Training for the SWAT Pull-up Test

Q: I’m going to be applying for our department’s SWAT team.  Part of the physical test is a 2 mile run and pull-up test.  You got to do at least 2 pull-ups with 50 extra pounds.  Problem is I can’t even do a pull-up with just my body weight.  Sad, I know.   Any way I can train to do a pull-up?

My Answer: If you are having problems doing pull-ups, then here’s how you should progress:

  1. Do you need to lose weight?  Obviously if you are overweight, then that makes it harder for you to do pull-ups.  So if you’re overweight, then embark on a fat loss program.
  2. If you can’t do any pull-ups, then you will need to do negative pull-ups to build up your strength: 
  3. Once you are able to do a pull-up,  then you’ll need to do high frequency training to increase your pull-up endurance.  Set up a pull-up bar at home and one at the office.  Every time you pass by the bar you do a pull-up or two.  Don’t go beyond 5 reps, just do a few reps each time you come to the bar.  Essentially you’re practicing the skill of pull-ups as frequently as possible.
  4. Once every 2 weeks test out your pull-up max.  See how many pull-ups you can do in a single set. Once you can do more than 10 pull-ups, then start adding a little bit of weight.  Add more and more weight over time till you reach 50 pounds.

You should find out how the weight is attached to you for the pull-up test.  Is it 50 pounds in a rucksack?  Or is it a 50 pound weight hanging off a weight belt?  Are you doing pull-ups in full tactical gear?

You should find this out, because how the extra weight is distributed on your body is going to affect pull-up difficulty.  The extra weight will shift your center of gravity, so pulling with a 50 pound kettlebell or dumbbell is going to feel very different from a 50 pound rucksack.  So train accordingly.

One last bit of advice: increase your grip strength.  Increasing your grip strength will increase your pull-up strength.  If you do pull-ups on a thick bar, it will increase your grip strength.  It is more difficult of course, but you will get more grip and pull-up strength development.

Train with a thick bar, and when you switch from a thick bar to a thin bar, you will be able to do way more pull-ups than before.  A lot of people do pull-ups at the gym where the pull-up stations have thin one inch thick handles.  But when they try to do pull-ups at a playground or jungle gym where the bars are thicker, they can’t do as many.  So find out how thick the bar is for the pull-up test.  You don’t want to be surprised.

If you don’t have access to a thick pull-up bar, then you can place Fat Gripz on a thin bar.


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