How To Get Better At Pull Ups – Close Look
In this article I will be examining how to get better at pull ups. In a previous article I mentioned how having lots of mini goals can allow you to stay motivated in your bodybuilding journey. One physical performance goal that a lot of people have is to improve how many pull ups they can do and consequently become a lot better at this exercise. Pull ups are one of the best back exercises that you can do and they will help to develop the lats, forearms, grip and build thickness across your upper back.
Consistency Is Key
As with everything, being consistent is key when it comes to improving. By performing pull ups multiple times each week you get used to the movement pattern and become very efficient at the exercise. For me, I perform pull ups each time I go to the gym every week, one day I will do pull ups with a neutral grip and the other time with an overhand grip. This allows me to work the exercise from different angles. I generally do as many reps as I can with my bodyweight for each variation and aim to improve on the number of reps each week. If I am unable to do more reps then I will add more sets to accumulate more total volume.
For instance, let’s say on Tuesday I go to the gym and am able to hit 10 reps on neutral grip pull ups and the following Tuesday I still can only get 10 reps. What I will then do is another set of multiple reps to accumulate more volume and do more than I did the previous week. I will log this all down in my notebook. Chances are the following week I will then be able to crank out 11 reps on neutral grip pull ups. This is the basic principle and is what I use for both pull up variations.
Just like all exercises progressive overload is key to making strength gains. For instance, if all you ever did on the bench press was 100kg for reps and never went heavier you would never make big strength gains. You have to progressively overload the weight in a consistent manner over a long period of time. On pull ups you can do this by using a dip belt that you put around your waist and can attach extra weights onto. Before adding any extra weight on pull ups make sure that you can perform a minimum of 10 pull ups with good form with just your bodyweight.
The principle of progressively overloading the pull up with weights is similar to the above case with just bodyweight. Instead this time you will manipulate the weight a lot more than you would the number of reps. A good example of how you can do this is explained below:
- Week 1: Do bodyweight + 1.25kg pull ups. Imagine you get 9 reps.
- Week 2: Do bodyweight + 2.5kg pull ups. Imagine you get 8 reps.
- Week 3: Do bodyweight + 2.5kg pull ups again. Imagine you now get 9 reps.
- Week 4: Do bodyweight + 3.75kg pull ups: This time you get 8 reps.
This is a good approach for progressively overloading as you are working in a decent rep range for hypertrophy close to 10 reps. Whilst at the same time you can get stronger over time by adding more weight. The reason week 3 was the same extra weight added as week 2 was because I would want to hit a minimum of 9 reps on this set. Week 5 would therefore be a repeat of week 4 with the aim of getting an extra rep. This is exactly the method that I like to employ. I personally would never add more than 10kg of weight to pull ups as I find the risk to reward ratio is then not worth it with regards to straining a lat. When you get to doing pull ups with 10kg extra weight then just keep manipulating the reps higher and higher at that weight and accumulating more total volume. You can also make use of lighter backdown sets as well.
Using Bands For Backdown Sets
To accumulate more total volume through backdown sets you can use bands to essentially take weight off your bodyweight. Heavier bands will take more weight off you and lighter bands will make it only slightly easier than bodyweight pull ups. The benefit of using various bands to assist you in your pull ups is it gives you lots of options for backdown sets.
It is no different to doing your max set of bench presses and then doing progressively lighter backdown sets for more total volume and hypertrophy. To find out more about resistance bands and which ones I think are the best go HERE. I personally use my black band and purple band for backdown sets to really pump up the muscles and accumulate more total reps from my pull up session. I generally only do backdowns using the bands once per week as they can induce serious pumps and doing lots of backdowns too often can lead to longer recovery times. You don’t want to have sore muscles for prolonged periods after training.
To conclude, in this article I have detailed how to get better at pull ups. I want to re-iterate the key points again. First that consistency is key to getting better at pull ups, and the importance of progressive overload to improve your pull up strength. Finally making use of lots of backdown sets using bands is a fantastic way to build up extra volume and it will directly carryover to improving how many pull ups you can do with your bodyweight. There is an endurance effect from the backdown sets that will benefit you when performing pull ups for max reps.
If you have any questions about anything I have covered in this article, please leave me a comment below. I would love to answer your questions and interact directly with you. As always, stay safe and enjoy your training!