Last Update On February 7, 2012
Get Better At Pull-ups The "Easy" Way
Pull-ups and chin-ups are one of the oldest exercises and just about anyone had tried them in high school as a measure of strength. The first thing you notice is - they are hard. Most people are lucky to get a few reps the first time they try them. I for example got one and a half and felt like I was going to die. Anyway this article is dedicated exactly to people who want to get out of their pull-up misery.
If You Can't Do One Pull-up
If you can't do even one pull-up or chin-up I advise you to use two exercises - the horizontal row and the scapular pull-up in order to get ready for your first pull-up. Start doing horizontal rows and gradually work until you are able to do a few reps with your feet elevated on a chair, table...etc. Sets and reps are up to you but don't get too crazy and NEVER train to failure.
After you are done with your horizontal rows perform a few sets of scapular pull-ups in order to develop a good pull-up start and to condition the insertions of your lats for pull-ups. On this exercise focus on full range of motion and forger about reps. Just hang from the bar or rings and down-shrug your shoulders without flexing at the elbow. That's how each pull-up should be started. Once you are able to do the feet elevated version of the horizontal row switch to pull-up or chin-ups. You will be able to do 2-3 reps.
If You Can Do 1-3 reps
If you can do 1-3 reps I recommend using the “calm strength” method. You are going to perform 1-2 reps for 8-10 sets with perfect form and NEVER to failure. In other words if you can do 2 pull-ups perform 8-10 sets of 1 rep with relatively small rest between sets. Perform this drill up to a few times a week (depending on what else you are doing), avoid failure and add one rep/set each time. After you are able to do 15 sets of 1 rep rest two days and test your max. I bet it will be well over 2 reps.
If You Can Do 4-6+ reps
If you can do 4-6 reps you can use the same method presented above but instead of 10 x 1 you will do 10 x 2 or 3. Another option is to follow the classic GTG protocol by Pavel Tsatsouline. However make sure you avoid over training and go back when you have to.
If You Can Do 10+ reps
If you can do 10 reps of perfect form pull-ups you are at decent level and you may add a little weight to your pull-ups. Don't get greedy here - 5 lbs - 10lbs will be plenty. Start doing 10 sets of 2 reps with 5 lbs and after you build-up to 15 sets of 2 reps with 5lbs rest test your bodyweight max rep pull-ups. I bet it will be well over 10 reps.
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