3 ways to progress your pull up
Here are some simple tips to build strength and endurance for a common bodyweight exercise that many clients struggle with.
1. Be negative
Your muscles can generate more force eccentrically than concentrically. So if more than a couple of pull ups is hard work, try negative repetitions whereby you start at the top position (hands at chest level) and lower yourself slowly until your arms are straight. You then have to use assistance to get back to the start position. Either use a step or ask a spotter to help lift you up.
2. Get a grip (as many as possible)
There’s more than one way to hoist your body up to the bar. Palms facing forwards, backwards, hands close together, wide apart... the combinations are almost endless, especially with equipment that allows multiple hand grips like this:
By varying your hand position with each set you ensure you recruit as many muscle fibres in your back, shoulders and arms as possible during the exercise, which means greater strength. Start with the grip that you find hardest so you’re not fatigued.
3. Spread things out
This is a sneaky way to increase the number of reps you can do whilst bumping up your strength. Let’s say you want to do 12 pull ups but can only manage four at the moment. Complete two reps then rest for 15 seconds. Then do another two reps and rest for 15 seconds again. Repeat this process until you’ve done your 12 reps. Based on a system called ‘cluster sets’, spreading the reps out over a longer time period allows you to work at a high intensity without getting too fatigued. Over time you can gradually reduce the rest between reps until you can do all 12 consecutively.
For a look at the different pull up reps available check out this video from Charles Poliquin - "Extended sets for hypertrophy development at the CHPC"