Increase Your Pull-ups in Record Time

Of all the upper body exercises that you can choose from, the pull-up ranks at the top of the list. That’s because it builds strength and size in your upper back, arms, and gripping muscles. Specifically, I’m referring to the lats, rhomboids, mid/lower traps, rear deltoids, biceps, and forearms. You’d be hard-pressed to find another single upper body exercise that does so much good.

In fact, a true measure of physical prowess is the pull-up test. Put simply, the pull-up is the ultimate test of relative strength, a measure of how strong you are in relation to your body weight. My male clients need to be able to perform at least 20, while females should knock off somewhere between 8-10. Of course, more is better, but this is a good starting point.

So, how can you increase your pull-ups? There are generally two schools of thought. The first school pulls out a magnifying glass and breaks the pull-up into little bits and pieces: isolation exercises. For example, you’ll perform an exercise or two for the following body parts: forearms, biceps, rear delts, rhomboids, mid/low traps, and lats. This equates to 6-12 different exercises. Taken a step further, you would need to find time for dozens of extra sets in your current routine.

The other school says to just do the damn things. After all, the SAID principle states that your body will Specifically Adapt to the Imposed Demand. Force your body to do pull-ups on a frequent basis and you’ll be rewarded with more muscle and strength. You’ll enhance the neural connections between your nerves and muscles through the Law of Repetition.

I’m all for solutions that require the least investment of time with the greatest reward. Therefore, I adhere to the second methodology: more pull-ups will boost your pull-up performance without protracting your workouts.

The simple truth is that you don’t need to perform more than one set of maximum rep pull-ups, provided you do them every day. So let’s just say that each set lasts about a minute. If you do one set every day for four weeks, that equals 28 minutes of total time.

What should you expect? In my experience, you’ll double (or almost double) your current performance with this simple strategy. I know it sounds like marketing B.S. to tell you that you can virtually double your pull-ups with 28 minutes worth of work, but that’s exactly what this guy did.

You can check out the video here:

30 thoughts on “Increase Your Pull-ups in Record Time

  1. Great to see a new post CW.

    Good idea to increase reps. What about increasing weight? Lets say I want to do 5 sets of 10 reps. I can do BW, but would like to build up to adding up to 100lbs (using dip belt or DBs). Thoughts?

  2. Hey CW i was wondering if you should do the pull ups as fast as possible and stop once u notice ur slowing down or should you go to failure?

  3. I get your point on the Law of Repetition and doing the exersice every day to achieve the necesary strength. But won’t this interfere with my regular weight routine? The recommended 48 hour rest period is out of question if I try this daily.

    Thank you for this and every other advice you’ve given. They have really helped me achieve my goals.

  4. Chad,

    I’ve never been able to do pull-ups due to my current weight, 278lbs. I don’t have a membership at a gym, but I do have a power rack gathering dust in the garage with bars across the top. Even when I was 215 lbs and exercising constantly, I was still unable to do them. What would you recommend I do to get started? Should I just dangle on the bar and continuously attempt to pull myself up?

    Thoughts?

    Thank you.

  5. I love the simplicity! With other commenter, my goal right now is more max strength. I want to be doing 1 arm chins and 1 arm pushups. Any thoughts?

  6. Chad, do you still program “powershot”-style high-rep HFT, or have you replaced that in your HFT programming with H.i.a.H. two-a-days and daily to-failure training like you recommend here?

  7. I have to hand it to you. You have been saying how high frequency training is great. It is f**king awesome! I keep volume in check but train almost every day. The best part is that there are more sessions per body part and more meals to hit those parts. I have increased my bench press in the past 10 weeks from 220 to 245 by pressing almost every day. A couple singles each day and a set of pushups, no more. Thank you for what you do. Mark

  8. Do this plan for 28 days. Then start adding additional weight. Once you can do 5 perfect reps with 33% of your body weight attached shift back to body weight pull-ups with one arm.

  9. Cool. And by Maximum Reps do you mean taking the set to failure? I ask because most of your programs call for stopping a set when your speed or form breaks down. But I guess since it’s one set it’s okay.

    What time of day should I do my one set if I’m lifting that day, and could I still do Lat pulldowns in my workouts?

    Thanks

  10. Yes, with body weight endurance work you can go to failure for one set without it frying your CNS.

  11. Hi Chad, thanks a lot for this advice.

    I have no doubt it can be useful on someone whose pullup record is not very high (around 10 reps or less) but, do you think it will work the samen for a guy who can do around 14-15 reps?

    would it be better to do weighted pull ups to bring down the repetition count to 10 or less?

    Thanks in advance

  12. Yes, this method works for any rep range due to the Law of Repetition. However, this is not a maximal strength method. HFT training builds endurance and muscle. Maximal strength requires heavier weights.

  13. I’m learning new things here. I dind’t know about the
    SAID principle that states that your body will Specifically Adapt to the Imposed Demand.
    Thanks, I’ll come again.

  14. Yes, you can build a great back with rows and deadlifts. My book Huge in a Hurry uses both in plenty of workouts.

  15. Chad, thanks for the great information. I have wanted to hit 20 reps in chin ups for some time.
    I was happy to see your male clients do the 20 reps. I went from 14 to 18 reps in 28 days. Should I keep
    doing chin ups daily to hopefully hit 20? Should I start Huge in a Hurry, or wait until I hit the 20? Also I am 54.Thanks in advance.

    m

  16. Chad,

    Can we use this method with more than one exercise in one workout? For example do a max for one set of pull ups, one for push ups, one for BW squats, and so on for a full body work out. It would be a quick work out but would it burn your cns?

  17. It’s like I knew my idea was great. We have a “outer-outer-hall” so to speak, and I mounted a 2inch bar up on the wall about 2 feet from the wall 6 feet up. Now I do a set of max reps atleast once a day, some days a few more sets. And it started with a measly 3 reps (chin barely passing the bar). At the moment I’m doing about 10-12 full ROM and with bar touching upper chest on the first 6 reps and chin still passing bar on the last 4-6. this has taking me about 3 months to accomplish.

  18. You can do that, provided you’re not doing much of anything else. As long as your performance increases each week, you’re not overtrained.

  19. Chad
    Today I hit 20 chinups! It took me 45 days from 14 up to 20. Not bad for 54! I am starting Huge in a Hurry now and look forward to results!
    Thanks again,
    Greg

  20. When I was in my 20 and 30’s I could jump right up on the bar and start puming out reps. Now being 1 year shy of 50, I need a warm-up for my elbows. I have tried curl grip pulldowns and they really do no help. What do you suggest ?

    Thanks,

    Frank

  21. Sure, pulldowns are fine as a warm-up. A warm-up is very individualized – some need none, others need a few sets. There is no wrong way to warm up. Do as many sets as you need to feel comfortable before your first work set.

  22. I noticed in the video he is using a side-grip (not sure how to describe it) rather than a traditional forward grip for pull-ups. How much of a difference does that make?

    I’ll give this a shot. For months I’ve been beating the crap out of my back (keeping it heavy) using the assisted pull-ups machine and haven’t noticed much of a change. (I’m 215 pounds and only able to do three pull-ups on my own)

    Thanks,

    Virgil

  23. Will this method work for push ups? How would the push up routine look?

    CW: Yes, this will work for push-ups too. Or you can do two sets to failure every other day – one set in the am, one in the pm.

  24. Hey Chad,

    I love this article and I have been training pull ups consistently for some time.

    I started off training my 5 RM and occasionally testing body weight sets. I worked up to BW+65lbs for a set of 3, and a rep max of 19 total reps.

    I recently switched my workouts to ladders and worked up to 85 reps done on 2 of my 3 training days (170 total reps per week using 2,3,5 ladders). My rep max is a little lower now ( I am back up to about 10).

    I am trying to decide which type of training to use for the next phase to capitalize on these gains I have made, and not sacrifice my improved workout capacity by dropping the volume too low.

    Would going heavy with added weight for a few 5RM max sets once or twice a week be best, or would 2 sets per workout for max reps build decent size without losing all of the work capacity I have built up?

    Thanks,
    Chris

    CW: Do both. Go heavy twice each week and rep out twice each week on different days.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *