T Nation

Weakness at Top of Pull Ups

I can’t complete a proper pull up because I cant complete the last few inches and get my shoulders back/ chest out/ chin to the bar.

But I can do probably 4 or 5 reps like this.

Is there a specific exercise I can do to target this particular weakness? Or should I concentrate on doing full ROM pull ups on an assisted pull up machine? Or do lots of partial reps just working the last few inches of the movement?


I would try doing partial reps with a pulldown machine (or assisted pullup machine might work too). Work on these with several sets of low reps until you can increase the weight. Keep working on regular pullups too.

It depends on how quickly you progress, but one option could be:

5 sets of 3, 6 x 3, 7 x 3, 8 x 3; 5 x 4, 6 x 4, 7 x 4, 8 x4, then add some weight and start over at 5 x 3.

If you progress faster than that (and you probably will), then maybe working with something like 8x3-5 would work better. Start with 8 sets of 3, and work up until you can get a full 8 sets of 5 before adding weight.

chin up machine or pulldowns; also, hold the top position for a three count.

Some people like to start out on the assisted machine but I don’t think it’s anything like a real pullup.

Try and do some chin ups (supinated grip). This is probably the easiest grip. Don’t worry about doing a heap with shitty form but rather try and do all of them with good form. Use a cluster method. In other words if you can do 2 with good form then do that then let go of bar and count to ten then do another 2 and so on. Don’t worry about failure until the last set.
A set in this case would be considered when you stop your clusters. So if you did 2,2,2,1 then stop for 2 minutes well that is one set.
Repeat this 3-5 times and only fail on the final set.
After a few weeks of this your pullup numbers will increase and you can change to a parallel grip and then to a wide pronated grip.

Pullups are fairly easy to progress on so long as you use good form. Don’t use kipping pullups. Totally useless.

When you can get up to 10 pullups then start adding weight and go back to 5 reps and work up again.
The whole idea of pullups is to build muscle and strength so always think of it as that.

There are many different ways to progress in pullups but here are 2 that have worked very well.
The first is a simple ladder:
You start with 1 pullup, rest 10 seconds then do 2 pullups, rest 10 seconds then 3 pullups and so on until you can’t beat your number. This is one set. Do 3 sets of this. When you get good enough you can do 3 sets of this with the 3 different grips. Start with wide grip first, then parallel grip and then finish with supinated grip.

The second method is a simple straight sets method:
You have to think ahead that you need to complete 5 straight sets so you must keep at least 2 perfect reps in the bag on the first set.
So if you can do 5 reps then just do 3 on the first set. Do 3 on the next and so on until the last where you do AMRAP.
ex… 3,3,3,3,4.
Now if you only got 2 on the last set then that’s fine. You try and aim for 3 on the last set next time. If you do get 4 like the example above then you aim to get 4 on the 4th set next time and so on. So eventually it will be 5 sets of 4 and so on until you can get 10 reps on all sets. To be honest I never waited to get 10 on all sets before I started adding weight and I believe it was a wise move. Mainly because this form of progression can get pretty boring so adding weight gives a new motivation. Also I prefer low reps on most lifts and lifting in 5’s with weight on a belt feels heaps better. The cool thing is when you do pullups with added weight you can take the weight off and do one final set with only your bodyweight for AMRAP. This wasn’t in any book I read it was just something I liked doing . You will find you fly up feeling very light and you will knock out 10 plus reps with no problem.

Do a whole bunch of chin ups and really exaggerate the top position, just make sure you’re not jutting your head over the bar or anything though.

Then go back to doing pull-ups.

Stand on something and start at the top position, hold it as long as possible and slowly lower. Repeat.

Here,s what i did. Do one set of pull ups first every time you go to the gym. One set of as many as you can. I prefer palms facing me. It really builds the biceps and the research indicates not much different lat activation than wide grip with palms away. Good luck

previous post

Also, I remember somebody posting the same thing (can’t find) a couple months ago and people suggested rows for reasons I can’t remember

I think I remember an article by CT that suggested holding it at your weakpoint… so, just do a pull up and hold it at the top.

thanks for all your replies. i can do 3 or 4 chins no problem- that linked post was v interesting. I am going to start doing partials at the top ROM on an assist/ PD machine and negatives