So you want to increase your pull up numbers. Maybe you’ve been struggling for a while to get past what you can currently do and have hit a plateau – we’ve all been there.
In this short article, I’m going to show you how you can increase your pull up reps using 4 different exercises that are very effective at increasing those reps.
These are all tried and tested exercises that I personally have had success with in the past and for that reason, I know all of these are very effective and will definitely get your more pull up repetitions in your workout sets.
In my opinion, Pull-Ups should be a staple in everyone’s workout program in some capacity, whether that’d be a regular shoulder width Pull Up or a variation of these, like a Wide Grip Pull Up, an L-sit Pull Up, etc.
It’s only wise that we try to maximize the number of quality repetitions we can do of this exercise… Not to mention you feel like a complete beast when you get to the stage where you’re ripping out a bunch of seemingly effortless Pull-Ups.
If you’re reading this but can’t yet do a pull-up I’ve also written an article about how you can get your first rep in no time!
Without further ado, let’s get into the exercises!
How To Increase Pull Up Reps:
Exercise #1 – Scapula Pulls a.k.a Active Hang
If you’re into calisthenics or just bodyweight fitness in general, you’ve probably heard how important the scapula is for nearly every upper body movement. And that’s definitely true.
Scapula stability is crucial for overhead pulling strength and will have a direct impact on how many quality pull ups you can do.
That’s why the first exercise I’m listing on here are: Scapula Pulls.
This is a great exercise to both condition and strengthen your scapula and will have a direct carry over to the number of pull-ups you can do. So, in short, strong scapula = more reps.
How To Do The Scap Pull
This exercise is actually very simple but it’s important that your form is spot on! Here’s how you do it:
- Start in a dead hang;
- Pull your shoulder blades down and try to pinch them together until your into an active hang;
- Keep your elbows straight at all times;
- Repeat for reps or hold for time;
Make sure to control the movement and really feel yourself going through the whole range of motion, nice and slowly. This exercise is very simple but it is harder than it looks, so if you can’t do many reps, don’t stress it.
Here’s a great video of FitnessFAQs demonstrating and going in-depth of how to correctly perform the exercise and get the most out of it. He even goes so far as to call it the best exercise to increase pull ups but I think that mostly applies if you’re a beginner.
Exercise #2 – Eccentrics (or negative reps)
Next up: Pull up Eccentrics. Eccentrics are a great way to build strength at a movement pattern we want to get stronger at. It’s the only exercise you need when first building up the strength to your first pull up, and it’s still a great exercise to do afterward to break your pull up plateau and keep those reps coming.
How To Do Pull Up Eccentrics
All good conventional pull up form queues apply. Here’s how to do it:
- Start at the top position of the pull-up;
- Hold it for a couple of seconds and begin lowering;
- Repeat for reps.
Now, this should be done as slowly and as controlled as possible. This will develop great strength through the whole range of motion. Start with 10 seconds (so the movement from the beginning to the end should last 10 seconds) and build it up to 30 seconds.
Exercise #3 – Adding Isometric Holds
Adding Isometric, or static, holds during a pull up is also very effective at getting you better at doing pull-ups. It’s really simple but it is also really hard, as you’ll know if you tried this before.
This is generally a great method for increasing your pulling strength but is also a great specific exercise. So if you find that you struggle, let’s say, at the top portion of the pull-up, you might want to add an isometric hold at the top of your pull-ups and this will address the weak link and get you stronger.
How To Add An Isometric Hold To Your Pull Ups
For an overall approach to increasing pull up strength, you can just add a pause to your pull up in different stages of the pull-up. So, for example, you could do a Pull Up with a 3-sec pause at the top, a 3-sec pause at the middle of the pull-up and a 3-sec pause in the active hang position. You’d repeat this for reps and sets.
A great exercise that uses this concept is called the Frenchy Pull Up. Rock climbers use this exercise a lot for increasing their performance. It’s really effective, really fun, but it is damn hard!
How To Do A Frenchy:
This exercise has you pause in the 3 portions of the pull-up. The top portion, the middle portion where your arms are at 90 degrees and the bottom portion where you’re in an active hang. A repetition of a Frenchy is as follows:
- Pull up and hold the top portion for 5 secs and lower down;
- Pull yourself up again and as you lower hold the middle position for 5 secs and lower down;
- Pull yourself up again and this time lower down to the bottom position and hold that for 5 secs
- Congrats, you’ve done ONE repetition of Frenchies lol.
It’s damn hard but damn effective. Have fun with these!
Exercise #4 – Adding Weight
Now, on to the last method of increasing your pull up strength: adding weight. In my opinion, this is the best method and once you start working on your weighted pull-ups you’ll feel much stronger and powerful in your regular pull-ups, and you’ll see a considerable increase in your pull up repetitions once you take the weight off.
This is by far my favorite Pull Up progression as I feel like it’s much more effective and you can gauge progress much more effective simply because you can put a number on the weight you’re lifting and for how many repetitions. This is also one of my favorite exercises to build an amazing and powerful physique.
I’d have to say though that this exercise isn’t for beginners. You should at least be able to perform 10+ pull up repetitions before starting your weighted pull-up training. With that being said, if you can comfortably do 10+ reps, I’d argue that this is the most effective way to progress your pull up game, more effective than pull up variations such as L-sit Pull-Ups or Archer Pull-ups, in my opinion.
How To Do Weighted Pull Ups:
OK, so you can do 10+ pull-ups and want to get that number even higher. You won’t need more than 11lbs (5kg) to challenge yourself.
There are 2 ways I like to progress with this one:
- Linear progression;
- Weight progression.
Progressing through linear progression is pretty straight forward, you just keep the weight the same but aim to do more repetitions or/and sets every workout sessions.
For example, you start with 5 reps of 3 sets of weighted pull-ups in week 1 and you try to build that up to 12 reps of 3-4 sets over time and when you get to that level, you increase the weight. That’s linear progression.
‘Weight progression’ as I’ve named it is a bit different and is ideal if your sole purpose is just to add more WEIGHT to your pull-ups. With ‘weight progression’ you’d want to keep adding a small amount of weight, typically 1lbs (0,5 kg) to your pull-ups every training session. It’s a very effective strategy and it is based on this small incremental approach that over time will be very effective.
I came across a very effective method for implementing this strategy that goes as follows:
- You work with a 5-8 rep range for 3-4 sets;
- You add weight based on your set:
- 5 reps = +1lbs (0,5kg)
- 6 reps = +2lbs (1,25kg)
- 7 reps = +5lbs (2,5kg)
- 8 reps = +10 lbs (5kg)
So if you start working with 10lbs (5kg) and in your last set you managed to do 5 repetitions, the next training sessions you should be starting with 11lbs (5,5kg).
I learned about this method from Mathew Zlat on YouTube when he made a video sharing a weighted calisthenics routine for beginners. Great stuff!
If you’re doing this at home you’ll need a dip belt and some weight plates to get started if you don’t have some laying around in your home already.
Note: Remember to warm up properly if you’re going to give this routine a shot. I find that a good specific warm-up could be 3 reps x 3 sets of regular pull-ups and 5×3 of regular dips. Listen to your body and if you feel you need to do more than do that.
Wrapping It Up
I hope you found this article helpful and I know for sure if you work with these exercises you’ll increase your pulling strength substantially.
Keep in mind to always warm up thoroughly before your strength sessions and to always use proper form and a full range of motion when you perform the exercises I recommended.
If there’s any exercises I missed and you think should’ve made the cut or if you have any questions or feedback, please leave a comment in the comment section below and I’ll get back to you ASAP.
Happy training everyone!