

So if I want to get stronger with a particular load, I just have to keep lifting that load for more and more volume until I physically can’t take more volume. Then, increase the load a bit and start over. Would that approach work?

I have found success alternating rep ranges, and using a thumbless grip. My ability to perform weighted pullups improved when I treated them as a primary strength movement, and use rep ranges such as 10x3, 15x3, 6x4, 4x4, and sometimes as high as 3x20.
I would also recommend to track what hurts the most at the end of the pullup sets. Are your hands and or fingers tired? Are your biceps cramping? etc., then train that part of the body.
Heavy timed hangs improved the forearm part for me.
Neutral grip and supinated grip helped with my arms not fatiguing first.
The dreaded 1 minute pullup (30 seconds up, 30 seconds down) helped me learn how to better utilize my lats.
Just some ideas from someone who really likes weighted pullups and dips.

Me too. Don’t deload as often. Don’t deload as hard (heh). Keeping up intensity but reducing volume may work better.

I suggest that you don’t dismiss what strong people do to get strong; banging your ahead against the same weight and reps over and over isn’t a good idea (which you should absolutely know by now). Look at some powerlifting programs. Adapt the bench portion to chinups. Check out Sheiko or some Daily Undulating Periodization stuff that’s floating around. Even an Ed Coan style linear periodization program (make appropriate adjustments for accessory work. Seated rows I bet don’t carry over a whole lot.) That’s my advice.

There are 2 ways this approach works.

  1. You are putting yourself in a temporary state of overreaching and supercompensation takes place after this. Understand that an approach like this causes strength gains that are temporary and works better for more technically complex movements rather than something like pullups.

  2. You are doing this for the extra volume to gain muscle. You need to be eating in a caloric excess. This does not mean bulk up. A 2lb gain in muscular bodyweight over a training cycle can make a large difference in strength if you are a lighter individual.

I’ve been looking online for the Sheiko program, I can’t find anything specific. I find a lot of references to the program, but cannot find out what the program actually is.

What made me think of doing the ‘reverse linear’ type of training I was on about (the ‘banging your head against the same weight over and over’ approach) was a recent Iron Radio podcast episode where the guys there said they often just try to milk the hell out of a given weight, and they find that that weight gets easier and easier for them to deal with over time, so they’re getting stronger. So, yes, the intensity is decreasing over time - but not because they’re dropping the weight, but because they’re getting stronger, and thus finding that same weight easier and easier (i.e. less intense) to handle as the weeks go by. And, as the volume with that weight accumulates, they get bigger too.

Since I’m trying to eventually get 4 sets of 8 reps with 40kg added, I want to OWN 38.5kg before I move on to 40kg.

Does that approach sound like it could work?

I’ll probably be needing to gain weight (hopefully muscle) as well - but weight gain may affect weighted chin ups a bit differently to, for example, bench press because chin ups performance is more dependent on your own mass. That probably means I’ll need to gain weight more gradually.

And could you link me to some stuff showing me what Sheiko is/how to use it if possible?


Ask Alpha in his log for tips, he’s kinda good at them…

Where does time between sets come into the equation.

I think I could have maybe got the 7th rep of the last set if I had rested 5 minutes between sets. But I time myself strictly to 2 mins 30 secs between sets, because I wanna keep it as scientific as possible.

If I got the 7th rep because I rested 5 minutes between sets I would never know if I actually got stronger or if I just got the last rep because I was fresher because I was resting longer - and really I am no stronger than I was last week.

So should I continue timing my rest periods to a 2.5min period to keep all variables constant?

So I tried resting 5 minutes between sets instead of 2.5 minutes (like I usually do), and I was able to hit all my reps fairly easily instead of failing on the last rep of the last set. But the thing is - that’s not true progression is it? It only ‘looked’ like I got stronger because I allowed myself more time to rest between sets. So I was fresher to attack each set.

Surely I can only know if I actually got stronger by keeping EVERYTHING the same (including rest time between sets) and just trying to not fail on the last rep of the last set like I always do?

kinda, but not really. You can choose to focus on the reps, and rest as long as you need to hit all the reps; or you can focus on the rest and stick to pre-determined times, keeping on until you hit the prescribed reps.

They’re both perfectly acceptable methods of progression. It doesn’t have to be both at the same time.

Cool. I’ve tried keeping the rest time the same for a while now and I always fail at the same rep (7th rep of last set) every session. So should I just rest for as long as I need to get more and more reps?

Thing is - even if I do this for, say 8 weeks, and get more and more reps, it will be depressing if when I try to shorten the rest period again back down to 2.5 minutes if I once again fail at the 7th rep of the last set - thus proving I got no stronger at all in those 8 weeks despite getting more and more reps. Do you think that will happen?

well yeah, if progress has stalled then it’s time to mix it up instead of just doing the same shit every workout.

Instead of increasing the rest so you can hit 8 reps every time, then trying to drop the rest back down and still try to hit 8, why not increase the rest times and try and hit sets of 10+, then when you drop the rest back down you’ll be able to hit sets of 8?

Yeah I will try this.

However, if, when I drop the rest times back to 2.5 mins and still can’t hit that 7th rep I’ll know I haven’t progressed at all.

yup, and you’ll have to live the rest of your life with the shame of having not progressed your pull ups. The rest of the village will shun you, and you will be cast down among the sodomites.

You will be no better than an animal. A pig. A filthy, low-down, dirty dog.

Scum. Sub-human scum. That’s what you’ll be.

A bottom feeder. Algae. A maggot. A worm. Parents will shield their children’s eyes as you pass to spare them the horror of seeing your shuffling, withered form.

A tumour. A canker. A wart. A pustulant boil on the anus of society.


Don’t worry about it. If that doesn’t work - try something else. So much of your gym efforts are going to be trial and error, and not everything will work. I’ve lost count of the number of things that I’ve tried and I’ve either injured myself or just plain sucked at them, so I reevaluated and started again.

It’s all part of the process, brother. Don’t stress over it.