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There isn’t a secret or magic trick to increasing your pull ups, but it isn’t as difficult as many people believe. You may think that I’m another coach who can’t relate to your situation, but I can. I still remember when I was struggling to do 2-3 pull ups.
I struggled because I didn’t train for them, and when I did train for pull ups, I didn’t train properly.
I fear many people are making the same mistakes I made. I want to share how you can skip the frustration and master the pull up.
Your Training Should Match Your Goals
The majority of the fitness industry is all about HIIT, cardio, bodybuilding, or training until you puke.
I’m not a fan of this, not because there’s anything wrong with these training styles but because these methods get the most exposure. There are so many different ways to train, but your training should always match your goals.
The goal here is to increase the number of pull ups you can complete consecutively, and those methods I mentioned don’t work.
When I was learning to do pull ups:
- I did it the common way of 3 sets of 5-10 reps.
- The aim is to do 3 sets of 5 reps.
- Then every week or two, you increase the reps 3×6, 3×7 until you reach your goal.
- What generally happens is that in the first set, you can probably do five reps, but after that, you will struggle even to do 2-3 reps.
- That’s what was happening to me, and I would also keep hitting plateaus—stuck at the same reps for a while.
If I could do it all over again, I would use a technique called Grease The Groove (GTG). This is how I teach my clients to get their first pull up and to increase the amount they can do in a row.
Grease the Groove for Better Pull Ups
- Let’s say you can manage just about four reps in a row.
- Throughout the day, you’ll do multiple sets (4-7 sets) at 50% of your max, which is two reps.
- If one rep is your max, then do multiple sets of one rep.
- Rest for a minimum of one hour between sets.
- Perform this 4-6 days a week.
After two weeks, test your pull ups to see how many you can do in a row.
Learning a new movement pattern is just like learning a new skill.
The more you do something correctly, the better you get at it. By doing the reps at 50% intensity, you limit fatigue, and you’ll focus more on the correct technique.
It won’t feel like you’re doing much, but your body is learning the movement. Frequency and consistency are kings when it comes to learning.
In a week, you’ll accumulate a lot of reps.
You can do this in addition to your regular training but if you’re not recovering between sessions, then reduce the workload.
Get Your First Pull Up
If you can’t do a pull up yet, you can still use this technique. In addition to your regular pull up training of 2-3 times a week, do GTG with these exercises. Focus on one for two weeks, rest for a week, and then do GTG with the other exercise.
Jump Negative Pull Ups:
- Jump up as much as you need to pull yourself up.
- Try and go slow when coming back down.
- At first, you might drop straight down, but as you get stronger, you will be able to go slower.
- If the jump is too much, jump from a box to assist you.
Jump up and hold yourself at the top of the pull-up. Try to keep your chin over the bar.
You Can Handle Your Bodyweight
Some of you might think that you were never meant to do or will never be strong enough to do pull ups, but you are. Put the negative thoughts and feelings aside and do the work.
Pull ups are a natural movement that your body is well capable of doing.
Train your pull ups frequently throughout the week, and focus on the proper technique. Otherwise, you will only be cheating yourself. Be patient, and you will master your pull ups. You can use GTG to improve other exercises as well.