Increasing Your Pull-ups

"My name is Johann, and I am about 17 years old. Training for athletic ability has always been my main thing. I really just started training for muscular development. My main thing is strength, power and endurance for all parts of the body. I read your article on shocking your back, and it really helps as far as I can tell. My back and torso are of fair size for my age, but even with all of the training it has so far, your workout has made it more sore then it has been for at least a few years. To cut directly to the point: what is the best way for me to increase the total number of pull-up reps? Right now I can only do 35, but I would like to break the 100 mark by at least next year, if that is even possible. Just wondering."

Respectfully,
Johann

P.S. Thanks again for that back article


My Answer: Well, Johann, there are a lot of different techniques proposed by various strength experts as to how to increase pull-up rep totals. I must say that 35 reps is pretty damn good, but I'm curious as to how you're doing the pull-ups. At your age with that many pull-ups, I wouldn't be surprised if you have a gymnastics background.

A lot of people think they're doing continuous full on pull-ups, when they're not. They kip, meaning they kick their legs and jerk their bodies up. They do half reps, meaning they don't dead hang and straighten out their arms at the bottom. And get this: for the Guiness Book of World Records, you're allowed to dismount as often as you'd like.

The 3 most popular methods of increasing pull-ups are:

1) Cumulative Reps- Also known as "ladders" among Pavel followers. The way it works is you do 1 pull-up, dismount, rest for 10 seconds, do 2 reps, dismount, rest for 10 seconds, do 3 reps... and so on and so forth until you don't reach the target rep. So if you were supposed to do7 reps on the 7th set, but you only did 5, then you would stop and rest for a few minutes and start over at 1 rep.

I have never found this method to be that effective. Lightweight slow-twitch freaks work well with this approach, but fast-twitch monsters (like myself) suck at this approach and do not increase their rep totals.


2) High Frequency Training- Do as many pull-ups as you can SHORT OF FAILURE, as often as you can. In other words, do one set of pull-ups every hour on the hour throughout the day. If you can't do this, because you have a life, then do one set in the morning and one set in the afternoon and do this every day. DO NOT GO TO FAILURE. If your pull-ups start to slow down, then it is time to stop. This is a good method if you have a home pull-up station.


3) Adding Weight- Because I'm designed more for power, this one is my favorite approach. It seems counterintuitive, but if you strap on weight and focus on low reps (4-6), then you'll increase your repetitions when you go back to simple bodyweight only pull-ups.


There is a 4th method which is not that popular (because it's hard) and this involves doing harder versions of the pull-up and chin-up. So when you go back to conventional pull-ups, they become quite easy. Here are a couple that I like:


Sternum Chin-ups


Mixed grip Chinups- This is a precursor to one arm chin-ups and will give you good biceps development.
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