Pull-ups are one of the best exercises to build a better back and develop upper body strength. While some argue that the deadlift is the single best exercise for back, and others may favor the row, pull-ups are one of the top contenders and easily in the top 3 for overall best movements to develop the back muscles.
Some people may struggle, however, with pull-ups and are missing out on building their lats, biceps, and upper back. Struggling on pull-ups usually results from either never doing them, weak forearm strength, or having a high bodyweight.
To quickly progress at pull-ups there are a few key elements to include in the strategy for pull-up progression.
The first is high training volume. Secondly, start with assisted pull-ups because that will allow you to do more reps and build up to pull-ups quicker. Thirdly, make sure you are going through the full range of motion when doing pull-ups so that all the muscles which are activated during pull-ups are being built without corners being cut.
High Training Volume
The first and most important key to progressing quickly at pull-ups is to have a high training volume. To get better at pull-ups you should be doing them at least 2-3 times a week if not more. The more volume you do, the quicker your rate of progress will be (up to an extent).
You can do pull-ups during a pull workout or simply do them on their own. The quickest progress will happen when you do pull-ups every day. Doing 3 sets of pull-ups per day will result in significant improvement in a short amount of time.
To get enough volume in, pull-ups should not be done to failure but rather up to a few reps before you would have hit failure. This ensures that you don’t over-exert yourself and will be able to do a few sets every day without over stressing the muscles.
Here is a sample program just for pull-ups to progress quickly at them and see results in 2-3 weeks. This is based off how to increase the amount of pull-ups you can do assuming you can do only 4-8 pulls-ups currently. If you can’t do any, this program will still work as long as you can do some form of assisted pull-ups. The number of pull-ups done per day is the total number of pull-ups overall and can be hit by doing multiple sets of smaller amounts of reps.
This is designed for you to quickly increase the amount of pull-ups you do each day gradually until you are doing pull-ups in sets of 12-15 reps. If you follow this program and add it to the workouts you are already doing, you are guaranteed to be doing more pull-ups by the time you are a couple weeks in.
If you can’t do pull-ups at all, complete these with a resistance band or assisted pull-up machine. If you don’t have access to either of those, do negative pull-ups instead.
|Week 1||10 pull-ups||10 pull-ups||10 pull-ups||12 pull-ups||8 pull-ups||15 pull-ups||15 pull-ups|
|Week 2||12 pull-ups||12 pull-ups||15 pull-ups||15 pull-ups||18 pull-ups||20 pull-ups||22 pull-ups|
|Week 3||25 pull-ups||25 pull-ups||30 pull-ups||25 pull-ups||20 pull-ups||30 pull-ups||40 pull-ups|
|Week 4||50 pull-ups||40 pull-ups||40 pull-ups||60 pull-ups||70 pull-ups||90 pull-ups||100 pull-ups|
Start With Assisted Pull-ups
Next, another key to progressing quickly in pull-ups is to begin at the right level of resistance. If you can’t do any pull-ups you won’t progress at them by doing pull-ups. You may however progress at them by doing assisted pull-ups since that will allow you to work the muscles without having to first be able to actually complete a pull-up.
If you don’t have access to an assisted pull-up machine, you could do pull-ups with resistance bands or negative pull-ups.
Pull-ups with a resistance band are done by attaching a resistance band to the top of a pull-up bar, putting your foot through the other end, and performing a pull-up. This method lessens the amount of bodyweight you have to pull for each rep and will allow you to hit more volume.
For negative pull-ups, start at the top of the bar and slowly lower yourself down, completing the eccentric part of the exercise. You could also have someone help push you up to the top of the bar then you let you control yourself on the way down.
All these methods will accomplish the same thing, reducing the resistance of pull-ups. This will allow you to do more volume and ultimately progress at a quicker rate.
Range of Motion
Thirdly, having a full range of motion when doing pull-ups is important to progress at them. If you do you pull-ups quickly without stopping at the bottom and at the top, you will end up working out your biceps and rear delts much more than back and they won’t develop evenly.
This uneven development of your back vs arms will cause you to plateau at a certain number of pull-ups because your weaker back will limit the number you can do.
To avoid plateauing and continue to make progress make sure to go through the full range of motion and control your movement up and down. If you do pull-ups right you will feel your upper back contracting. Your arms, lats, and upper back should all fatigue at around the same time.
Pull-ups are a great exercise for the back as well as the forearm and biceps. To progress at them quickly, do a lot of volume, lower the level of resistance so it correlates with the level you’re at, and make sure you are going through the full range of motion when doing them.
Some ways to lower the level of resistance for pull-ups are to use an assisted pull-up machine, use resistance bands, and do negative pull-ups. If you find that you’ve plateaued at a certain number of pull-ups you are able to do, make sure you’re doing them with pauses at the top and bottom and a full contraction of the back muscles. This will cause your muscles to develop evenly and there won’t be one muscle fatiguing quicker causing less reps to be able to be done.