The Pullup

The pullup is arguably the king of upper body exercises.  It’s a functional, compound movement that also happens to be a great indicator of strength to bodyweight ratio. If improving your pullups is a priority, you’ll need to train them at least twice a week.  The problem is that it’s hard to get enough exposure to pullup work in a class setting if you’re only doing 2 or 3 classes a week.  So we’ve decided to give you some tools to work your upper body pulling strength on your own.

Do Your Homework

To this end, we recently scheduled some pullup clinics and posted an 8 week pullup program in the gym.  There are 3 versions of this program, choose your program based on your current pulling strength and be honest with yourself about where you are at right now.  Have a good look at the Program #1 and make sure you feel very confident in all of aspects of that program before moving on to Program #2 and Program #3.

Here are the links to download the individual programs.

Pullup Program #1 – for those who are working on getting 10 strict horizontal ring rows

Pullup Program #2 – for those who have 10 strict horizontal ring rows but want to get their first strict pullup

Pullup Program #3 – for those who have 1 or 2 strict pullups but would like to get more

Each of these program includes 3 workouts per week for 8 weeks.  The sessions should take 10 to 15 minutes each and can be done before or after class.  Each workout includes 2 different exercises that should be done with 45  to 60 sec of rest between sets.  For any pullup work on the bar, alternate pronated, supinated and mixed grips as much as possible.

Although the program is 8 weeks, we recommend that you take at least 48 hours between pullup workouts and that you take into account pullup work in class and avoid overdoing it.  If you can’t get all 3 workouts in a single week, don’t worry.  Don’t skip any of the sessions in the program, instead just pick up where you left off and it will take you a bit longer than 8 weeks to finish the program.   You will notice some times set aside during week 4 and week 6 to test your pullup.  Make sure that you are feeling 100% rested for these testing sessions.

Here are a few more tips and tricks to remember on your journey to pullup domination:

    • Don’t neglect the food.  Carrying around a few extra pounds of bodyweight can make pullups a lot more difficult.  Stay on track with your nutrition and you will get faster results.
    • Mobility, mobility, mobility… Tight shoulders and thoracic area will cause you to compensate in some strange and mechanically compromising ways so add in some mobility work regularly.  Consider seeing a good massage therapist, chiro or active release specialist.
    • Rest and recover.  Improvements in strength require adaption but this adaptation only occurs once our bodies fully recover from the stressors that provoke the adaptation.


The Fine Details

The program has a strong emphasis on structural balance and includes a lot of shoulder accessory work.  You may not be familiar with all the exercises in the program so we’ve put together some videos demonstrating the basic movements.

The first video explains some of the upper body structural balance exercises that we’ve dubbed “limiting factor pulling exercise” in the program.  This refers to some specific accessory work that may help your progress, particularly if your lack of strength in this area is hindering your progress.  This video explains the 3 limiting factor exercises.

The second video explains the two versions of the IYT drills, using free weights and rings.