Pull-up and Chin-up Training 101: The Basics on how to do more Pull-ups and Chin-ups

Everything You Need to Know to get Started with Pull-up Training: The Definitive Guide to Pull-up Training Success

pullup training 101

On this page, you’ll learn what pull-ups and chin-ups are, why they’re so good for you, how to do pull-ups with optimal technique, and how to increase your pull-up numbers as quickly and efficiently as possible. You’ll also learn how to work up to your first pull-up, and then your first 10 reps, 20 reps, or more. Basically, this page will give you a detailed introduction to the fundamentals of pull-up and chin-up training: gear selection, a detailed look at proper pull-up and chin-up form, the best pull-up variations and exercises (including beginner and even ultra-beginner level pull-up exercises), common mistakes to avoid, top tips for all skill levels, and some of the best pull-up workouts for beginner, intermediate, and advanced trainees.

I’ve been doing pull-ups and chin-ups for the past 15+ years and if there’s anything I’ve found that’s true about them, it’s that the details matter. Pull-ups are one of the most difficult exercises to master, and most people hit a plateau in their progress very fast, if they get any results at all. So, I setup this webpage to help change that – to at least get you heading in the right direction from the start, and hopefully, to help you achieve measurable progress within a week or two, which is how it should be.

Now, I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: anyone can get better at pull-ups. So, in case anybody is wondering, or needs to see it to believe it… women CAN do pull-ups. Old guys can do pull-ups, too. And heavy-set people can do pull-ups as well. Heck, even little girls can do pull-ups and make them look easy. So, if anyone tells you that “you can’t do pull-ups,” – even yourself – don’t believe them for a second. The information on this page will show you how to do more pull-ups and chin-ups – no matter who you are or what your starting point is.

So, let’s get started.

Pull-up Training Gear (what you need)

All you really need to get started with pull-up training is a place to do them. Ideally, you’ll have a pull-up bar that you’ll have regular access to – either at your local gym or something you can use at home. But you can also use a tree branch, the monkey bars at the playground, or some rafters in your home, among other things. The best option, of course, would be an actual bar that was designed for exercise because it will be the proper width, texture, etc.

Just remember that the gear doesn’t matter nearly as much as your work ethic. The best bar in the world still won’t do the pull-ups for you! So, don’t over-think the decision. Just find something that will work. Good enough is good enough.

Now, if you want to invest in a pull-up bar that you can use at home, then here are three of the best one’s I’ve found: Three of the Best Pull-up Bars for Your Home Gym. And if you’d like some more gear ideas that may help make pull-up training a little easier, more comfortable, and even fun, then check out the Pull-up Training Buyers Guide which you can find on the Gear Page.

But don’t spend too much time stressing out about it.

How to do a Pull up: Basic Technique Considerations for How to do Pull ups

Exercise textbooks will generally show you two photos demonstrating how to do pull-ups – the starting point in the bottom, deadhang position and the mid-point in the top, flexed position. Some of them might even include two different views like this…

how to do pull ups

The main points of proper pull-up form are:

  • Start by hanging from the bar, hands at approximately shoulder-width apart, palms pointing away from you, and elbows fully locked.
  • Initiate the pull by exhaling forcefully – tightening your core – and retracting your shoulders down and back with your lat muscles and also flexing your elbows with your biceps.
  • Continue to pull until your arms are fully flexed – elbows in tight to your sides – and pause briefly before beginning to lower yourself (note: your chin will likely be at or slightly above the bar’s level).
  • Slowly lower yourself to the bottom, deadhang position – inhaling as you go – until your arms are fully locked. Pause briefly and then repeat for reps.

Those are the basics of pull-up technique that you’ll find in most exercise instructional resources. But a lot more goes into proper pull-up form, and there’s way more when it comes to optimizing your pull-up technique. So, here’s a video that will give you an in-depth look at how to do pull-ups with not just proper form, but optimal technique. This will help you maximize your pull-up performance – and your results – and minimize the risk of injuries.

How to do Pull-ups: What They Didn’t Teach You In Gym Class About Proper Pull-up & Chin-up Technique

And if you’d like even more detail and some simple cues to help you dial in your pull-up form, then check out the complete tutorial here: How to do Pull-ups and Chin-ups with Optimal Technique.

Note: I’d recommend reviewing this detailed tutorial a few times until you understand all of the subtle nuances of optimal pull-up form. It’ll pay off in the long run.

How to do Chin ups

Chin-ups are very similar to pull-ups, and the names are often used interchangeably. But they are slightly different exercises. The main difference from the instructions listed above is that with chin-ups, you use a supinated grip on the bar (i.e., gripping the bar with your palms facing you) as opposed to a pronated grip for pull-ups.

The Difference Between Pull-ups and Chin-ups

So, as you can see, the pull-up and chin-up exercises are almost exactly the same in execution except for one difference…

Pull-ups: grip the bar with your palms facing away from you (i.e., overhand grip).
Chin-ups: grip the bar with your palms facing toward you (i.e., underhand grip).

difference between pull-ups and chin-ups

The pull-up with the palms facing away from you (i.e., pronated grip) is pictured on the left, and the chin-up with the palms facing toward you (i.e., supinated grip) is pictured on the right. Note that the legs may be bent or straight in either exercise.

And it’s as simple as that.

So, each exercise involves the same vertical pulling movement, but there are some subtle differences in the technique and also the muscles that are activated. For example, pull-ups tend to work the lats more than chin-ups, which tend to work the biceps a little more than pull-ups. Regardless, most people usually find that one of the exercises is significantly easier than the other. And in most cases, I’d recommend focusing on the one your best at until you’ve built a solid foundation of strength. Then move onto other variations from there.

You can learn more about the differences between pull-ups and chin-ups here: Coming soon!

And you can learn more about optimizing your chin-up technique here: Coming soon!

Other Effective Pull-up and Chin-up Exercises & Popular Variations

Once you can do at least a few to several repetitions of pull-ups or chin-ups, it’s time to start varying your pull-up grips once in awhile. This will provide a slightly different stimulus to the body and will help develop more well-rounded strength and balanced muscle development. At the very least, try working on the “Big 3” Top Pull-up Exercises, and branch out from there.

The “Big 3” Top Pull-up Exercises

1) Standard Pull-up – Overhand grip with hands placed at approximately shoulder-width apart or slightly wider (pictured above)

2) Standard Chin-up – Underhand grip with hands placed at approximately shoulder-width apart or slightly narrower (pictured above)

3) Neutral-grip Pull-up – Gripping parallel bars at approximately shoulder-width apart, palms facing each other

neutral-grip pull-ups

Neutral-grip Pull-ups, with the palms facing each other on parallel bars, are perhaps the safest and strongest version of pull-ups, and are the pull-up of choice for people with current and past shoulder problems.

Those three variations should form the foundation of your pull-up training, but there are many other variations you can experiment with, too: close-grip and wide grip pull-ups and chin-ups, commando pull-ups (aka mountain climber pull-ups and stacked pull-ups), and many others.

Here’s an old video I filmed to showcase some more ideas:

And you can find even more pull-up and chin-up variations in this blogpost here: 25 Different Kinds of Pull-ups, Chin-ups, and Other Variations.

Three of the Most Common Pull-up and Chin-up Training Mistakes to Avoid

The pull-up is an incredibly challenging exercise. And so, it is rare to see someone perform pull-ups with excellent technique. On the contrary, it seems that most people will do anything to get their chin over the bar. And based on my experience, I’d estimate that 9 out of 10 people perform pull-ups either improperly or inefficiently. The fact of the matter is that most people make some very common mistakes that will undermine their progress, slow their results, and put them at an increased risk of injury. Here are three of the most common mistakes to avoid.

1) Not locking the elbows in the bottom, deadhang position. The real issue here is that most people do not perform pull-ups and chin-ups through a full range of motion, and this is especially true when it comes to locking out the elbows in the deadhang position. This is one of the most common pull-up training mistakes, and it’s a risky one, too. Not only will you be getting sub-optimal results, but if you make this a habit, you’ll also be risking an elbow or shoulder injury down the road. Plus, you’ll only strengthen what you train. And if you don’t train that last bit of range of motion, then obviously, you’ll be weak in not only that ROM, but in the corresponding musculature, too.

Now, it’s true that you may initially feel stronger in the pull-up exercise by only going to near-lockout, but it’s only because you’re already weak in that bottom ROM. But if you ignore that crucial part of the exercise, you’ll be handicapping your pull-up training potential right from the start. You’ll get much better results over the long term if you train your pull-ups and chin-ups through a full range of motion. So, make sure that you come to complete elbow lock in the bottom ROM, even if it involves a short-term decrease in your performance.

So, when you lower yourself down into the bottom position of the exercise…

proper pull up form - elbow lock

2) Straining your head and neck to get the chin over the bar. This comes in many different shapes and forms, but oftentimes it involves tilting the head back and jutting the chin forward to reach the chin higher and get it over the bar at the top of the repetition. This might be acceptable for an infrequent pull-up test, but it’s not a good idea when training. The pull-up is not a neck exercise, and no amount of straining at the neck is going to help you get any higher. It’s really just a compensation for being weak in the top position, and we fool ourselves by thinking it actually helps us get even higher. On the contrary, it does not contribute to your strength in the exercise, and it might lead to an injury down the road.

Instead, try to maintain a neutral spine, lengthening the vertebrae of your neck by lifting with the crown of your head. Also, try to look upwards with your eyes instead of using your whole head. Now, it’s true that it’s not too risky to tilt the head back slightly to look upwards, but the main key is not to strain yourself. So, if you catch yourself straining, jutting your chin, or gritting your teeth, then check your neck’s alignment.

proper pull up form - neck alignment

3) Not maintaining shoulder pack throughout the full range of motion. Many people are totally unaware of what to do with their shoulders during the pull-up exercise. And oftentimes, they allow their shoulders to shrug upwards – becoming unpacked, and thus, destabilized – especially in the bottom, deadhang position of the exercise. To make matters worse, some pull-up instructional resources even teach this as the proper technique. But most strength and conditioning experts would agree that the shoulders should remain stabilized throughout the full range of motion, including in the deadhang position. When stabilized, not only will your shoulders be in a safer position, but you’ll be able to apply more of your body’s strength to perform more reps.

The problem is that many people have never been taught how to stabilize their shoulders with the shoulder pack technique. It simply involves actively pulling your shoulders downward onto your torso. Think of it as the opposite of a shoulder shrug. Rather, instead of shrugging your shoulders upwards, you’re shrugging them downwards (or back and down if you have a tendency to round your shoulders forward).

Note: for more information on this technique, check out this tutorial: How to Stabilize Your Shoulders During The Pull-up Exercise.

proper pull up form - shoulder pack

There are several other common pull-up and chin-up training mistakes that can undermine your progress – oftentimes, without you even knowing it. So, I put together a special report all about the Top 10 Most Common Pull-up and Chin-up Training Mistakes and the Latest Tips on How to Easily Correct Them. You can download it for free as part of my 5-day Pull-up Training Crash Course.

The Benefits of Pull-ups and Chin-ups

There are so many benefits to be had from doing pull-ups, chin-ups, and their variations. A whole chapter could probably be written about it. Suffice to say, the pull-up is a really big “bang for your buck” exercise. It’s a pillar in the strength training community, and a staple in many workout programs. And it’s right up there with other strength training greats like squats, deadlifts, and presses. In fact, you’d have a hard time finding a personal trainer or strength and conditioning specialist who does not use pull-ups as part of their training routines. It’s the go-to exercise for back development and vertical pulling strength.

Again, there are so many benefits from doing pull-ups and chin-ups as part of your exercise routine. So, in the interest of not writing a whole book chapter, I’m going to condense this section down into three main points.

The pull-up is a superb exercise for improving health, fitness, strength, and muscle development. That’s a bit of a generalized “catch-all,” but I think you get the idea. Pull-ups do your body good. Here are a handful of the specific physical benefits to be had from training pull-ups:

  • Pull-ups strengthen, build, and otherwise condition your arm, shoulder, back, and core musculature for better total body muscle recruitment and systemic strength
  • Pull-ups improve your posture, and in particular, your shoulder stability, balance and health – reducing the risk of injury
  • Pull-ups help increase your pound for pound strength and help improve your performance in other activities, whether exercise-related or not
  • Pull-ups increase your grip strength, which is sign of longevity, and is also a key factor for sports like rock climbing, grappling, and MMA, along with other everyday activities
  • Pull-ups help with body composition goals such as muscle building and fat loss to help you get lean and strong
male flexing back

Photo Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/effjohn/

So, those are some of the specific physical benefits. Obviously, all of the other benefits of exercise, in general, will also apply to pull-up training: increased bone density, better heart health, higher energy levels, stronger metabolism, etc.

Suffice to say, almost any goal that can be accomplished through strength training, would benefit from the inclusion of the pull-up exercise. You can use the pull-up and chin-up exercises for: straight sets, supersets, circuit sets, drop sets, pyramid training, grease-the-groove training, high intensity interval training (HIIT), high-density training, escalated-density training, combo training, hybrid training, movement-skill training, endurance training, strength-endurance training, max-strength training, and so much more. The pull-up is just an exercise, and you decide how you’ll use it based on your goals.

The pull-up is not only a functional exercise, but also a practical movement skill, too. Functional trainers would call it a vertical pulling exercise, which is a critical movement to include in your fitness routine. But when you get down to it, the pull-up is really just a component of climbing. It’s a method for pulling yourself upward. And that’s practical, too. No, it’s probably not often that you’ll need to climb a tree/wall/ladder/fence/etc. to save your life, but it is a possibility. Regardless, the pull-up not only provides excellent physical benefits in terms of health and fitness, but it is also an essential aspect of climbing technique, which may come in handy someday. Or, at the very least, it’ll help you have a little more fun at the playground, the rock climbing gym, or just out in a tree in your back yard.

Here’s a video of me demonstrating some climbing techniques I learned at a MovNat seminar. There are many others, of course. But regardless, this movement performance wouldn’t be possible without the foundation I built with pull-ups.

Note: you can learn some more practical pullup exercises and climbing skills in this 3-part series here: 10 Practical Pull-up Exercises – Part 1: Basic Movements and Adaptations.

Speaking of being able to pull yourself up to safety to save your life from a pack of wild dogs, flash flood, or stampeding water buffalo (hey, it could happen!)…

Mastering the pull-up exercise is empowering. There’s just something special about being able to lift your own body weight and pull yourself up to a bar/branch/ledge/etc. A deep sense of satisfaction and confidence comes from mastering the pull-up exercise. And in particular, getting your first pull-up is a pretty special milestone. Without proper training, most people can’t do a single pull-up, let alone 10, 20, or 30+ reps. So, when you can, your confidence and self-esteem gets a big boost. And that spreads into all aspects of your life.

woman rock climbing

Photo Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mfl/

Suffice to say, pull-ups are awesome!

How to do your First Pull-up: Basic Progressions for Beginner-Level Pull-up Trainees

If you can’t do any pull-ups yet, then some easier variations will be needed to work your way up to them. Usually, the best thing you can do is to use an exercise that mimics the pull-up as closely as possible. That means I’ll be recommending that you use an actual pull-up bar (or equivalent). That’s also one of the reasons why I tend to recommend against lat pull-down and assisted pull-up machines except in certain circumstances (see below). There are many ways to program this, but here are three tried-and-true beginner-level progressions for working your way up to full pull-ups.

Note: some people find that chin-ups are easier for them than pull-ups, and if that’s the case, then you can use these progressions for chin-ups instead.

The Flexed-Arm Hang – This involves holding yourself in the top position of the pull-up exercise for as long as possible. Basically, you hold onto a pull-up bar and hang in the flexed position with the proper tension in the body to activate the musculature involved in the pull-up exercise. There’s a little bit more too it than that (a lot, actually!), but that’s the gist of it. But at its most basic level, you just grab onto a bar and hold on for as long as you can. It’s a good beginner-level isometric exercise for building up to pull-ups and chin-ups. Work up to holding this for 30-60 seconds before moving onto negative repetition pull-ups. And if you just can’t hold a flexed-arm hang, then you can also hold the deadhang position for time, too.

the flexed arm hang - side view

Negative Repetition Pull-ups (aka eccentric-only pull-ups) – These involve a half of a pull-up repetition – only the lowering phase. To perform negative rep pull-ups, begin in a flexed-arm hang and lower yourself slowly, under control – over 2-5 seconds if you can – until you reach the bottom position and achieve full elbow lock. Get yourself back into a flexed-arm hang (using a bench/chair to step up, or even by jumping up to the top position) and repeat for repetitions. Work up to performing 5 sets of at least 3-8 repetitions before moving onto assisted repetitions.

negative repetition pull-ups

Note: once you can do negative repetition pull-ups, you can finish your sets with a flexed-arm hang for a little extra conditioning.

Assisted Repetition Pull-ups – If you can almost do a full pull-up or chin-up, then performing assisted repetitions might be a good idea. This involves moving through the full range of motion of the pull-up exercise, but using some form of assistance or support to help you throughout each repetition. There are many ways to do them, such as with a partner to help you, using a resistance band, bench, or even jumping to help you get up to the bar each repetition. The key is finding a method that works for you and will tap into the “sweet spot” of strength adaptation. Work up to performing 5 sets of at least 3-8 repetitions, and then test yourself to see if you can perform any unassisted pull-ups.

bench-assisted pull-ups

Bench-assisted pull-ups: use your legs to support some of your weight while performing pull-ups and chin-ups.

How to do Your First Pull-up (Video)

Finally, here’s a short video of me demonstrating some of these exercises (plus, how to use an exercise band to help you work your way up to your first pull-up):

Note: once you can do assisted repetition pull-ups, you can finish your sets with some negative reps for a little extra conditioning.

Top Tips on How to do More Pull ups

Below, you’ll find some pull-up training tips to help you put some of these ideas into practice. I have them categorized based on your starting point: beginner level, intermediate level, or advanced level.

Top Tips and Pull-up Workouts for Beginner Trainees (0-5 reps range)

The number one most important thing you can do is to practice optimal pull-up technique as often as possible, without training to exhaustion. I’ll say it again. The more frequently you can practice your pull-up technique – whether you’re using some of the beginner-level progressions or not – the better. And that means you’ll need to train at a sub-maximal intensity level in order to be able to train them regularly. So, let me introduce you to a perfect training method to do just that.

Introducing the Grease the Groove Protocol

In my experience, I’ve found that the Grease the Groove protocol (aka GTG) is an excellent method for improving beginner and some intermediate level pull-up trainees results over the short-term. And it’s because it involves frequent, perfect practice at a sub-maximal intensity.

GTG Instructions: Several times each and every day (5-6 days per week, 1-2 days off), perform a sub-maximal set of pull-ups (or an easier variation, if necessary). Your goal should be to do as many pull-ups as possible throughout the course of each day, and however you accomplish those reps is up to you (e.g. 5 sets of 8 reps, 10 sets of 2 reps, 20 sets of 1 rep, etc.). Also, your goal should be to do more pull-ups than the day before – every single day you grease the groove. Also, please note that increasing the intensity/effort is NOT the goal. All reps must be easy reps. Most people obtain the best results when they train with GTG for 3-4 weeks – sometimes more.

If that interests you, then I go into a little more detail on the GTG method in this program here (refer to instructions for Month 1), Also, if you decide to commit to a GTG routine, then check out this article on how to optimize the GTG protocol for pull-ups here: The Fastest Way to Increase Your Pull-up Strength in a Short Period of Time. And of course, there’s a little bit more info about it in the Grease the Groove Archive, too.

Now, I can’t stress enough that it is of paramount importance that you get your pull-up technique mastered now. Don’t establish any bad habits that will lead to poor results and injuries down the road. Do it right from the start. Refer to the detailed pull-up technique tutorial video above until you’ve got it dialed in. That is one of my top tips for beginners, but it applies to trainees at all skill levels.

Advice to Ultra-Beginners or Injured Persons in Rehab Who Wish to Succeed at Pull-ups

If you struggle to simply hold onto a pull-up bar – even just to support some of your bodyweight while hanging from your hands, then some special strategies may be in order. In these situations, and assuming you’ve been cleared to exercise by your doctor, then I would usually recommend the use of the lat-pulldown machine or the assisted pull-ups machine that many gyms provide. And by the way, both of these exercises can be replicated at home with a resistance band that is secured above you.

Apart from that, you can also begin any kind of strength training program that will challenge you, and particularly, the muscles of the back and biceps, such as:

  • deadlifts
  • bodyweight rows
  • one-arm dumbbell rows
  • planks
  • supermans
  • etc.

And of course, it would be a great idea to hire a professional, whether it’s a trainer, coach, or physical therapist, etc. to give you the personalized help you need – and that goes for everyone, regardless of your skill level.

Top Tips and Pull-up Workouts for Intermediate Trainees (6-15 reps)

This recommendation will vary for everybody, but in general, intermediate trainees often get the best results when they dramatically increase their pull-up training volume (i.e., building up to doing a lot of repetitions each workout). So, here are two pull-up workouts that will have you do just that.

Pyramid Workouts for Increasing Your Pull-up Numbers (aka Pull-up Ladder Workout)

Doing a pyramid workout is a great way to get in a high-volume pull-up workout that will help to build your strength and increase the number of reps you can do. It’s one of the pillar workouts in the world of pull-up training, and is even used in programs like Maximum Fitness : The Complete Guide to Navy SEAL Cross Training and also in the popular Armstrong Pull-up Program. And it’s really simple to do. Here’s how it works…

1st set: 1 pull-up rep
2nd set: 2 pull-up reps
3rd set: 3 pull-up reps

And so on and so forth until you can no longer achieve the next level. So, once you’ve maxed out and can climb no higher (i.e., you’ve reached the top of the pyramid), reverse the pyramid and perform sets until you get back to the bottom. So, if you maxed out at 5 reps, and could not do a set of six reps, then your next set would be 4 reps, then 3 reps, then 2 reps, and finally 1 rep.

Here’s an old video I put together to explain how to do a pyramid workout for pull-ups…

The pyramid of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 = 25 total pullups.

Alternatively, you can do doubles like this: 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 8, 6, 4, 2 = 50 total pullups.

And a single-step pyramid up to 10 reps and back down again 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 = 100 total pullups.

Rest as much as necessary to complete the next step up the pyramid (10 seconds per rep is usually sufficient).

Another High Volume Pull-up Workout for Building Endurance

This is another great way to get a lot of pull-up reps and practice in. Simply select a number of repetitions based on approximately 20-40% of your maximum. So, if you can do 10 pull-ups in a maxed-out set, then your number is 2-4 reps. Then perform between 8-20 sets of 2-4 reps with as little rest as possible – and no more than 1 minute between sets. Keep performing sets until your pull-up technique starts to decline, and stop if you reach 15-20 sets. Try to set a new personal record each time your perform this pull-up workout by doing either more reps per set or more sets than your last session.

Top Tips and Pull-up Workouts for Advanced Trainees (16-20+ reps)

If you’re an advanced trainee, then you’ve moved beyond all newbie gains and it will take considerable work to keep improving your pull-up performance. Depending on how close you are to your peak potential, weeks or even months may go by before you add another repetition or two to your max – even with hard training. So, patience is a must. Also, when it comes to advanced pull-up trainees who are in the 16-20+ repetition range, the better you get, the harder it gets. And the details start to matter a lot more. But don’t lose faith. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. And here are two ways to keep increasing your pull-up strength and performance once you’ve gotten into the advanced stage.

Increase the Intensity of the Exercise with Weighted Pull-ups

weighted pull-ups

If you don’t have access to a weight belt or weight vest, then a backpack makes a suitable alternative for weighted pull-ups.

If you’re an advanced trainee, then weighted pull-ups would be my tool of choice for breaking through a plateau and increasing your reps. The reason being that as your maximum strength capacity increases, so does your maximum strength-endurance capacity.

Here’s an example to explain what I mean. Let’s say we have two identical twins. One of them can do a weighted pull-up with 100 pounds attached to a weight belt (i.e., his one rep max). The other one can only do a weighted pull-up with 50 pounds attached to a weight belt (i.e., his one rep max). All other things being equal, obviously, the one who can do a pull-up with more weight will probably be able to do more bodyweight reps without any weight attached – just like how a 405 lb squatter will out-rep a 315 lb squatter when they load up a barbell with only 225 lbs.

So, if you’re stuck at 20 reps, and can’t-for-the-life-of-you get to 21 no matter what you do, then it may be time to start adding some additional load when training pull-ups. There are many ways to do this, and here’s one that I’ve found particularly effective:

Weighted Pull-ups Workout

Set 1: bodyweight warmup set to 60-80% of max reps
Set 2: weighted set in the 8-12 reps range (select a weight that will have you max out somewhere between 8-12 reps, e.g. 15 pounds extra on weight belt, weight vest, in a backpack, holding dumbbell between feet, etc.)
Set 3: weighted set in the 5-8 reps range (e.g. 25 lbs extra)
Set 4: weighted set in the 4-5 reps range (e.g. 35 lbs extra)
Set 5: weighted set in the 3-5 reps range (e.g. 45 lbs extra)
Set 6 (optional): weighted set in the 1-3 reps range (e.g. 55 lbs extra)
Set 7 (optional): 1 rep (i.e., max effort single) (e.g. 60 lbs extra)
Set 8 (optional): max set of bodyweight pull-ups

Basically, you warmup, perform a bodyweight set of pull-ups or chin-ups, and then progressively add heavier weight each set until you work in the 3-5ish range for 2-3 sets. With exception of the warmup, each set should be a max or near-max effort (going to technical failure, NOT muscle failure). And if you’re having a good day, and you’re still feeling strong at the end – like you could do a little extra – working up to a max single and also doing one last set of bodyweight pull-ups would be a good finisher, too, but this is probably not necessary for most people to make progress.

This workout can be done 2-3 times per week for 4 weeks (train it as often as you can fully and safely recover from). Or, alternatively, you could just perform your normal pull-up workouts with 5 extra pounds attached, and then add 2.5 to 5 pounds each week. Many people have succeeded with this method, too. And sometimes, simplicity is the greatest sophistication.

Speaking of sophistication…

Increase the Challenge of the Exercise with more Sophisticated Pull-ups

assisted one-arm pull-ups

Assisted one-arm pull-ups are a great way to start working up to a one-arm pull-up.

Another way to keep making progress with your pull-ups is to increase the sophistication of the exercise. For example, working on one-arm pull-up components will produce similar strength gains as weighted pull-ups will – just without the need for additional load. You can work on assisted one-arm pull-ups, one-arm flexed-arm hangs (assisted, if necessary), negative reps, or assisted reps. And there are many other advanced pull-up variations that increase the challenge of the exercise, too, such as archer pull-ups, side to side pull-ups, and many others. They key is that you’re always challenging yourself in new ways, and training specifically for whatever goal it is that you’re trying to achieve.

Also, it should be noted that advanced trainees often require advanced strategies that are rooted in the basics. For example, you’ll likely need to become more intentional about periodizing your pull-up training routine – cycling periods of high volume training with periods of lower volume training, and also allowing ample time for rest and recovery. You may even need to take an extended break off from pull-up training (e.g. 2-4 weeks, minimum) if you’ve hit a really bad plateau. It just depends on your circumstances. But regardless, once you’ve reached this level, you’re going to have to increase the challenge of pull-ups yet again. Just doing more reps might not be the answer.

There are some more advanced pull-up training strategies to help you break a plateau here: 3 Advanced Strategies to Help You Break a Pull-up Training Plateau.


Improve Your Pull-up and Chin-up Results Starting This Week!

This Pull-up Training 101 Guide will definitely get you started and pointed in the right direction, but if there’s anything I’ve learned from 15+ years of doing and teaching pull-ups, it’s that the basics only work for a little while. Eventually, you’ll hit a plateau and will need some more specific help. So, I created a free 5-day Pull-up Training Crash Course to take you to the next level.

There are some tips and strategies that will help you instantly improve your pull-up strength and performance, and some long-term training strategies for all skill levels, too. I also go a little bit deeper into some of the topics covered on this page. Plus, I’ll show you my free 3-month program that has helped thousands of people increase their pull-up numbers since I released it in 2011.

So, if you want to take your pull-up training to the next level, be sure to sign up for the free course using the form below.






 Get John Sifferman’s FREE
Pull-up Training Crash Course

Note: if you want some more info on the course, and all of the free resources you’ll be getting, you can learn more about it here: The 5-Day Pull-up Training Crash Course.


Final Words

How to Rapidly Increase Your Pull-up Numbers in 3 Months or Less

If you’ve ever been stuck, frustrated, or even mad that you can’t get better at pull-ups and chin-ups, and you’d like a done-for-you system that will take you by the hand and show you EXACTLY what you need to do in order to rapidly increase your pull-up strength and performance – no matter who you are or what your starting point is – then allow me to introduce you to the most effective pull-up and chin-up training system currently available.

The Pull-up Solution is a comprehensive pull-up training system that is fully-customizable to both your skill and conditioning level, and was created to be personalized to your unique needs and circumstances. It is designed to take you right to your edge, and no further – each and every time you train – in order to find the “sweet spot” for adapting and getting stronger at this awesome exercise.

The Pull-up Solution is a step-by-step, do-it-yourself exercise program that is the closest thing to having a coach as possible, without actually having one. It works for beginners and advanced trainees alike. So, whether you’re struggling to nail your first pull-up, or you’ve been stuck at a plateau for a long time – and want to supercharge your strength on the bar to score your first 10, 20, or even 30 pull-ups – this system was created for people just like you.

So, if you’ve been struggling with pull-ups and chin-ups and are ready and willing to put in the work necessary to change that, using a tested-and-proven program that guarantees results, then why don’t you head on over to the official website to see if The Pull-up Solution would be right for you.

Find out how I rapidly increased my pull-up numbers and have helped hundreds of other people do the same with my unique approach to pull-up training at the link below…

Click Here to Learn More About The Pull-up Solution

the pull-up solution by john sifferman - video database

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