How to improve your pull-ups in 8 weeks

• Weeks 3 and 4

With the start of week 3, increase the frequency of your pull-up training to twice per week, while keeping your heavy back lifting to once or twice per week (but make sure that you have a couple of rest days between sessions and that you perform the back training on days when you’re not performing pull-ups). Also, increase the number of total pull-up reps to 30. Again, no matter how many sets it takes you to get there, just focus on achieving that number.

Also, this is the time to start trying out different grips. Begin with the close-parallel grip (palms facing each other), wide grip and chin-up (palms facing you) style. Pull-ups and chin-ups both primarily train your back and biceps, but there are certain differences in the degree in which those muscles get activated. Chin ups will typically hit your biceps a bit harder than pull-ups, while pull-ups can emphasize your lats. In addition, the narrower your grip is, the more it will engage your biceps, and the wider the grip, the less work for the biceps. Similarly to the narrow-grip pull-up, the close-parallel grip helps shift focus from the back to the arms. So if you want to target your biceps even further, perform narrow-grip pull-ups with a close-parallel grip style.

Needless to say, make sure to maintain proper form and technique regardless of which variation you choose to do.

• Weeks 5 and 6

Increase frequency and total volume again. This time, you will increase the frequency to three pull-up workouts in the week, while the total pull-up volume will be 40 reps. Also, schedule back training on one or more of your pull-up training days. So if you’re performing pull-ups on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, make sure to do your back weight training on the same days as well.

As the total pull-up volume increases further, you might feel like it’s a bit too much and you might struggle to catch up. Still, man up, put in the effort and complete 40 total reps, no matter the number of sets. This gradual, continuous progression is extremely important for pushing your body (and mind) beyond its limits and building a body of steel. Besides that, continue experimenting with different grips and grip styles and try not to stick with just one. Changing your grip now and then is another great way to keep challenging your muscles to strengthen and grow.

• Weeks 7 and 8

Increase volume and frequency for the last time by increasing frequency to four times per week and total pull-up volume to 50 reps. By this point you should be well adapted to the previous frequency and you should experience substantial improvement in terms of both pull-up performance, endurance and muscle mass. Your back should be thicker and overall stronger, your form should be improved and your ability to recover should be increased as well. Also, you should be able to see a significant progress in your main lifts, enabled by your newly acquired level of strength.

By now you should be able to finish your reps in less total sets. If not, push yourself a bit harder and reduce the number of sets. You should be also able to squeeze a few additional reps on every set. Continue working with different grips and maintain a tight form and correct technique.

After the end of week 8, take a few days off and then test your progress in terms of strength and endurance, record it and compare it to the beginning. Don’t forget to give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back, too!

Other ways to support your progress

Obviously, having a lot of excess body fat can significantly hinder your pull-up performance, among other things. More often than not, the people who have the biggest issues with bodyweight movements are a bit on the heavy side (and we’re not talking about the weight of lean muscle mass). That, combined with poor physical preparedness, practically destroys an individual’s ability to perform pull-ups. So first of all, be honest with yourself – if you’re completely out of shape and have more than a few pounds of fat to lose, start slowly by shedding the extra weight, getting your nutrition in order, doing heavy resistance training and some cardio work. If you want to significantly progress your pull-up, losing the extra pounds and improving your work capacity is a must.

Then, pay some attention to your grip. A weak grip is another common factor that can limit your pulling performance – if your grip strength isn’t sufficient to hold your body weight, that can be a serious problem. To improve it, add in some grip work into your arm workouts and avoid using straps because they let you get away with weak grip. Perform exercises that emphasize static contractions of the hands, forearms, shoulders and back. In addition, practice hanging from the pull-up bar and do farmer’s walks.

And finally, be dedicated and work hard. This program isn’t exactly a walk in the park – it demands iron will and plenty of discipline, so make sure you have what it takes to upgrade your pull-up and reap the awesome benefits that come with it. Just try to envision the end results and how they will affect the rest of your training, as well as the other aspects of your life, and you should become motivated enough to give your 100%.

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Good luck and don’t forget to share your experiences in the comment section below!


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