Let’s be honest: you should be able to do more pull-ups. Yes, they’ll carve you a head-turning V-shape, counteract your nine-to-fiver slouch and burn unholy amounts of fat – but more importantly, you can almost always find something to do them on so there’s no reasonable excuse. Double digits is the benchmark – and if you’re already there, make a concerted push towards the holy grail of 20. There’ll be no kipping, butterflying or other cheating on the form here, thanks – the strict standard is head above the bar at the top, arms straight at the bottom and minimal leg movement throughout. Time to get your back in action.
First, tweak your pull-up form for maximum efficiency. Instead of pulling down, pull back – aim to get your elbows behind you as you pull up and you’ll fire up your lats, reducing reliance on your arms. Brace your abs as well – according to studies, a properly-done pull-up incurs more muscular activation than even a weighted crunch. Finally, resist the temptation to ‘bounce’ – it might get you another rep, but the elbow tendinitis isn’t worth it.
Week Day 1 Day 2 Day 3
Week 1 Sets:5 Reps:5 20 2x max reps
Week 2 Sets:6 Reps:4 25 3x max reps
Week 3 Sets:7 Sets: 3 30 4x max reps
Week 4 Sets:8 Reps:2 35 4x max reps
Week 5 Max Reps Max reps Max reps
Day 1: Heavy weight
‘Warm-up sets don’t count towards your total,’ says trainer Jason Sayler. ‘Choose a weight that makes the reps hard but doable. If you have to drop to four on the final set, take a couple of seconds and then do the last rep, that’s acceptable. Rest for three to four minutes between sets.’
Day 2: Light weight
Add much less weight than you used on day one – 6-8kg will do it. ‘Break the reps up into as few sets as possible,’ says Sayler. ‘And time yourself, aiming to go faster each week.’
Day 3: Bodyweight
‘The goal here is to get the most reps possible in total,’ says Sayler. ‘So don’t “hit the wall” at any point. Stop one or two reps shy of failure on each set.’ Rest for two minutes between sets.