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5 Step Guide to Increasing Your Pull Ups

5 Step Guide to Increasing Your Pull Ups

Written by
December 1, 2015
Updated April 26, 2018

The pull-up, is the king of all upper body exercises. For many it seems completely unattainable, for others it is as natural as walking. For those who can do pull ups, there is always the desire to eek out one more beautifully executed dead hang rep.

At some point in your bodyweight journey, the ever-increasing rep maxes start to slow down and the ability to do more becomes questionable. You’re no beginner though; you’ve built the strength, so how can you keep taking it to the next level?

Pull Up Step 1: Evaluate How You Are Using Weighted Reps


It is reasonable to think that if you want to do more pull-ups, you need to get stronger. This leads many to start strapping on increasingly heavier weights and doing low rep sets.

While this does wonders for strength and size gains, it does nothing to build the endurance that is needed to do MORE pull-ups.

Working at a lighter weight and working on rep maxes instead of weight maxes is one way to work on increasing strength and endurance simultaneously.

Another way to increase muscular endurance is through bodyweight hangs and eventually weighted hangs.

The benefits for your grip, arms, shoulders, and lats are phenomenal! So hop up on the bar, engage those lats and just hang as long as you can.

Repeat every day, gradually increasing time spent on the bar without doing damage to your joints.

Pull Up Step 2: Stop Maxing Out on Every Set Every Day

What would happen if you squatted your 1RM every day? How long could you keep that up? The same holds true for pull-ups. Going to failure every time you do pull-ups ensures only one thing– you won’t be able to recover sufficiently enough to keep going strong.

Instead try “greasing the groove”, a popular method of increasing pull-up reps by doing submaximal rep sets many times throughout the day. In each set, stop before fatigue then wait a while and do another pre-fatigue set. Keep this up and retest your max after a few weeks.

Pull Up Step 3: Lose Fat

I know this may sound insensitive, but you knew it was coming. You are pulling your bodyweight against gravity, and the more bodyweight you have the more pulling you are going to do. This goes back to the idea of doing weighted pull-ups. More weight equals more strength, yes, but it does nothing for your endurance.

Pull Up Step 4: Take Rest Days

Nothing will set you back faster than an injury. And the elbow tendon and shoulder overuse injuries that are common with doing too many pull-ups too often can take MONTHS to heal. Take a few day off every week and work some shoulder dislocations and upper body band work for mobility.

Add in a yoga class or two. Keeping your shoulders healthy and happy is the only way to make sure you’ll be able to continue to increase your pull-up numbers.

Pull Up Step 5: Change Up Your Grip

Another way to cut out the risk of an overuse injury is to alternate your grip between wider and narrower, underhand and overhand, towel grip and neutral grip, etc. Basically, if you doing more pull-ups you more likely to get injured.

Change up those grips to decrease shoulder punishment using only one specific range of motion over and over again. Another great way to increase grip strength is by adding Heavy Farmer Carries with the Kettlebell, to your programing.

5 Step Guide to Increasing Your Pull Ups

Megan Griffith and her husband, Chad, own Kinetic Fitness and Training in Northwestern North Carolina. Megan earned a degree in Foods and Nutrition, and holds an ACSM personal training certification. She is also a mother of three, and has used her experiences balancing the demands of raising a family while furthering her education and career and maintaining and improving her fitness to help her clients do the same. Megan is seeking several advanced certifications and says her greatest accomplishments are yet to come!
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