T Nation

Pull ups

Does anybody have the same problem? I’ve been doing pull-ups since I was 14. I could then do 11reps. I naturally switched to wide grip pull-ups and no matter how much I do them I cannot get past 4reps. I’ve tried everything! Negatives, Forced, I’ve tried long pause and short pauses in between. I’ve tried not doing them so as not to overtrain my lats. I’ve tried the 1-6 method. Basically I’ve tried all the tricks in the book. I simple cannot fucking hoist myself more than four times. I’ve also noticed that as my weight goes up my pull ups go down (for obvious reasons I suppose). I’m fairly tall 6’4" and @ 240 lbs, with a 15 percent bodyfat. I have a feeling that my long ass arms are a big reason why I can’t do pull-ups. I keep doing them though, for everybody knows that they’re a intricate part of a solid back workout. Does anybody have the same problem? Did you work through it somehow?

It could be grip strength that’s holding you back. If this is the case, try doing some thick bar work, bar hangs or use Captains of Crush grippers. Program-wise, Charles Staley has a good program that’s done 3x/week, very similar to Poliquin’s “Max Weights Patient Lifter’s 6*4.”

you might want to try method similiar to, doing 2-3 pullups between every set of each exercise on back day. Or you may want to try to use ladders. in a ladder, you do 1 pullup, rest how long you took to do that 1 pullup, then do 2 pullups, rest that long, do 3 pullups. Then start over for an other set.

Universl, something is wrong, that’s for sure. If you’ve been training the movement for very long, you should be able to do more than 4 pullups, and with added weight around your waist. Particularly at your amount of lean body mass–although I wonder if your BF measurement is accurate, as 204 lbs. of LBM at 6’4" would be quite muscular (college running back muscular). If you suspect that your grip is holding you back, try using straps. However, I’d recommend that you try some reduced training along the lines of Stuart McRobert (who runs a website called Hardgainer). He might recommend 2-3 sets, total, for your back per week, concentrating on adding a bit of weight every week. The intensity techniques you described trying can quickly lead to overtraining for most people. Btw, how much can you 1-arm row? Also, is there a difference between your reps for chins (supinated grip) and pullups (pronated)?

It’s not so surprising that you could do more when you were 14 considering you weighed significantly less. Your leg mass actually limits the number of reps you can do. I’ve got a bigger back than many of my friends who can do many more chins/pull-ups.

You should strengthen your biceps and forearms as much as possible as they are major factors in the exercise

Do weighted chins. I know that sounds stupid but throw on like 20 pounds and do a single or 2 reps. Pull up the hardest you can hold for 2-3 seconds and do a negitive down for 8 seconds. Get your body used to heavy weight and when you get up there with none, you will be able to do more. I could 10 and no more no matter what I did. So I threw on some weight and did sets like that I’m up to around 17 or 18 now.

You might want to try an excercise called the reverse push-up. What you do is lie directly underneath a smith-machine, with the bar raised three to four feet hight (This is probably the only use you’ll get out of a smith machine). Your chest should be directly underneath the bar and your heals should be touching the ground at all times during the excercise. So anyway, while your lying underneath the bar, grab it with a wide grip and pull yourself up. Then lower yourself. Use a 312 tempo, and shoot for 3 sets, 6-8 reps. After a while, if you begin to find this too easy, you might want to take one of those steps that are used in those step-aerobics class and place them under your heals next time you do the excercise. Then gradually increase the height of the step. This excercise is a good way to work the back if it’s done right. I know it’s not as great as the pullup, but it sure beats that God-aweful lat machine.

Over the past year I’ve made great strides in my pull ups (from 8 rep body weight only to about 15 reps with 20 lb DB). I owe this improvement to a Poliquin seminar that was very similar to an article written by him on this site. I applied a protocol of going to positive muscular failure at a 2-0-1-1 tempo followed by a partner assisted double (not jumping or being hoisted up but pulling with as little assistance as possible) with a 5 to 10 second eccentric. Your arms will probably be shaking on the eccentrics if your doing it right! This is a little different from Poliquin’s but its generally the same thing. Poliquin advocates an even longer eccentric at the end of the set.
I also changed the quality of my rep; putting a much greater emphasis on scapular retraction and arching my back at the top of the motion. I found this to be most helpful although painful to my ego since my reps initially plummeted. I find most trainees tend to avoid the end range contraction which is in my opinion a huge component of this lift.

I am hust like you, Im 6-3 and maybe 245 and chins are a bitch. I have long arms and heavy legs which doesnt help. I am just starting to work on my grip now. Things justr dont seem to be progressing like you think they would.

I agree with Dave D. I had the same problem you have, tall, long arms, and I got stuck in this pull up rut - 6/4/3/1. Week after week I did the exact same sets (I wanted to get to 4 sets of 6 reps before adding weights. I have no idea where i got these “magic numbers”). No matter what I tried, same thing. Until I added weight, figuring if I wasn’t going to add reps, might as well add weight. I kept my first set bodyweight, added weight for the 2d and 3d sets (keeping them at 4 and 3 reps), then back to bodyweight for the last. I quickly found that the more weight I used on the 2d and 3d sets, the more reps i could do bodyweight only on the first and last set.

i had a similar problem. I would do as many pull ups as i could then go straight to the lat pull down machine and do a lighter weight and do this until i got the reps i wanted for that set. after a while though i got to where i could pull off more chin ups and there was no need to do the lat pulldown.

Good info guys. Brian, supinated I go 7, as for my one arm cable row,I don’t know for sure, but I’m quite strong on the row. This “weighed” technique sounds pretty good. It’s the only thing I haven’t tried yet. I think I’m gonna try the method Eag suggested. What kind of program do you have Dave D?
I really don’t think the problem lies in my grip. My grip is also firm and tight from the very beginning to the end (unlike during the deadlift). I mean how could they grow tired during 4 measly fucking reps!
My body composition is accurate. I am fairly big and very strong on all other moves…except that damned pull up. Keep the info coming though. It seems there’s a lot of bright guys out there