T Nation

Pull Up Question


I hurt my elbow doing chin ups in January. Today I started doing band assisted pull ups. Below is a video of one of my sets. Couple of questions for the smart T-Nation minds:

  1. It looks like my left shoulder blade moves a lot more than my right. Is this a muscle imbalance that will work itself out or a area of concern?
  2. Today I did 42 total reps (broken up into sets). Is there a magic number of reps per week that will get me the most progress?
  3. Right now I am using the 2.5 inch heavy band. At what number of reps/sets will I need to move down to the next smallest band?

Thanks for your help

  1. I only really notice that on the way down, and it's because you're letting your left side down before your right. Probably because you're favoring one side over the other. Just keep it in mind and try to move both sides together. It's a lot more simple than a muscle imbalance.

  2. There is no magic number. It will change for different people depending on their ability. I started with doing 10x3, then after a couple of weeks, 8x4, 6x5, 5x6, etc. So I kept the total volume around 30 and increased the work for each set. It worked for me.

  3. I don't like using bands or assistance. That's why
    I started with 10x3. If I did need assistance, I would probably put my foot on something so I could adjust how much assistance I am using. Then I would use the minimum I needed to get my reps up.

One thing that I found helped me the most was doing my pull ups to failure and then doing about 3 negative reps. Negatives can help a lot, and it may help you straighten out the left/right thing.


This isn't a pulling strength issue. How are your squats and deadlifts. What I'm seeing is a hip based problem.

Given the fact that you are not overweight this is what I would call odd weakness which demonstrates a mechanical weakness first, muscular weakness distant second.

Only you having done this set in a state of extreme fatigue would throw this off. But still I bet this is the issue.


Can you elaborate? This makes zero sense to me. I'm not saying you're wrong, I just don't understand how his squats have anything to do with his pullups. Are you saying that a hip issue caused his injury, or are you saying it's holding him back in a more general sense with his pull ups? I was not aware that the hips had anything to do with pull ups, assuming we're not talking about kipping pull ups with momentum.


Doesn't make any sense on the surface but when you start thinking about it and you know what your looking for it makes a ton of sense.

Also, when you start looking deeper at problems over the whole body it's amazing what issues at the hips can influence.

Basically, if you have someone that has really bad tension imbalances, namely, there is alot more rectus and IT band tension relative to glute tension, they are usually going to have upper body problems.

Usually it's going to be apparent on pushing and pulling exercises. Inability to load the proper muscles.

Take this guy for instance. That pattern his body is using complete crap. He has alot more strength than that, but his body is not using the correct mechanics because of an issue at the hips.

Think about it for a second. Say you have a tremendous amount of tension on your it band and rectus and pretty weak or dysfunctional glutes. We already know the lower back is not going to be functioning properly because the hips are not functioning correctly. I think that much is obvious.

Then, what is sitting on the lumbar spine? The thoracic spine. So the problems at the hip that traveled to the lumbar spine (or lower torso really because the abdominals are not going to work properly either) are just going to magically disappear and not have any affect on the thoracic spine? No, they will cause huge problems at the T-Spine. If your t-spine function is messed up, just kiss goodbye upper body function period.

This will even effect bicep curls. Lateral raises, external rotation exercises etc..

That's why when someone gets on the board and is going in depth about GIRD and all this other horseshit without looking at the hips I just laugh. They will never get better.


I appreciate the advice so far. I did not know I was letting one side down faster than the other side. As far as my squat and deadlift they are getting better each day. I started out in Jan 2012 very very weak. I looked like I never left my cubicle. In January 2012 my squat was 250, deadlift 275, bench 160. Now my 1RM for squat is 315, deadlift 330, bench 220. I feel like the first year of training I was getting a foundation and learning how to train. Now I am getting really serious. I have a snapping feeling on my right hip. I only notice it when I put my hand on my right hip when I walk. I dont have any discomfort.

Below is a recent deadlift video (270 lbs). I am squatting tomorrow and will upload a video. My pullups are super weak. The bands really help me stay in better form which takes a lot of pressure off my left medial elbow. I want to run a program that will take me off the bands when I build up the muscles and technique.

Let me know what you guys think and how I can make more progress with the pullups.


There are a bazillion ways to improve your pull ups... The one that I find works really well is to do them frequently. Like, one hard set every morning and evening. You get so used to the movement that it gets easier very quickly.