Programming Pull Ups (SF style)

Discussion in 'Bodyweight' started by Carl, May 16, 2018.

  1. Carl

    Carl Double-Digit Post Count

    All styles of pull ups (varied grips) are my favourite exercises and a constant in my programmes. I'm wondering what people's experiences are with particular programmes for pull ups using Strong First principles.

    My current approach is to use variations of GTG style clusters (through the course of full body workouts and/or week) and stop sets before my speed slows noticeably (if not before - 1/3 to 2/3 max reps) then test infrequently. I am making gradual progress with this approach after long term stagnation trying to force increases (via near failure training).

    I have noticed that I seem to have a volume threshold before which my elbows are happy, after which they start to complain. The Fighter Pull Up programme as written is too much volume for my elbows as an example.

    Have others that have made the pull up a priority followed a similar route (i.e. GTG plus full body), or would you recommend a more focused pull up only approach?

    I'd like to get my rep baseline up a little further than my current max but I'd like to do that with healthy elbows. Too much volume gets them complaining pretty fast but my end goal would be in the 15-20 clean rep zone. Not a ridiculous goal compared to some of the other impressive standards set on the forum.

    Karen Smith likes this.
  2. Arryn Grogan

    Arryn Grogan Triple-Digit Post Count Certified Instructor

    GTG is a great method to increase your pull-up numbers. My personal method to increase my pull-up was getting to a 10RM and then start doing weighted pull-ups. I've worked my way up to 32kg while also adding around 10 pounds of bodyweight. And getting to the 32kg, I used some Plan Strong programming.
  3. Tirofijo

    Tirofijo Helping Make Others Stronger

    You could add weight and do the 3RM or 5RM versions of Fighter Pull Up program. It is 6 days a week but the daily volume is reduced substantially. Take day 10 of the 3RM version as an example. You only do 14 reps total.

    I started the 3RM version with 40lbs added and two months later my 3rm was 60lbs added and I got 80lbs for a single. I was very please (I'm 45 y/o and have been doing pullups for ever. I wasn't expecting that type of strength increase in just 2 months.) I had an injury not related to pull ups so I'm starting over now.

    My elbows didn't like GTG or high reps. I started over when the program called for 8reps in the first set, as I like to keep the volume low. I added weight and went back to the 3rm version with 60lbs.
  4. offwidth

    offwidth Strong, Powerful, Explosively Athletic Member of the Forum

    FPP: 3RM or 5RM weighted
    damogari likes this.
  5. mprevost

    mprevost Helping Make Others Stronger

    I have had success with trainees by simply alternating a strength focus and a rep focus. We work bodyweight using something similar to the fighter pullup program (3-5 days per week) until we hit a plateau, then switch to weighted pullups using a simple powerlifting template (I like alternating 5 X 5 with heavy triples). Basically bodyweight...adding reps until you plateau, then switch to weighted until you plateau.....and repeat.
  6. Steve Freides

    Steve Freides Director of Community Engagement Staff Member Senior Instructor

    @Carl, you've already received a number of good suggestions, and it makes me happy to see how many of them include adding weight. That's my recommendation, too. I achieved good results with a program I've spelled out elsewhere on the forum - I will try to find a link to it and post it later if no one beats me to that. Basically, it was:

    PU three times per week. Once a week was lower weight for a warmup set, a near-max reps set, and a back-off set with chinup grip. The other two days were higher weight to keep the rep count down, and typical strength training, e.g., 3-5 sets of 3-5 reps each with an 8-10RM weight. Move forward for three weeks, easy/off for the fourth week, and start over a rep or two higher. My personal goal was 20 reps while holding a 20 lb. dumbbell between my feet, so that's what I used for my near-max reps day, and my weighted work was typically 25-35 lbs, also a good portion of it with a chinup grip. Many people would do fine w/ bw-only on near-max day and 10-20 lbs. on weighted days.

    Bret S., Jevgenij and Carl like this.
  7. Carl

    Carl Double-Digit Post Count

    Thanks all. I have veered away from weighted work for pull ups to date but I may need to rethink this based on suggestions. Appreciate the input/insight.
  8. Augustus F-N

    Augustus F-N Triple-Digit Post Count

    Not so much a programming suggestion, but if pull ups hurt your elbows, you could try ring pull ups - if you're not doing them already.
    offwidth likes this.
  9. Karen Smith

    Karen Smith Chief SFB Bodyweight Instructor Master Instructor

    Also are you doing prehab/rehab for elbows?
    I too get elbow pain and after a bad spell a few years back they seem to flair much quicker with high volume so working my extensors, doing massage, some dry needling or scraping plus stretching is a must for me when in a pullup program.

    You might find low volume weighted is key for you but still make sure to take care of the elbows before and after.
    Bret S. and Carl like this.
  10. Carl

    Carl Double-Digit Post Count

    Thanks for the reply and suggestions Karen.

    Yes, I am doing some prehab and stretching and also mixing grips to avoid overuse (same but different). As long as I don’t go too mad with volume (for me) all seems well.

    I do like the idea of staying pure bodyweight to boost numbers but maybe I need to let that go and mix things up a little.

  11. Bauer

    Bauer Triple-Digit Post Count

    I know this thread is a bit older, but I think this Dan John gem answers pretty much all of your questions, except for the +15 zone:
    Pull Ups

    * Start with strong abs and a good grip (Ab Wheel, Hangs)
    * Train you pullups with the 3RM Fighter Pullups Program (3 days per week)
    Carl likes this.
  12. workout union

    workout union Double-Digit Post Count

    Hey Carl, I don't know the aproach you talk, is it a specific program for increasing reps?

    Also, I have some tips, if you want any :), the way I raised my numbers was with different methods, such as: getting more of the eccentric phase, by these I mean go down more slowly than usualy, also using more variety. Additional, as you mentioned, doing max tries and as someone mentioned working on your grip!!

    Here are some ideas:

    Hope I've helped! Stay Strong!
  13. Carl

    Carl Double-Digit Post Count

    Thanks - been a fan of Dan’s for a while so seen this. I’ve definitely found a volume threshold (per session) beyond which my elbows can start to complain so stay within this. Learning to be conservative has taken a while (and some tweaks along the way)! ;)

    Hangs have long been a part of my practice (pre and post) and definitely have improved my grip endurance. They always feel good for the body as a whole as well. Love them.

  14. Troglodyte

    Troglodyte Double-Digit Post Count


    I just noticed some elbow tweakage in the last session of pull ups. Over the last two months, I went from the five rep max scheme in the Fighter Pull up Program to doing 2 pull ups on the minute for ten minutes either two or three times a week based on the A/B structure. Twenty body weight pull ups in ten minutes was too much volume in too little time, so I'm switching back to the 3RM FPP, and giving myself two to three minutes of rest, maybe more, in between sets. I'll see how it goes this next week to determine if I need to lay off completely, hopefully I caught it in time.


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