Practical Tips to Improve Your Pull-Up Performance

Improve Your Pull-UpsSo one day you woke up and thought: “Hey! How many fake world endings did I live through? Maybe I need to improve my Pull-Up performance to be at least somewhat cooler the next time?” Well, this might not be the actual thought. But why not? Pull-Up is essential exercise for building strength and muscle. It’s hard to find an exercise that can match regular Pull-Up in terms of building pulling strength. Besides, it requires nothing except your bodyweight. It’s not a coincidence that this exercise is a staple in training of military and law enforcement units.

Now let’s take a closer look at this exercise. You can see basic performance of the pull-up on the pictures. There are several rules of performing the move:

  • Start from the dead hang
  • Touch the bar with your chest at the top

Of course, there are several other rules like keep your shoulders back and keep your back arched etc., but these requirements can vary from individual to individual. In addition, there are several hand placement considerations:

  • Palms facing the bar are generally called “Pull-Ups”. These are considered “tough” ones here in Ukraine. However, in reality they just shift the accent from your biceps to your forearm muscles a little bit.
  • Palms facing you are regarded as “Chin-Ups”.
  • Palms facing each other are called “Neutral Grip Pull-Ups”.

These terms could be used interchangeably. Also, there are Ring Chin-Ups. They mix all of the hand placements because rings allow free wrist rotation.Pull-Ups They are the most wrist friendly of them all.

As for hand placement width, common dogma says that the wider the grip the more lats are working. And vice versa, the closer the grip the more biceps work. Well, Close Grip Pull-Ups definitely work your biceps more. However, I can’t agree with the wide grip statement. According to latest research, lat activation is the pretty close in middle-grip and wide grip pull-ups. Wide-grip version definitely lacks range of motion. My advice is don’t waste your time on wide grip version and concentrate on regular Chin-Ups instead.

Ok, everybody should already know this. Let’s get to the fun part.

The Fun Part

Ok, so how do you improve those bad boys? There are several practical ways that depend on your conditions.

First of all, if you are just working toward your first Pull-Up, then you should concentrate on different assisted variations. They could be band-assisted Pull-Ups, feet elevated Pull-Ups, Pull-Ups with partner’s help, Pull-Up negatives etc. You should get your first rep pretty fast, if you’re not very overweight or struggling-even-to-pick-up-the-pen weakling. You can get there by trying Pull-Ups every day, or by hitting them hard once or twice per week. Anyway, when you’ll get to sets of 3-5 reps everything will become a bit different. You may find that you are not progressing at all. That’s when you should apply “greasing the groove”. It means that you should perform Pull-Ups throughout the day without draining yourself. Therefore, if your maximum is 5 reps, try doing one set of 2-3 reps several times per day. You should get to 10-12 reps in no time.

There are several ways from here. You can either add weight and get stronger (and progress further toward one-arm chin-ups) or you can work on endurance (or both, but specialization will get you more results). If you decide to get stronger, then I recommend not to exceed 5 reps in set. You should be working in low to moderate volume. Schemes like 3 x 3, 3 x 5, 4 x 4, 5 x 3, 5 x 5 etc. would be just right. Try to add weight to you anytime possible. If you pick endurance training, then there is good old high-frequency training to help you. Try to perform 1 set to failure in the morning and 1 set to failure in the evening. After 3 weeks give yourself several days of rest and then repeat.

In addition, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to train your grip. Try to add some hangs from the bar here and there. This should help.

Closing Thoughts

Now you have all the info you need to master the pull-up. Don’t waste your time, start training right now. Thanks for reading. You know you are awesome. Sharelikesubscribe.

Play rough!


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25 thoughts on “Practical Tips to Improve Your Pull-Up Performance

  1. Radek Karlík

    so doing wide pull ups is useless? i just achieved 10 max dead hang wides and its harder than regular width pull ups so whats point in doing wide? can i get stronger by mixing chin ups with pull ups than just doing 1 type?

    1. Alex Zinchenko Post author

      I’m not saying that doing wide pull-ups is useless. I think, it’s not optimal. If lat activation is pretty much the same then why bother with wide version? Besides, regular version has more range of motion.

      And, of course, mixing grips should be a good idea. Give it a shot.

      – Alex

    2. Michal

      They aren´t useless but unnecessary, also put shoulders into unnatural and unstable position, that´s why they are more difficult too. If you have some flexibility or old injury issues in shoulders, too wide pullups will show them immediately.

      Kid jumping on a branch would never grip wider then little over shoulder width, because it´s subconciously most natural positon for body.

  2. Csarlee

    Hello Alex!
    Very good post although I miss something. It is the way how you can strengthen your lats, biceps and forearms to be able to do any pull-ups. I think this is the major problem with pull-ups that guys are not enough strong to perform it correctly. So I would recommend an extra exercise to stregthen to be able to real pull-ups. Here is a very good demonstration of this drill called 45 degree pull-up or full body row.:
    The point of this exercise is to flex your hip and hold it straight. Many recommend your torso should be 45 degree to the surface. You can vary with the position of your hands, closer and changing of your palms etc facing the bar or you. So all variations like what you can do with pull-ups…

    1. Alex Zinchenko Post author

      It all depends on initial levels of strength. If the person is not too overweight and has some strength pull-ups should be in reach.

      – Alex

  3. Juan David Vargas

    Alex, great post!
    Do you have any ideas to work from 10 chin ups, to 20?
    It’s the stage I am in…because I want to create like a “basic strength level” of 20 chin ups, before start working on the one-arm pull up.. :)

    1. Alex Zinchenko Post author

      Thanks, Juan.

      Actually, the answer to your question is in this post. I would recommend doing 1 set to failure in the morning and 1 set to failure in the evening 6 days per week. This scheme worked extremely well for me.

      Another option would be GTG. Try doing several sets of 5 reps throughout the day, again, for 5-6 days per week. Your results should improve.

      Let me know how it worked for you.

      – Alex

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  8. Goh

    Hey Alex, I’m interested in calisthenics but at the same time I dun wanna compromise my running ability (I need more stamina). What would u recommend?

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    1. Alex Zinchenko Post author

      Not yet. I don’t practice them much now. I concentrate solely on the One-Arm Chin-Up work for pulling. I will write about the Muscle-Up in future. Let me know what exactly you want to know. There are lots of tutorials out there, but maybe they are missing something.

      – Alex

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  13. Arek

    we are living in strange day and age, everything what was believed to work in the past is contradicted – ammount of protein/kg , 5-6 portions a day for max strength/muscle gain etc, sometimes I just dont know who we should believe. At the end of the day , in my humble opinion we should focus on what works best for us. To me wide grip pull ups always cause more harm than gain – I cant count how many times this one excersise caused lateral epicondylitis in one of my elbows (aka tennis elbow) Now I tend to avoid wide grips – I perform neutral grip pull ups (wide and medium width) and it seems it works best for me. And thanks to those issues with wide grip pull ups I discovered that negative reverse curls do wonders for your lateral epicondylitis – better than any drug , stretching etc.

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