How to increase your pull-ups for a stronger back

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I used to only be able to do 1 ½ pull-ups, and that was after eight years of lifting weights consistently! In less than a year, I increased my pull-ups from 1.5 to 10. Here’s how I did it. Perform as many pull-ups, for me that was 1-2, and then quickly get on the assisted pull-up machine, and do 10 more pull-ups with good form (for a total number of 12 pull-ups). I did three sets, with a 2-3 minute break between each set, twice a week, with two full days of rest before performing pull-ups again. For instance, if I did pull-ups on Tuesday, I would do them again on Friday.

If you can only do assisted pull-ups, just decrease the assistance by lowering the weight, or using a lighter band, as you get stronger, to make the exercise more difficult. You might want to do 1 set, two times a week, to start, for 30 days, and add a 2nd set each workout for the next 30 days. After 60 days, you can add the third set, every workout, as long as it doesn’t wear you down.

Go at your own pace. The takeaway is that, whatever exercises you want to excel at, do it twice a week with good form. Whatever muscles you want to grow, work them hard, but not failure, twice a week.

Sample pull-up program:

  • Month 1:  12 assisted pull-ups. 1 set, performed twice a week. That’s 24 pull-ups each week.
  • Month 2:  12 assisted pull-ups. 2 sets (do another 12 pull-ups after a 2-3 minute rest period). That’s 48 pull-ups each week.
  • Month 3:  12 assisted pull-ups. 3 sets (this is three rounds of pull-ups, for a total of 36 pull-ups). Take a 2-3 minute break between each set. That’s 108 pull-ups each week.
  • Month 4:  Do as many un-assisted pull-ups, with good form, and then perform the remaining assisted pull-ups. Total reps (with and without assistance should be 12). That’s a total of 108 pull-ups each week
  • Month 5+: keep going, but you don’t need to do more than 4 sets each workout session.

Photo: me

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