I think you will agree with me when I say:
It’s quite hard to increase your pull ups reps.
Or is it?
Well, it turns out that you can dramatically increase your pull ups reps by applying some simple methods and strategies.
In this post, I am going to share with you 10 simple methods that you can easily apply to increase your pull ups.
Table of Contents
- #1: The Most Important Rep Of Your Pull Up Workout
- #2: Increase Your Pull Ups With The “Grease The Groove” Method
- #3: Are You Crazy? 1 Hour Of Pull Ups?
- #4: Strengthen All Your Pulling Muscles
- #5: The “Test Your Might” Workout
- #6: Make Sure You Rest Appropriately Between Your Sets
- #7: Make Pull Ups A Priority
- #8: Do Your Shoulder’s Hurt? Try This
- #9: Experiment With The Tempo
- #10: Train Like A Climber
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Now It’s Your Turn!
- Bonus Infographic: The Benefits Of Pull Ups
#1: The Most Important Rep Of Your Pull Up Workout
Have you ever wondered what’s the most important rep of your workout?
I never did.
I used to think that all reps are equally important.
And that’s true in a sense.
All of your pull ups should be perfectly performed.
However, there is one rep that has a bigger impact on how many reps you’ll be able to perform during your next workout.
What’s that rep?
It’s the very last rep of your workout.
Here’s how to get the most out of the very last pull up:
During the last rep of your workout, you are going to perform the negative portion of the pull up as slow as possible.
What I like to do is to perform some partial isometric holds to failure.
By doing this, you will usually be able to do at least one more pull up during the next workout.
This strategy is very effective for beginners.
You can learn more about the method here:
#2: Increase Your Pull Ups With The “Grease The Groove” Method
The GTG (Grease the Groove) method may be the most effective way to increase your pull ups.
If you’ve been training for a while, you’ve probably already heard of the GTG method.
If not, don’t worry.
I’ll describe it in a second.
First, let’s see what makes the GTG method so effective.
1. It allows you to train with lots of volume without burning yourself out.
2. It’s the best workout method to approach pull ups as a skill because you can focus on your pull up technique and form without getting carried out by the number of reps.
Here’s how the GTG method works:
Firstly, instead of training in a short period of time (like in a normal workout), you are going to spread your training throughout the whole day.
To do that you’ll have to perform multiple training sets (6-10) with big rests in between.
In the beginning, I would recommend you to rest for at least 1 hour between your sets.
Secondly, you are never going to failure or even close to it. You should stop when you start to feel a slight burn. For example, if your max pull ups are 10 reps, you should practice with sets of 4-5 reps.
Third, since you are no longer focused on doing lots of reps in a single set, you should put all of your focus on your pull up form (no kipping, no muscling through the movement, etc).
How To Apply The GTG Method To Your Current Training Plan
While it’s possible to replace all of your pull up training with GTG workout days, you don’t have to.
You can still get the benefits of this method just by adding one GTG workout day per week.
How To Structure Your GTG Workout
For this example, let’s say that your total pull ups are 5.
That means that you are going to train with sets of 2-3 pull ups.
Then you’ll have to choose a number of sets. Usually, 6-10 are enough, depending on your daily schedule.
The easiest way to remember your training sets is to have them programmed prior/after a “main” daily event (eg. lunch, breakfast, waking up, work, etc).
How Can I Progress With GTG?
Once your GTG workout starts to become easy, you can easily increase the difficulty by increasing the total number of reps you are performing during the day.
You can do that by:
1. Adding more reps to your sets
When you are doing this, you should be very mindful not to go to failure.
Usually, you’ll have no issue if you progress one rep/set at a time.
2. Performing more sets throughout the day
If you start right away with 10 sets per day, it can be hard to add more sets without reducing the rest between sets.
More Training Resources
I learned about the GTG method from Pavel Tsatsuline’s “Naked Warrior“.
Pavel is one of the first trainers who advocated the approach of strength as a skill.
If you are interested in a training system that consists of only GTG workouts, make sure to check “Naked Warrior” out.
And lastly, for a better understanding check out this video:
What If I Don’t Have A Pull Up Available?
The only drawback of the GTG method is that it requires a pull up bar available at any moment.
If you don’t have a pull up bar at your home yet, don’t worry.
I am going to share another workout that you can apply instead of the GTG method in the next section.
#3: Are You Crazy? 1 Hour Of Pull Ups?
Bare with me for a sec.
This workout is easier than it sounds.
As I said in the previous section, it’s very helpful to approach your pull ups as a skill.
However, if you don’t have a pull up bar available at all times, it’s very hard to practice with the GTG method.
For these reasons, you are going to have a complete hour dedicated to practicing only pull ups.
This is going to both help you focus on the pull up form and train with lots of volume.
Here’s how the workout is structured:
Warm up: 15 Minutes
The first 15 minutes are going to be dedicated to warming up. The warm up is highly related to your current training level.
An intermediate warm up might look like this:
A1: 2×10 arm circles
B1: 2x(8-10) active hangs
60s rest between
C1: 3x30s brachiation practice
Pull Up Workout: 45 Minutes
During the 45 minutes, you are going to perform as many pull ups as you can.
However, this is not an AMRAP workout for two reasons:
- Your rest between sets is fixed and should be 3:30 to 4:30 minutes.
- You won’t go to failure in any set. Similarly to the GTG method, if your pull up max is 10 reps, you should train with sets of 5-7 reps.
It’s very helpful to have two timers. One for the rest between sets and one for the total hour of the workout.
For a more detailed version of the workout, check out the following article:
This workout is a modification of Jujimufu’s deadlifting routine:
#4: Strengthen All Your Pulling Muscles
It’s kind of obvious ain’t it?
If you increase your pulling strength and endurance in general, your total pull ups are going to increase as well.
So why train only with pull ups?
Of course, pull ups are going to be the cornerstone of your program, but you should train with other pulling exercises that challenge your muscles in a different way.
This is going to help you develop a more balanced physique and you’ll increase your pull ups faster.
Here are some pulling exercises you could start training with:
- Body rows
- Progressions towards the one body row
- Plyometric body rows
- Skin the cat
- Ice-cream makers
If you have access to weights, here are some exercises that can help you:
Last but not least, you should also practice pull ups with different grip variations.
Some pull up variations are:
- Overhand pull ups
- Underhand pull ups
- Neutral pull ups
- Wide pull ups
- Close pull ups
- Commando pull ups
How do you put all of these exercises into your current training plan?
Fortunately, it’s very easy.
It goes like this:
If in your program you have 3 pull up workouts per week, you are going to replace one of them with a different pulling exercise.
Then, you are going to have one day in which you always train with your stronger pull up variation (the one you can do the most reps).
And in the last day, you will train with a different pull up variation.
For example, your program could look like this:
Monday: Neutral pull ups (if it’s your strongest)
Wednesday: One arm bodyweight rows progressions
Friday: Pull up variation (not your strongest)
If you train your pull ups for more than 3 days per week, you can change the workouts as you please as long as you have 3 workouts as described previously.
#5: The “Test Your Might” Workout
There are lots of people that consider going to failure a bad thing.
But is it?
Since the ultimate goal is to build endurance, why is it going to failure a bad thing?
Based on my experience going to failure can be very helpful for endurance gains, as long as you rest appropriately after the workout.
In the “Test Your Might” Workout, you are going to train to failure.
Going to failure is going to both help you increase your endurance and your mental toughness.
Here is how the “Test Your Might” workout is structured:
Warm up [10 minutes]
During the warm up you are going to get the blood flowing with some easy movements.
Here’s a sample warm up:
A1. 2×10 arm circles
B1. 3x(10-15)s passive hang
C1. 2×5 body rows/ assisted pull ups
First Part [20 minutes]
The first part of the workout is a 20 minute AMRAP workout.
AMRAP stand for As Many Reps As Possible.
So in this 20 minutes, you are going to perform as many pull ups as you can.
There are no regular sets and reps. You are going to perform and rest as needed to perform the biggest volume possible.
The only thing that you need to remember is to never go to failure, as this will eventually burn you out before the 20 minutes are over.
When the 20 minutes are over, rest for 2 minutes and move to the second part of the workout.
Make sure to keep track of how many reps you have done.
Second Part [1 set]
After the 2 minutes are over, you are going to perform a regular pull up set.
Do as many pull ups you can and perform the last rep as described in strategy #1.
Rest for 2 more minutes and move to the last part of the workout.
Third Part [1 set]
During the third part, you are going to perform one set of an easier pulling exercise.
You can train with assisted pull ups or bodyweight rows.
In one set do as many reps you can and perform the last rep as described in strategy #1.
When you train with this workout, you shouldn’t train with any pulling exercises during the same or the next day to recover completely.
Furthermore, you should practice with this workout only once per week or once every two weeks.
Last but not least, this workout is not designed for beginners. You should be able to do at least 8 pull ups with good form before trying this out.
#6: Make Sure You Rest Appropriately Between Your Sets
When I was a beginner, I knew that to train for maximal strength you needed to train with few reps, lot’s of sets and rest for 3-5 minutes between sets.
So, in the beginning, I followed this approach and I was progressing very efficiently.
However, when I started to become stronger and was able to do around 10 pull ups, my progress started to stall.
Since the program was effective so far, I didn’t think that there was anything wrong with it and I kept training harder.
But I wasn’t seeing the results I was expecting.
What was the mistake?
I continued to use the same training parameters for an exercise that was no longer a “strength move” and it had become an endurance one.
So, I had to turn the strength workout into an endurance workout.
All I had to do was to decrease the number of sets from 5 to 3 and the rest in between from 3-5 minutes to 60-90 seconds.
After I did that I started to progress once again.
What Should You Do?
First, you have to find out if the pull up is a strength exercise or an endurance one for you.
You figure this out based on how many total reps you can perform.
Then you are going to choose training parameters based on your total reps.
If you can do 6 pull ups or less, you should train with lots of sets(4-6), few reps (2-5) and big breaks (3-5 minutes).
If you can do more than 6 but less than 10 pull ups, you should train with fewer sets (3-4), a moderate amount of reps (4-6) with small breaks in between (90-180 seconds).
If you can do more than 10 pull ups, you should train with 3 sets, high reps (more than 8) and very little rest (60-90 seconds).
Regardless of your total pull ups, you can always apply the method described in #1.
If you interested in learning more about training parameters and bodyweight training, make sure to check out the “Never Gymless” book.
#7: Make Pull Ups A Priority
“Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.” ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
What is your biggest training priority?
Or to make the question simpler:
What is your main training goal?
Knowing the answer to this question is really important, as it will allow you to shift the focus of your training towards the direction you want.
A very good way to increase your total pull ups is to make them the most important part of your training.
How do you make that?
It’s quite simple:
First of all, your pull ups should be performed at the beginning of your workout when you are still fresh.
Secondly, you put all of your focus in increasing your pull ups and meeting your goal and for the time being, you spent less time and attention on some other skills you might working on right now.
Third, you never miss a pull up workout.
Lastly, you should have a specific goal in mind, like being able to do 15 pull ups and not something general like “lots of” pull ups. This way you’ll be able to measure your progress more easily and you’ll be able to shift your focus and priorities once your meet your goal.
#8: Do Your Shoulder’s Hurt? Try This
After training with a high volume of pull ups, you might start experiencing shoulder pain.
This happens mainly because of two reasons:
#1: You are performing pull ups incorrectly
Perfect form is essential to your training.
It doesn’t only look better and makes you stronger than sloppy pull ups, it’s also allowing you to stay healthy and avoid injuries in the long run.
But how do you perform a perfect pull up?
There are 2 ingredients to the perfect pull up form:
1. You depress your scapula before pulling up.
You can do that by pulling your shoulders away from your ears. I find it helpful to “lean back” a little to engage more my upper back as well.
2. Then you pull up with no kipping until your chin is above the bar or your chest touches the bar.
Here are some helpful videos about the perfect pull up form:
#2: Your pull up program isn’t balanced
When you want to increase your pull ups, you have to train with lots of pull ups.
However, when you increase your pull ups with more sets and more training sessions, you have to make sure that the rest of your program stays balanced as well.
To maintain the balance in your program, you only have to include some pushing exercises after your pull up sessions.
The goal of these sessions is to train the opposite movement and to maintain the balance in your physique.
Here are some push up variations that you can include in your training:
- Regular push ups
- Pike push ups
- Handstand push ups
- Hindu push ups
- Dive-bomber push ups
- And if you have weight, any type of overhead pressing
Based on my experience, training the exact opposite of the pull up (overhead pushing) is more effective than regular push ups.
Even if your shoulders aren’t hurting right now, these tips can help you train with pull ups more efficiently and prevent injuries that could occur in your training.
#9: Experiment With The Tempo
First things first:
What is tempo?
Tempo refers to the speed with which you are performing an exercise and in our case, your pull up speed.
Usually, people train always with the same tempo and never try to experiment with different ones.
Even though doing this isn’t going to stop you from doing lots of pull ups, training with different tempo can benefit you in three ways:
- You are going to develop more control
- Slow pull ups will help you target your weak spots
- It will provide a different training stimulus
#10: Train Like A Climber
There is no doubt that climbers are some of the stronger pullers around.
After all, most of them can easily perform one arm pull ups, for reps!
So, why not train like a climber to increase your pulling strength?
Since this post is only about simple and easy ways to increase your pull ups, I am going to include only one simple climbing exercise that you can apply right away.
This exercise is called:
So far I have seen two variations of this exercise:
This is the most common variation.
As shown on the video, it’s performed like this:
- You pull yourself up
- Pause at the top for 5 seconds
- Go back down
- Pull yourself up
- On the way down, pause at a 45-degree angle for 5 seconds and then go down
- Pull yourself up
- On the way down, pause at the 90-degree angle for 5 seconds and then go down
- Pull yourself up
- On the way down, pause at the 135-degree angle for 5 seconds and then go down
That’s one rep.
This easier variation is performed like this:
- You pull yourself up to a 135-degree angle
- You pause for 5 seconds
- From there you pull to a 90-degree angle
- You pause for 5 seconds
- From there you pull to a 45-degree angle
- You pause for 5 seconds
- From there you pull to the top
- You pause for 5 seconds
- Similarly go back down pausing for 5 seconds at the 45, 90 and 135 angles
That’s one rep.
If you can’t yet perform a full frenchie of the first variation, you can start practicing with the second one.
As you can already see, frenchies are a great exercise to increase your endurance and strength in all pull up angles.
I suggest that you start using frenchies once you are able to do 5 pull ups or more.
If you’d like to include more climbing exercises into your workout, check you this article:
Frequently Asked Questions
#1: What Of The Above Should I Choose?
I would suggest you apply the strategy that’s easier based on your current training program.
I think that strategy #3 is the easiest to apply.
Also, try not to test too many things at once, as this could mess up your training program.
Furthermore, some of the methods could be implemented simultaneously while others not.
Lastly, if you find out that some of the ways work for you, make sure to stick with them.
A very simple way to test the methods is this:
- Choose the easiest method to apply
- Stick with it for 2 weeks
- Then if it works stick with it until it doesn’t.
- If you can add more modifications to your program, go to step 1.
#2: What If I Can’t Perform A Single Pull Up Yet?
If you can’t perform a regular pull up yet, then most of the methods above are not yet for you.
But don’t worry.
Achieving your first pull up isn’t as difficult as it may seem.
Because this post isn’t about achieving your first pull up, I will share with you some of the best plans that I have found.
Here are some very helpful articles:
- The Definite Pull Up Progression Guide
- Resource: Charles R Poliquin’s Compilation of Chin-Up Tips
- Can’t Do A Pull Up Yet? Here’s How To Get It Done
- How To Do A Pull up If You Can’t Even Do One
#3: What If I Can Only Do Only 1 Pull Up?
Well, you have two choices:
1. Apply the methods to easier pulling exercises
Such exercises are:
- Bodyweight rows
- Assisted pull ups
This will allow you to strengthen you pulling muscles and as a result increase your pull ups.
2. Apply some of the methods
For example, you could apply the GTG method by training with 5-7 sets of 1 rep.
Now It’s Your Turn!
I have just given you 10 methods with which you can increase your pull ups.
Now it’s your turn!
Choose one of these methods and start using it right away!
Bonus Infographic: The Benefits Of Pull Ups
Infographic source: YoInnovation