Boosting Pullup Power - AnabolicMinds.com
    • Boosting Pullup Power



      by Dan John T-Nation

      Here's what you need to know...

        The pull-up has been beaten to death by lifters and athletes who try at all costs to get their rep total higher and higher. They should be adding load instead.

        Simply hanging from the bar is an important form of loading. If you want to do 25 strict pull-ups, can you even hang from the bar long enough to do them?

        The ab wheel mimics many of the keys to proper pull-ups.

        Pavel's Russian Fighter Pull-up Program allows you to "sneak up" on a higher number of reps.

      I pity the pull-up. In the past decade, this wonderful movement has been trashed and beaten by enthusiasts who try at all costs to up their rep total higher and higher. Sure, high reps have their place, but many of us need a smarter, more rational approach.

      After a certain age, pull-ups start "bugging" people. For most of us, there's a pain in the elbow that only goes away when we avoid pull-ups. A few weeks or months later, it seems to cure itself and the only way we reinjure it is by doing more high-rep pull-ups and... we succeed! We have a name for this in my gym. We call it Middle Age Pull-Up Syndrome, or MAPS. "You too can help us cure this disease. Please send money now to..."

      Improving your pull-up numbers, either with more reps or more load - which I tend to recommend over more reps - is going to be a study in balance. If you force the reps up with more and more volume, you might eventually hit your new personal record in the movement but never again throw a ball or comb your hair. You could keep your hair really short, or you could train the pull-up using a few contrarian ideas.


      How Long Can You Hang?
      I learned an interesting thing from Gray Cook. Gray and I do workshops together on work capacity and he recently told me something that changed my vision of training the pull-up: merely hanging from the bar is an important form of loading.

      After I watched the famous video of the gibbon taunting the tiger cubs online, I learned the power of brachiation (essentially, swinging by one arm). I also know that we have mobile shoulders and opposable thumbs, and years ago I found that monkey bars, that wonderfully ignored piece of equipment, seemed to resurrect javelin throwers. Gray's insight about hanging from the bar being a great form of loading connected all those dots for me and I came up with a meaningful challenge:

      How long can you hang?
      Seriously, if you want to do 25 pull-ups, can you hang from the bar long enough to do them? Don't know? Test it. Simply hang from the bar as long as you can. Now double that number! How you go about doing this, I don't care, but if you can only hold onto the bar 30 seconds, doubling the time might give you the wiggle room to succeed on your pull-up goal. It's that simple. To make it more challenging, try to hold your chin over the bar for time. Later, progress to a one-arm hang. Just working the monkey bars alone might be enough to keep you going for a while.


      It Sounds Weird, But it Works
      In my gym, during our morning sessions, we rarely do more than five pull-ups in a row. Because of the size and age of some of our men, we prefer to mix in reps of the pull-up with the ab-wheel roll out because it mimics the keys to proper pull-ups: tight abs, hollow core, and an explosion over the top at the finish.

      When I do pull-ups, I like to finish them with my thumbs in my armpits and then I attempt to drive my elbows back behind me. Working the ab wheel looks and feels like a proper attempt in the pull-up, hence the synergy. Moreover, the ab wheel, while hard on the abs, is very easy on the elbows and you can move back and forth between the two movements for a while.

      With the mechanics of the ab wheel fresh in your mind and nervous system, do a pull-up with feet crossed and knees squeezed together and "ab wheel" yourself over the pull-up bar. It'll feel as if you're rolling over the bar, not pulling up. I've found that five ab wheel rollouts supersetted with a SINGLE excellent pull-up is repeatable and easy on the elbows. It does, obviously, get harder as you go on, so if you decide to do more than ten total sets of ab wheel rollout/pull-ups, do three reps of ab rollouts instead of five.


      Pavel's Russian Fighter Program
      My last bit of advice involves reps and loads. Years ago, Pavel introduced to the idea of the Russian Fighters' Pull-up Program. It's a multi-week program that involves "sneaking up" on reps in the pull-up. If your max is five real pull-ups, try this:

      The 5RM Russian Pull-up Program
      Day 1: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1
      Day 2: 5, 4, 3, 2, 2
      Day 3: 5, 4, 3, 3, 2
      Day 4: 5, 4, 4, 3, 2
      Day 5: 5, 5, 4, 3, 2
      Day 6: Off
      Day 7: 6, 5, 4, 3, 2
      Day 8: 6, 5, 4, 3, 3
      Day 9: 6, 5, 4, 4, 3
      Day 10: 6, 5, 5, 4, 3
      Day 11: 6, 6, 5, 4, 3
      Day 12: Off
      Day 13: 7, 6, 5, 4, 3
      Day 14: 7, 6, 5, 4, 4
      Day 15: 7, 6, 5, 5, 4
      Day 16: 7, 6, 6, 5, 4
      Day 17: 7, 7, 6, 5, 4
      Day 18: Off
      Day 19: 8, 7, 6, 5, 4
      Day 20: 8, 7, 6, 5, 5
      Day 21: 8, 7, 6, 6, 5
      Day 22: 8, 7, 7, 6, 5
      Day 23: 8, 8, 7, 6, 5
      Day 24: Off
      Day 25: 9, 8, 7, 6, 5
      Day 26: 9, 8, 7, 6, 6
      Day 27: 9, 8, 7, 7, 6
      Day 28: 9, 8, 8, 7, 6
      Day 29: 9, 9, 8, 7, 6
      Day 30: Off

      Rest a few days and test the new max number of pull-ups.

      If, however, you can do more than five reasonable reps, I strongly recommend adding load. The test would be max reps for three, with load. So, if you can do three reps with, say, 15 pounds around your waist, follow the simple 12-day program below. Use the same load for the duration of the 12-days.

      The 3RM Russian Pull-up Program
      Day 1: 3, 2, 1, 1
      Day 2: 3, 2, 1, 1
      Day 3: 3, 2, 2, 1
      Day 4: 3, 3, 2, 1
      Day 5: 4, 3, 2, 1
      Day 6: Off
      Day 7: 4, 3, 2, 1, 1
      Day 8: 4, 3, 2, 2, 1
      Day 9: 4, 3, 3, 2, 1
      Day 10: 4, 4, 3, 2, 1
      Day 11: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1
      Day 12: Off

      Rest a few days and test the next max number of pull-ups with load.

      Rebuild your pull-up numbers with some very reasonable workouts. Try increasing your hang time and then get in that ab wheel work. Then, give yourself a few weeks on the pull-up bar with or without load and see if you can increase your numbers, pain free.

      Source: http://www.t-nation.com/workouts/how...-pull-up-power
      Comments 4 Comments
      1. JeremyNG25's Avatar
        JeremyNG25 -
        I'll tell ya the less fat you have in you the easier pull ups are that's for damn sure. I like this approach because it's realistic. At my gym I rarely see anyone doing real pullups. More like 3/4 half ass pullups
      1. ThaGerGuy3000's Avatar
        ThaGerGuy3000 -
        Well I alwas thought chin over the bar and going down as far as possible is a real pull up. Hands near armpit is quite a bit higher though. Gonna give it a try tomorrow.
      1. augie11's Avatar
        augie11 -
        Hmm...I'll give a try.
      1. Type O Hero's Avatar
        Type O Hero -
        My favorite exercise.

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