21.01.2016 16:45
Day 65. How to do more pull-ups

I’m sure that many of you have been waiting for this info-post for a long time. It is because today's topic is very, very popular on the internet. And as the title says - we are going to talk about increasing the number of pull-ups. Right from the start I have to say that there’re no secrets, only hard work! But this is the whole point itself!

If you read forums or sites or social networks, then you will also have a persistent feeling that 20 pull-ups is a real deal, which separates those who train really hard from all other people. Indeed , many people out there can do 15-16 pull-ups, even 18-19 reps, but many times less guys can do more than 20 repetitions.

General Tips

So I decided to give you several basic tips, which once were given to me and which I follow all the time:

Tip №1. If you want to increase the maximum number of pull-ups, you must train your maximum! After certain level it’s really difficult to enlarge the number of pull-ups without direct maximum pull-up training session. Doing pull-ups for maximum reps is related not only with particular physical, but also mental attitude.

When you get close to 20 pull-ups, you get understanding that you can do 1 or 2 more pull-ups if you just hang for a while on a bar and let your muscles rest a little bit. This is called strengh endurance, guys. So dont jump of the bar right away after you can't get more reps (the mistake a lot of people do), instead, hang on for a while and try to do more. Still keep correct technique and no swinging 😉

Tip №2. Do not set any limitations in front of you, or (if you still do) deliberately overstate them. Did you know that sprinters never set a goal to stop before the finish line? Because that way they will start to slow down too early thus losing speed and getting worse results. Exactly the same logic is in our case! Do you want to make 20 pull-ups? Set a goal to 25 or 30, maybe you will not achieve it, but you will definitely be able to do more than 20!

Tip №3. Always do clean pull-ups, strictly according to the technique! Legendary Zef said once: "I do my last pull-up exactly with the same ideal technique as the first one. If I cannot do it with perfect technique then I just don’t pull-up at all." Don't try to help yourself with swinging or kipping, because pull-ups is a strength movement! Got exhausted? Pull yourself together and do at least one more repetition! Better - two! You must pull up as long as you have power to. You've ran out of power? Pull yourself up as high as you can and hold at this point for a while, then go down. Every one of these little steps will bring you closer to the end goal!

Different Training Approaches

Now let's move suggest to move on from general tips to some specific recommendations.

2 approaches to training. In general I can tell you about 2 ways, which will lead you to your goal of increasing the number repetitions and overcoming the barrier of 20 reps. They both were checked by me personally, and they both are working.

Approach А: Maximum reps. Actually, this approach was described in the three paragraphs above, which you may have missed. The main idea is to take 1 day per week for pull-ups training and do your maximums trying to beat your records. Do not immediately try to make your maximum on “cold muscles”, as practice shows, it’s better to do 1-2 warm-up sets, and after it train as hard as you can. 😃 Your results will be better in this case, and a possibility to have a trauma is less. As for the number of sets for maximum – there must be really a lot of them. Can’t tell exact numbers, but for me they took about 60-90 minutes (with 5 to 10 minutes rest between sets to get my nervouse system recover)

It should be noted that this method IS NOT SUITABLE for outside trainings in cold season, because during the long rest between sets your muscles will cool down and training efficiency will significantly fall.

Apporach B: High intensity training. Like in previous approach you choose 1 day in a week for your pull-ups training session, but the difference lies in what you do on this day. When you did sets for maximum. you had to rest between them for 5-7 minutes (until full or almost full recovery), in this case resting time is shorten to minimum period (45-60 seconds), but you still doing sets for maximum number of repetitions.

Take me for example: I start with warm-up sets and go up with number of repetitions, and when I’m not able to raise the number bar, then I do my maximum. I get something like this: 5, 10, 15, 10, 7, 5 and then I pull as much as I can till I get 50-55 reps in total (50 if maximum was less than 10, 55 if less than 10, 60 if less than 15, 65 if less than 20). It is very important to pull all repetitions until the end. You must jump off the bar when you’re not able to pull yourself up at all (that means you pull yourself half way up то and you cannot pull any further). In general do your repetitions in full range of motion.

Jedi Mind Tricks

In addition to the physical component, as I told before, there’s also a certain psychological component in getting more than 20 pull-ups in a row. I bet you know what I'm talking about. If you think that 20 reps is a lot, then you would easily do 10-15 pull-ups, but right after that you will notice that you are exhausted (and this exhaustion came almost out of nowhere, because, as I said, first 10-15 pull-ups were really easy) and it's very difficult to pefrom the next reps. Sounds familiar, isn't it? So here is a couple of simple tricks that will help you to change the situation.

Reverse count order. How do we count pull-ups when we do them? Usually we go 1,2,3 etc.. This means that the number is getting bigger and bigger with every rep and subconsciously it creates a mental pressure on us. As the result we reach 20 merely exhausted (after 17, 18 и 19). Now try to count in reverse order! Start with 20 and with each repetition decrease the number, that is 20, 19, 18, 17 etc. In the very end of set you’ll call very small numbers (5,4,3,2,1) and thus it will be easier for you to pull up! Congratulations, you have just tricked your mind!

Divide the whole into parts. 20 pull-ups is a really good results, since not so many people can do 20 clean pull-ups. But if we talk about 5 or 10 pull-ups, much more people can get them (and they are not perceived as a difficult task). And this is what you need to do - use the effect of perception and divide your 20-s into 4 times of 5 reps or 2 times of 10, counting each time within a given period (from 1 to 5 or from 1 to 10). The result will be the same as in previous option – it will be a little easier to pull-up! Another mind trick for you 😉


Pretty big info-post turned out to be, but I hope it also turned out to be pretty much useful 😃 At last I'd like to say a few more words. Many people claim, that it’s necessary to use additional weight to increase the number of pull-ups or use partner’s help to finish the reps. I haven’t used neither. I trained my 25 repetitions with my bodyweight purely.

Also in order to pull-up a lot you must have a good grip (cause you’ll have to hang on a bar for a long time), strong and endurance muscles (arms and back), well your mental attitude is also important, because you can achieve the result only believing in your own strength!

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