If there's one body weight exercise that is the staple for upper body strength, it's the pull up. Many otherwise strong and fit looking men and women struggle just to do a few solid reps.
If you're struggling to get your numbers up, then this article is for you. I have the simplest and most effective methods for increasing pull ups that have worked for myself and for many others. It isn't fancy. It isn't complicated. But, it works. And that's all that matters.
If you can't do a single pull up, I recommend starting out using Pull up resistance bands, and spending some time focusing on getting stronger before you start trying to boost your numbers.
What won't work
I always like to start off with the common mistakes people make when trying to achieve a goal. In this case, the biggest mistake I see (and have made myself) is trying to do way too much volume.
Following someone else's 200 pull ups per day method isn't going to work for you if you can only get a few solid reps. Even if you can do 10 right now. It just isn't necessary to kill yourself with hundreds of reps!
Check out these two simple methods, then read on to see how you can use them together to boost your pull up numbers dramatically.
Greasing the Groove
"Greasing the Groove" is a term coined by Pavel Tsatsouline, the legendary Russian Trainer. It means performing a movement often, without going to failure or using heavy resistance. The purpose is to reinforce the movement pattern.
The human body is an amazing machine. It is always seeking efficiency: The ability to perform tasks using the least amount of energy. If we repeat something often, we reinforce the neuromuscular efficiency of that movement.
Repetition teaches the nervous system to more efficiently recruit muscle fibers to perform the movement.
**If you don't have access to a gym, get a Doorway Pull up Bar and do them from home!
How to "Grease the Groove."
To use this method, simply perform a set of one or two pull ups periodically throughout the day, keeping a count of how many total reps you're doing. Start with a low number like 10 or 20 each day and slowly increase that number over time.
Using this method, you shouldn't be going for max reps or pushing the envelope at all. You simply perform a couple reps, and then go on about your business.
The Once a Day Max Rep Set
A few years ago, while preparing for a military training, I had a goal of being able to do 20 pull ups. At the time I was able to get 8-10.
I researched several methods and took advice from a lot of people. I tried using pyramids and my numbers actually suffered. Every approach I used involved high volume. I was doing hundreds of pull ups, but I still couldn't get more than 10 in one set.
Then I ran into a trainer who really changed my perspective on the whole problem. He told me to just do one set every day of as many reps as possible, then leave it alone. Fast forward about 6 weeks from that day, and vuola! I got 21 pull ups!
How to use the once a day max rep method
This is probably the easiest method possible. And while I know people love fancy programs and schemes, all that matters at the end of the day is what works. And this works.
Simply perform one set of max reps of pull ups each day. It's tempting to want to do more, but don't. We have it ingrained in us that more is better. But this is a myth in a lot of ways, and training smarter is a real thing.
You can expect that your numbers will go up and down periodically. Don't be discouraged, as there will be an upward trend if you just continue the process.
Combine the methods
Now that you understand these methods, let me give you a template I've used to get really big improvements in pull ups. You can simply alternate between the two methods, taking one day per week off completely.
If you work out, just perform your pull ups at the beginning of the workout and then go about your training as you usually do.
Most people want to be able to do more pull ups. It's always impressive to watch someone jump up and bang out 20 solid reps on the bar. And that can be you!
To recap, we discussed:
- Greasing the Groove: repeating a movement often to reinforce movement patterns. This means not going to failure, but doing a few reps repeatedly throughout the day.
- Neuromuscular efficiency: The nervous system learns to perform a movement more efficiently, recruiting more muscle fibers faster, using the least amount of energy.
- Once a Day method: Performing one set of max reps each day.
Follow these methods for 6 weeks, and let me know how much your numbers improved!
Until next time, thanks for being here, and I hope this article helps you get a little bit closer to that best version of you.
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