T Nation

Pullup Variations & Programming


So pullups & its variations are a good compound lift for building some size and strength. What i want to know is how do you guys work them into your programs ... ie how often do you do them in a week, set and rep protocols, and variations.
This is what I was doing During the summer:

I had a 4 day split going which was basically my modification of ws4sb, and I was getting 2 different variations in a week, on different days. Day one which was ME bench I went for reps on pullups after the main lift, day two a pullup variation was the main lift and i was usually in the 3-6 rep range with some additional weight.

For the past couple of weeks since I've gotten to school I've switched to a 3x per week training schedule where i still cycle the 4 different workouts over. I've been noticing a bunch of tightness around my shoulders, and a little bit of pain in the muscle between my left scap and spine.

Now I know i havent really given enough info about my routine for anyone to give me any real tips on balance, but another thing im wondering is if you guys think to much pullups could be contributing to this tightness or if i should look to the rest of my program and do some tweaking.

Long post, lemme know what you think


I do pullups and lots of them. Trick is to always pair them with an opposing pushing motion -- I like handstand pushups, but any good overhead press ought to work. Typical is

MWF: 5 x 20
TR: 3 x 20

MWF vary grip within each set of 20. Yes regrab the bar. So some overhand, underhand, one hand reversed etc.

TR: Do much the same except try to do as many lopsided (so one arm does more work than the other) alternating. My goal is to work back to one-armed pullups. More than about 20 and all you are doing is getting more endurance. That's fine if you are climbing mountains then work up to sets of 50, but otherwise not much use.

Biggest tip I can give you: You are to think about the angle between your elbows and torso. Nothing else really matters. Oh I don't do too many wide grip because they make my shoulders hurt if I overdo it. YMMV

I've got tons of variations I do. Pullups are actually a pretty large topic. You can do them one-armed, with a towel, with a rope, plyometrically and even where you launch yourself, let go at the top and clap. At times for grins I do them with a belt and plates, but this is actually inferior to doing them one-armed.

Be advised that if you do them a lot you will get strong and you will also not really bulk up but look like a gymnast. If you want bulk you need to work on the separately. Pullups, however, are a staple and along with pushups/rows a necessity if you are going to stay strong.

If you have questions, feel free to ask. I'm just a gym rat so others might have better advice....


Oh, I almost forget. That pain in your back. Next time you do these pay close attention and see if that area is even effected. Change your grip and hand width until it goes away. As long as you are doing some pulup type motion (and IU mix it up with chinups) that is fine. Don't get hung up on some particular variation. It is quite possible that if you just concentrate on moving your elbows this will get those offending muscles out of the movement. If you don't notice them during the movement, the issue might be something else.


It depends what else you do really. I had some kind of groin soreness for a while which kept me from doing sumo deadlifts. When I switched to conventional pulls, I noticed that the number of times a week that I could do pull-ups decreased...


The Herpes, huh?


I do them as deadlift accessory exercise- usually after some kind of pull (RDLs, rack pulls, block pulls) and before shrugs or rows.

BW X 3-5
Weighted- 40 or 50lbs X 3-5 X 2 sets
25 lbs X 5 X 2 sets
BW to failure- usually 5-8 reps


Might be the weather and nutrition. Are you warming up before your workouts? You'll notice alot of people around now start to have weird muscle ailments. Also is your bed different at school?