Pull-ups, as you know, may be a bugaboo (I’m not totally sure what that means but it sounds right) for you and many others. It is an exercise that is difficult to scale which makes it difficult to progress. It is also heavily dependent on your strength-to-bodyweight ratio. But it should not be avoided and don’t fool yourself, the “Lat Pull-Down” machine is not doing your body justice. For many their typical program simply consists of performing as many pull-ups as they can until they have that moment when that chin is just short of the bar and your feet start performing the Elaine Benes “little kicks” dance. It can seem like some days you got it, some days you don’t. But what I see is just a lack of programming to actually get yourself better at them. Below I’ll provide a 6-Week “Conjugate” Program that will improve that raw overhead pulling power.
*Keep in mind that this is for individuals that can already perform bodyweight pull-ups. If you can’t, don’t worry, there is a program for Beginners coming.
*There is no “kipping”. If you perform gymnastic or butterfly pull-ups in conditioning workouts these strict pull-ups will help a good deal and help support your shoulders against injury when performing the accelerated versions.
* This program is written with the assumption that you are injury free and have competence in the movement.
Test: 3xME strict pull-ups
*ME= Maximum Effort aka “as many as you can”
*All sets must be completed within 10 minutes
*90 secs-2mins is optimal rest
*Take note of your total score
3×3 Strict Pull-ups w/ 25/15# then ME strict Pull-ups (stay on bar)
*You will perform 3 pull-ups with added weight (we suggest a DB squeezed tight between the thighs then crossing your ankles) THEN perform as many pull-ups as possible after dropping the weight.
*Men will use 25lbs, women will use 15lbs (scale the weight down if too heavy. The idea is to at least perform 3 weighted pull-ups.
*Stay on the bar the whole time unless dropping the weight is an issue at your gym then remove it quickly and re-grip.
*Score is total pull-ups performed after the weight is dropped. Take note.
Tempo 5xME (4 sec descent)
*Highlighting the eccentric or negative portion of the movement.
*Pull your chin over then slowly drop to the fully extended position while keeping a 4 sec pace to the bottom.
*Once you can not pull your chin back over or maintain the 4 second descent, your “set” is over.
*Score is total tempo pull-ups performed
8 EMOTM (6) strict Pull-ups
*Volume is our goal. This may the most pull-ups you perform of all the weeks.
*EMOTM= “every minute, on the minute”
*Set a timer or keep an eye on a stop watch. Every minute perform 6 pull-ups for 8 straight minutes.
*Sets do not need to be unbroken. You can come off the bar as many times as you need. Your goal is to simply complete 6 pull-ups within every 60 seconds.
*Perform concentric portion as fast as possible w/o kipping
1RM Weighted Pull-up
*Our goal is to pull the most weight possible for a single repetition.
*Some facilities will have a belt which allows you to chain weights to your waist. Others will have to squeeze large DB’s between the thighs or even use a weight vest if available.
*Perform warm-sets and set with moderate weight first.
*Score is total added weight
Re-Test: 3xME strict pull-ups
*Same standards as Week 1
*Test your score against Week 1’s.
Well there it is. This is a pretty simple “conjugate” style program to improve pull-up strength. I have programmed this for both personal training clients, group strength and conditioning classes such as CrossFit and athletes. Let me know if you had any success! If you’re not ready for this program yet I have a “Beginners” program that also works great coming soon.
– Josh Gould