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Do More Pull Ups

Pain

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When I explained my weight training program, I mentioned that I do pull ups as part of my back workout. I also mentioned that pull ups are my favorite back exercise. I then mentioned that pull ups are actually my favorite exercise, period. Judging from the emails I got, it seems this was enough to get people interested in doing pull ups.

The only problem was... they can't.

Some people can't do any at all, and some people can do some, but not nearly enough to make a real workout out of. Don't feel bad if you are one of these people. A lot of people are in this same pull up situation. For example, I used to be. Today however I'm not, and I want to show you how to get to this point yourself. Below I will explain 4 possible ways to increase your strength in the places you need it in order to do more pull ups. I'll also explain exactly how I did it myself.

(One quick note. The difference between pull ups and chin ups is how you grip the bar. Pull ups are done with your palms facing away from you. Chin ups are done with your palms facing you. Throughout this article I will only use the term "pull ups." However, everything written here applies just as equally to chin ups and really every other grip as well.)

4 ways to do more pull ups:

1. Do pull ups!

That wasn't a typo. In all honesty, the best way to become able to do more pull ups is to actually DO pull ups. If, for example, you can only do 3 reps today, make it your goal next time to do 4 reps. It may or may not happen that next time. You may still only do the same 3 reps. You may even do 3 and a half reps. Or, you may actually get all 4 reps. Either way, the best possible way to increase the number of pull ups you can do is to actually walk up to the pull up bar and try to do just one more rep than you were able to do the previous time. With enough intensity and focus, you can do it. If you can't, just try again (and try harder) next time. If you can... then 5 is your new goal.

2. Do negatives.

The word "negative" is used to describe the lowering of the weight during an exercise. For example, when you're lowering the bar to your chest while bench pressing... that is the negative. During pull ups, the negative would be the point when you are lowering your body downward after pulling yourself up. At this point you may not be able to do the pulling up part of the exercise, but that's only 50% of the work. How about the other 50%? That's where negatives come in. You end up using the same muscles to lower yourself as you would to pull yourself up. This means negatives will help improve your ability to do the pulling part of the pull up.

In order to do negatives, you have to start off at the point when you're already pulled up. There are 2 simple ways to do this. First is by jumping. Grab the pull up bar like you normally would, but then instead of trying to pull yourself up, jump up so that your chin is above the bar the same way it would be if you did the actual pulling yourself. The other (and even easier) way of doing it is to just stand on something that is high enough for you to already be in that already-pulled-up position. Depending on your height, standing up a dumbbell may do the trick.

Now that you're in the position to do the negative part of the pull up, you're goal is to lower yourself down as slow and controlled as you possibly can. Focus on the muscles being used, and try to keep your body as stable as possible. Once you have lowered yourself back to the starting position, repeat this all over again. Don't let go of the bar and take a break. Do the negative, then go right back into that already-pulled-up position... and then do another negative. Do a few sets of as many as you can.

3. Use an assisted pull up machine.

Some gyms have these, some don't. If yours does, give it a shot. Basically what it does is it takes away a portion of your body's weight. You set how much of your weight you want to pull, and it provides the counter weight to balance it off. Your goal here would be to gradually increase the amount of your own weight your are using until you get to the point where you can pull 100% of your own weight. At that point, you can do actual pull ups.

4. Do the lat pull down.

The lat pull down is basically a machine version of the pull up. But, rather than pulling the weight (in this case, your own body) up, you sit and pull the weight down to you. Every gym has at least one of these. And, the lat pull down isn't just useful as a pull up training exercise, it's a perfectly fine back exercise in general. Of course, pull ups are even finer.

In Conclusion...

So there you have it, 4 ways you can increase your pull up strength and therefore do more pull ups. I think #1 is the only real "must do." Every back workout you should at least make an attempt at doing the actual pull ups. I have two reasons for this. First, I think it's the most effective way. Second, if you don't, how will you know when one of the other 3 methods are actually working? For me personally, I started off doing the lat pull down for a long time. At some point I decided I wanted to start doing pull ups. I remember my very first attempt was after doing 4 lat pull down sets. I was able to do 3 pretty good pull ups.

My goal from there was to do 4 reps. I continued doing the lat pull down every back workout (4 sets), but I worked on the actual pull ups as well. Eventually I was able to do 6 good reps. At that point I did one less set of lat pull downs (3 sets), and did one additional set of pull ups. So, I would do 3 sets of lat pull downs, and then do my 6 rep set of pull ups, and then a second set where I was probably able to do 3 or 4 reps.

At some point after that, I was doing 8 reps that first set, and 6 reps the second. So, I added in a third set of pull ups, and removed 1 set of lat pull downs. This was also when I started doing pull ups before the lat pull down. I did 3 sets of pull ups, and 2 sets of lat pull downs. Eventually I was doing JUST pull ups. I was able to do sets of 10, 8, 6, 4. My goal from there was to get to the point where I could do 4 sets of 10 reps. Eventually I was able to do just that.

You may be wondering, where do you go from there? Simple. You add more weight. Since during this exercise your own body acts as the weight, in order to make this exercise harder, you need to add more weight to yourself. You can do this by holding a dumbbell between your feet, or you can use a pull up belt, which is a weightlifting belt with a chain attachment that you can hang weight from.

I'm sure there is someone reading this right now and thinking that adding ADDITIONAL weight is soooo far off for them. Honestly though, I used to think that too. But like anything else, with enough time and work... you'll be there before you know it. And by the way, with each bit of progress you make with this exercise, take a look in the mirror. A huge side effect of increasing the amount of pull ups you can do is an increase in muscle mass. There's many reasons why pull ups are my favorite exercise, but that one is #1.

http://www.intense-workout.com/pull_ups.html
 

Pain

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Pull Ups: Strategies for Getting More Reps

By Tom Venuto


Chin ups are a superior upper back exercise and it's worth the effort to get good at them. Here are six excellent ways to improve your chin ups.

1. Work on multiple sets of low reps.

Most people are really stuck "in the box" in the way they think about their training. They say, "I suck at chin ups" just because they cant pull themselves up for 3 sets of 12. This kind of thinking will get you nowhere.

Instead, think out of the box; think different: A great way to start getting good at chin ups is to do multiple sets of low reps - even sets of singles. For example:

10 sets of 1 rep
6 sets of 2 reps
5 sets of 3 reps

You don't have to do conventional sets of 10- 12 reps.

2. Set a rep goal such as 30, 40 or 50 reps and take as many sets as necessary to reach your rep goal.

As you begin to get a little stronger, an advanced variation of strategy number one is to set a rep goal. For example, if a conventional routine calls for 3 sets of 10 reps, that's 30 reps. If chin ups are a challenge for you, set a rep goal of 30 and take as many sets to hit 30 as necessary. Don't obsess over how many reps you get in one set.

For example:

5 sets of 6
6 sets of 5
8 sets of 4
10 sets of 3
15 sets of 2

3. Use negatives.

You are much stronger on the negative portion of the pull up. In other words, you can lower much more weight than you can lift. Just because you can't pull yourself up doesn't mean you can't lower yourself.

Put a bench or stool underneath you and kick yourself up with your feet and then lower yourself slowly to a count of four or five. Continue until you reach negative failure (you can no longer lower yourself under control). If you have a training partner, your partner can help you up.

Suppose all you can do is four reps. Your progress might look something like this:

Workout 1: 4 reps, 4 negatives
Workout 2: 5 reps, 4 negatives
Workout 3: 6 reps, 3-4 negatives
Workout 4: 7 reps, 2-3 negatives
Workout 5: 8 reps, 1-2 negative
Workout 6: 9 reps, 1 negative
Workout 7: 10 reps
Workout 8: 11 reps
Workout 9: 12 reps.

I've seen many people go from ZERO reps to sets of ten or twelve in a matter of weeks using this technique.

4. Practice the rule of training specificity.

The rule of training specificity says that to get good at something, the best way is to practice that thing specifically. If you want to be a better 100-meter sprinter, you have to practice 100-meter sprints. Running long distance, swimming, or cycling isn't going to help your 100 meters.


The best way to get good at pull ups is to DO pull ups. There's definitely some carry-over value in assistance exercises, of course. For example, if your biceps get stronger, you're going to get better at pull-ups. But don't kid yourself into thinking that you'll become a pro at pull-ups by doing pulldowns or the assisted chin up machine.

5. Use slow progression with patience.

The problem with most people is they do only 2, 3, or 4 reps and then say, "I can't," "these are hard," "I suck at these," etc, and other such nonsense negative self-talk. That's why they never get past a few reps - they're pessimists and quitters.

Few people have the patience to USE PROGRESSION slowly and systematically. If you can MASTER THIS ONE CONCEPT (slow, steady methodical progression,) you can get as strong and muscular as you want to be! This requires a lot of patience and a goal-oriented mind.

If you can do only one or two reps today, it's hard to think about doing 12 reps next week isn't it? So don't! Think about doing THREE reps. Then four. Then five, and so on. Doing ONE more rep is a lot easier to picture isn't it?

6. Visualize yourself being light as a feather and pulling yourself up so easily it feels like you're floating.

I've written extensively about visualization in my book, "Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle" (BFFM) and in the Bodybuilding and Fitness Secrets newsletter, so I won't go into great detail here.

Let me just emphasize that mental images are so incredibly powerful, it's beyond what most people can even fathom. If you understood the true power of your mind, you would be forming positive mental pictures of everything you wanted every minute of every day. Unfortunately, most people "poo-poo" the visualization principle as corny or Pollyanna.

In Arnold Schwarzenneger's autobiography, "The Education of a Bodybuilder," Arnold explained how he would "see' his biceps as "huge mountains, much bigger than a bicep could ever really be." He did this before and during every bicep workout. You'll see similar examples cited by every champion athlete in every sport.

I've developed many "secret visualizations" I use to get the most from each exercise. Here's a few ways to use the visualization principle for chin ups:

I find it counterproductive to think about using pure strength and brute force to pull myself up. Instead, I visualize the exact opposite: I imagine myself being as light as a feather or helium balloon and I literally "float" up. Sometimes I picture an imaginary hand underneath me, giving me a lift. Or, I picture strings from above pulling me upwards. They all work.

Use visualization before your workouts too. Mentally rehearse yourself doing chin ups in your mind before you do it in the gym. Think about it every day for several days before your chin up workout. Believe you can do it and you will.

Does this stuff work? Let me put it this way and you decide: In my late teens I couldn't pull myself up even once. Today, at an off season bodyweight of 195 lbs or more, I can easily do 25-30 pullups with a palms away (pronated) grip and I've done 6 strict reps with 85 pounds strapped to my waist.
 

Pain

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Everyone is always asking how do I do more pull-ups?

I always laugh because it isn’t really a secret, the Army has had the answer for years.

When I attended the United States Army Airborne School in 1993 one of the requirements is that you needed to complete at least five pull-ups. Back then my my max in pull-ups was about eight so I had no problem doing the minimum. When I left Jump School I could Max out at 20 pull-ups after only three weeks!!

To improve your pull-ups you need to do pull-ups three times a day every day. You can’t expect to go to the gym three times a week and improve on your pull-ups. The way the army had it set up is that in front of every mess hall there are pull up bars. Before you go eat you need to perform three to five pull-ups at least. Breakfast, lunch and dinner I would do one set of 5-8 pull-ups everyday.

At the end of three weeks I was able to max out at 20 pull-ups!! You can incorporate this training into your life style be either making a pull-up bar in your back yard or mounting one at your work place. Pull-ups are one of the best exercises because it gives you functional strength and flexibility.
 

Glex

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To improve your pull-ups you need to do pull-ups three times a day every day. You can’t expect to go to the gym three times a week and improve on your pull-ups.
Well that's BS. They will get better. Maybe not as fast, but it'll still happen.

I agree with pretty much everything else these articles say, though. I personally didn't use negatives; I thought they were more trouble than they were worth. But I avoided the lat pull-down machines and just did more pullups. I often set rep goals and didn't care about the size of the sets, like in the Venuto article. Two years ago I could do maybe 4 BW pullups, and now I can do that with an added 45 lbs :hsughr:
 

Ironslave

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Well that's BS. They will get better. Maybe not as fast, but it'll still happen.

I agree with pretty much everything else these articles say, though. I personally didn't use negatives; I thought they were more trouble than they were worth. But I avoided the lat pull-down machines and just did more pullups. I often set rep goals and didn't care about the size of the sets, like in the Venuto article. Two years ago I could do maybe 4 BW pullups, and now I can do that with an added 45 lbs :hsughr:

Negatives are awesome and well well worth it.
 

skid9832004

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my max is 32 pull ups and i can do 10 reps with a 45 for 3 set now but i do them every day before i workout no matter what the bodypart is. And people say my back is my strongest bodypart and its all cuz of the pull-ups i would suggest them everyday cuz they warm up practically ur whole body except for your legs so you dont have to warm up as much before your workout and you get a killer lat spread
 

Joeb23

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Arnold had the same philosophy when it comes to picking a desired # of total reps and then simply doing as many sets until you reach that goal.:xyxthumbs:
 

Duality

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my max is 32 pull ups and i can do 10 reps with a 45 for 3 set now but i do them every day before i workout no matter what the bodypart is. And people say my back is my strongest bodypart and its all cuz of the pull-ups i would suggest them everyday cuz they warm up practically ur whole body except for your legs so you dont have to warm up as much before your workout and you get a killer lat spread


you know that sounds like a great idea. it sounds like a great warmup and i'm sure one would see some kind of improvement doing them everyday just for a set or two. i'm gonna start incoporating that :xyxthumbs:
 

skid9832004

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you will definitly see some improvements. How do you upload photos cuz i wanna show u my back but when i hit the insert image button a window pops up saying an error has occured on the page then it says no thread specified if you followed a valid link please contact an administrator.........
 

Pain

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you will definitly see some improvements. How do you upload photos cuz i wanna show u my back but when i hit the insert image button a window pops up saying an error has occured on the page then it says no thread specified if you followed a valid link please contact an administrator.........

Upload your pic to www.tinypic.com then post the link here.
 

Glex

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Negatives are awesome and well well worth it.
That's what I hear. I think I was doing them wrong; instead of doing 4-5 seconds I would try and hold them for much longer. If I were to do them now I might get more benefit out of them.
 

skid9832004

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here they are: I thank pull ups


2r5xmab-1.jpg



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w8kjd3-1.jpg
 

Fatality

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Skid, you're lats definitely stick out in those pictures. Getting lats isn't the easiest thing in lifting and if you can manage to do a good number of pullups and sets then you're set. I'm going to really try to hit my lats this year, as my goals are to increase my back, bi's chest and leg size. Thanks for the article!
 

Mygeeto

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i do pullups/chin ups with my palms facing one another... what kind of results should i expext from this? i feel this allows a better range of motion because i can stretch further down, but are there any injury risks? (aside from those that come with impropper form)

opinions/input/views?

i also do regular pull-ups too
 
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