Pull-ups are one of the most sought after goals for many gym enthusiasts.
The notion of strength: weight ratio seems to be the biggest factor in most people’s journey.
They either aren’t strong enough for how big they are, or they’re too big for how strong they are.
6 of one, half a dozen of the other?
So how do we get there?
- Develop strength through the pulling muscles and develop a mind-muscule connection
- Drop body fat (non-functional mass)
Rep schemes aren’t irrelevant, but there is no “one size” fits all.
In order to get stronger, you will need to hit all aspects of the strength continuum.
- high reps at a low weight,
- moderate reps at moderate weight/load
- lower reps at high load.
There should be an element of fatigue in order to create a stimulus, however, not too much that fatigue interrupts your performance and causes over-compensation of the surrounding musculature.
Ideally, everything should be done with tempo and a squeeze, aiming to create a neuro-muscular (mind-muscle) connection as well as total training volume, using the formula
Volume = Reps x Sets x Weight x Time under tension (TUT) x Range of motion (ROM)
I would suggest utilising “eccentric” reps when the concentric phase of the movement becomes outside your capacity/ threshold to help increase mechanical tension and total training volume. (TTV)
- Straight arm pull downs (cable machine)
- Straight arm pull downs (bands + dowel)
- Banded Lat Pull downs
- Hinged, Banded Pull Downs
- Seated Rows (cable)
- Underhand Pull ups (with eccentrics if needed)
- Ring Rows
- DB rows (off bench)
- Pendlay rows
- Jumping Pull Ups
- Kipping swings
- Strict Knees to chest / TTB
Suggested reps and sets
3- 5 sets x 3-8 reps
3-5 sets x 6-15 reps
Muscular Endurance/ Capacity
3-5 sets x 10+ reps
Why the wide range and crossover of reps?
Because there is no definitive explanation of which mechanisms are responsible for a given outcome on the continuum.
Each person will respond to given stimulus slightly different based on previous experience and physiological makeup
The only thing we do know is that getting better a strength based skill requires exactly that.
Strength and skill acquisition
Both of which are largely dependant on repetition coupled with time under tension.
- All sets should be done with high intensity and effort.
- Progressively overload the stimulus each week by adding load, adding time under tension, or both.