T Nation

Pull-up Tips to Gain More Reps?


I’m trying to get better at body-weight pull ups, but I just don’t feel it in my lats nearly as much as I do whenever I do pull-downs. I tend to feel it more in my forearms then my lats. I already know I’m suppose to keep my scapula retracted throughout the movement but I just don’t feel like they’re as effective as pull-downs. I can do 3-4 sets of 5 body weight pull-ups as of now.

Any tips on improving mind-muscle connection with the lats while doing the pull ups?

Also, I can do almost twice as many chin ups as pull ups, is it normal to be much stronger at chin ups?


I’m still quite a novice, so there isn’t a ton of experience behind this, but when I started a couple months ago, pull-ups and chins both felt like nothing but my arms were working. Yes, I was letting my scapula elevate at the bottom and then depress to start each rep, but it didn’t make a difference for me. I did the rack pull-ups Paul Carter wrote about and felt it in my lats immediately. I just did normal pull-ups and chins today and both felt like primarily lat work. Instead of feeling like I was just squashing my bicep and brachioradialis together, I was pulling the humerus down.

Yeah it’s typical for chins to be easier.


Losing body fat helps. Lots and lots of practice.


Seconded you need lots of practice, just knock out few sets when ever you can.

I’m terms of feeling the lats more, try doing this activation drill

Then jump up on a bar, now forget completely about your arms and just try and create that same feeling in your lats. Don’t worry about the range of motion it will be short and you probably won’t get your chin above the bar but you should feel your lats doing all the work, contract then hard. Keep practicing this feeling.

The reason you can feel your lats better during pull down is the lower weight, your not having to do all you can to haul your whole body up. The lower weight allows you to maintain a better position to involve the lats. As you get better at pull ups they then become a better lat builder, remember pull ups are not compulsory, if they are not working for you then do something that is.


Kd hit on the mind muscle connection.

I’ve said this a bunch before - there is no exercise that will carry over to pull-ups except for pull-ups. Right now you do 15-20 in a sitting. Start with 40 pull-ups and get 40 in every day, or every other day if you have any elbow/grip issues. 10 sets of 4, 20 sets of 2, all in one sitting or spread out through the day - doesn’t matter just get them in. Frequency is the key here. Simply put, do a lot of pull-ups and you’ll be able to do more.

Finally, yes - supinated palms activate the biceps more. I know people who find wide grip pull-ups easier because of the decreased ROM but by and large most people find chins easier than pull-ups because of the extra help from the arms.


Yes dude that’s how I’m feeling right now. I feel it all in the arms. I’ll try out the rack pulls tho and see if it helps.

I’ll give it a try, thanks!


It just takes time and practice like @flappinit said. Two things I hated doing but enjoy now are pull ups and squats. When I first started I could barely do 2 decent pull ups even though I was strong in all my lifts. Pull ups are unique and it’s something about body weight that makes them tough. If you ever need true inspiration when doing pull ups check out David Goggins (YouTube), the guy set the record for pull ups, I had no excuses after that.


static holds at the top help alot with improving pullup strength & feeling it in your lats. It’s pretty intense though so, if you try it be safe with it. I used to do static holds to failure at the top (15s-60s), helped me alot, paused dead hang over 15 etc (18 might be my PR long ago, not sure).

other than that, just like anything else, progressive overload. If you can do 5, you can always add some weight and hit clusters of strict form singles/doubles.



Here’s a sweet tip. If you want to get good at something, practice exactly what you want to get good at, it is the fastest and most efficient way to get better at that specified task as your body will eventually condition itself to become more efficient at said movement pattern (this is a simified way of explaining it). Other ancillary exercises can help, however not as much as the actual movements themselves. Think about people who back squat a ton, but don’t front squat, they are very efficient at that movement pattern, take them to do a front squat (a movement that involves similar muscles but requires far more stabization and is a different movement pattern) they may not even be able to do the bar. Similar to chin ups, some people can do like 20 chin ups but can’t even do 5 wide grip pull-ups. So the sweet tip is, do more pull-ups.

As to lat pulldowns, lat pulldowns allow you to use a lighter weight and focus more on the muscles contracting, to get a similar response from pull-ups you need to be strong enough to do them very slowly, focusing on the eccentric part of the movement. The forearms burn more with pull-ups typically because you are moving more weight. When I do pull-ups I’m lifting all my bodyweight, when I do lat pulldowns I use like 110-120 lbs and go really slowly, focusing on my lats contracting. Lat pulldowns are probably a better builder in terms of hypertrophy (increased TUT, more reps etc.) however pull-ups are probably better for overall athleticism, therefore a good approach is to do both (just don’t do any of that kipping pull-up stuff, in my opinion it’s like asking for shoulder impingement)


To add on to what unreal said. I’m currently doing weighted pull-ups as a main movement with lighter lat pull-downs as an assistance exercise. It looks like this:

Pull-up Cluster Set: 15 reps with 30sec between reps @ 25lbs

Lat Pull-downs: 3-4 sets x 10-15 reps @ 120


Dead bar hangs
Walk thru static holds
Reverse curls/wrist roller/farmers carry for forearms
Inverted rows


"The forearms burn more with pull-ups typically because you are moving more weight. "
Correct. That’s why I would focus on exercises that hit the forearms more than lat pulldowns.


Are you trying to build your lats or increase the number of BW pull-ups you can do? They are not necessarily the same thing.

When I was in the Corps, the best way to increase dead hang pull-ups was to pyramids 3 days a week. Personally, I prefer going up and then back down, but you can go up and then start over (that’s not really a pyramid, but whatever). We got a lot of guys from 5-8 pull-ups to 20+ in a pretty short amount of time.

Pyramid up to 5 and back down and you’ve increased your total reps by 10 (compared to 4x5). Do that 3x a week and you’ve done 30 more pull-ups that week. Trust me, it’ll work.

Increase the peak of the pyramid as often as you can, but don’t start missing reps. If you can get up to 10 and back down you’ll be a pulling machine.

Also, as mentioned, less weight = more pull-ups.