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View Full Version : Getting big pullup numbers


Shane Skowron
06-06-2010, 07:06 PM
One of my current goals is to perform 30 strict pullups.
I've done 28 good ones on two separate occasions but I seem to have stalled. Right now I'm doing pull-type exercises about twice per week, either weighted or unweighted. When I do them I'm doing max effort reps with plenty of rest in between sets.

So should I continue what I'm doing or should I go to a higher volume training program like the Armstrong or Recon Ron program? I do a lot of other training so I'm not sure if high volume will hurt me.

Chris Butler
06-06-2010, 07:36 PM
IMO- 30 strict pullups is a burly goal! GOOD LUCK!
http://chadwaterbury.com/increase-your-pull-ups-in-record-time/

Steven Low
06-06-2010, 07:38 PM
Grease the groove... start sets of 16-23 for 3-5 times per day 5-6 times per week.

Donald Lee
06-06-2010, 10:05 PM
Grease the groove... start sets of 16-23 for 3-5 times per day 5-6 times per week.

If this doesn't work, you could mix things up. Do pullups 4-5 days/week. Do density type stuff or whatever the popular pullup programs seem to do for endurance 2-3 days. Do strength work 1-3 days. You could ramp up to a heavy set (1-5 reps) of weighted pullups followed by your endurance work some days. You may also find it helpful to do drop sets. Drop sets will bias towards making your stronger muscles (Type IIA/higher threshold fibers) more oxidative.

What you decide to do depends upon your weaknesses. How do your maximum set of pullups generally go? Are you explosive early and gas fast? Do you get to like 15 and then have to do rest-pause singles? You can tell your weaknesses based on what's going on in your maximum set.

Greasing the groove mostly just helps with honing the skill, but since you're only doing pullups 2 days/week, it will probably help.

Steven Low
06-07-2010, 05:23 AM
Yeah, I pretty much just suggested GTG since you're only doing pullups 2x per week.

Density should be able to work well too if you wanna go that route.

Shane Skowron
06-07-2010, 09:07 AM
What you decide to do depends upon your weaknesses. How do your maximum set of pullups generally go? Are you explosive early and gas fast? Do you get to like 15 and then have to do rest-pause singles? You can tell your weaknesses based on what's going on in your maximum set.


I can usually get to about 19-20 before having to pause for singles.


I think I'll switch over to doing PU's more frequently like you guys suggested. One question, how many days per week should I go to exhaustion? I imagine I should do it at least once so I can see if I'm progressing, but not more than twice because of the load on the CNS.

Gavin Harrison
06-07-2010, 09:11 AM
I can usually get to about 19-20 before having to pause for singles.


I think I'll switch over to doing PU's more frequently like you guys suggested. One question, how many days per week should I go to exhaustion? I imagine I should do it at least once so I can see if I'm progressing, but not more than twice because of the load on the CNS.

Typically with higher frequency you do not go to exhaustion. Pavel suggests doing it once a month or 2 months, to gage progess, and take a few days off after.

Pat McElhone
06-07-2010, 09:59 AM
I can usually get to about 19-20 before having to pause for singles.


I think I'll switch over to doing PU's more frequently like you guys suggested. One question, how many days per week should I go to exhaustion? I imagine I should do it at least once so I can see if I'm progressing, but not more than twice because of the load on the CNS.

Just know the standards for the actual test. I know at some schools, the pull-ups are done to an up/down 2 count cadence. Also, can legs be crossed? How far forward can you swing? Will there be an instructor standing 1 foot in front of you and if you hit him is the event terminated? How fat is the bar?

It is very common for people coming into any selection to have very high pull-ups, push-ups whatever. But some schools have very strict standards and that is why reps are often very low. It can be very humbling. Good Luck.

Frank Needham
06-07-2010, 12:18 PM
The current world record holder's methods my be of some interest to you. http://www.wannabebig.com/forums/showthread.php?88041-16-Year-Old-does-2-446-pull-ups-in-12-hours-breaking-the-world-record-by-224-reps.
He has just recently set another record.
My name is *Jason* Armstrong, and I am the 16 year old who recently broke the record for the most pull ups in twelve hours. There were a few mistakes made in the video clip shown on this page, most notably the number of pull ups I completed which was actually 2406, which may not seem like much of a difference but keep in mind that after already doing so many, every one was a task in itself.

I did not take steroids nor have I ever. In fact, for the 6 months preceeding the event, I did the exact opposite. To lose weight (I was around 195 then), I went on a strict vegetarian diet, and stopped consuming any synthetic protein supplement. I also stopped lifting weights and swimming. I stopped lifting to try to lean down some (even lost muscle is less bodyweight to pull up) and stopped swimming because it was too fluid of an exercise and doing such large numbers of pull ups would require a very mechanical form, each pull up being exactly the same as the last to help prevent injury. By my first trial run at this event, which was performed at my house on July 8th of this year, I was down to 183 pounds and broke the record unnoficially by doing 2,228 pullups and chinups.

My initial philosophy was that to train for an event like this, I needed quantity, not quality, but I soon learned that even the slightest drop in quality or care could cause a serious injury, and I started training for more quantity and quality. Most days I would just do a pull up workout, or a pull up workout and a light calistenics workout. I would do anywhere from 200-700 pull ups a day at a pace anywhere from 8/minute down to 3/minute. A typical workout would consist of 100 warmup pull ups and then 4 pull ups per minute for 2 hours. I would never do sets of more than 6, as I couldn't do a clean set of 6 with good form by the end of 2 hours, and I wanted to finish with everything looking exactly the same as when it started: Effortless and Confident. Most sets consisted of 3 or 4, the numbers which I found to work the best for me, even though most people (including my father who also set this record once) find sets of 5 to be optimum. I would walk briskly in between sets to build up a strong long-term cardiovascular endurance, the type I would need during the 12 hour record break. I always trained without gloves, attempting to build up as much callus as possible and knowing that even gloves wouldn't save me from anything over 1500 pullups so I might as well just take it like a man during training and get used to it.

Many top fitness experts have theorized that training for such intense long distance endurance events will detriment strength and speed. This is very true. The only way to train for something like this (atleast to my knowledge, A.K.A. the current best in the world's knowledge) is to perform massive amounts of repetitions every single day. However, training like this does not allow the muscles enough time to recover to build up any and increase in strength. When I started my training, I could do about 40 consecutive pull ups easily, after 6 months of it, I could only do about 25, so be careful if you choose to follow the path of an endurance athlete.

Another theory is that tall people are bad at pull ups. I also found this to be somewhat true. At 74 inches of height, I have an incredibly long distance to lift myself on every pull up. My stroke is approximately twice the length of my father's and it is because of this that I have had to train so much harder to excel at pull ups than he did. Weight is also an important factor. Even if you are under 5% bodyfat (about what I am), 183 pounds is still 183 pounds, and after 2,405 pull ups, its about 1,830 pounds.

I have always admired the dead, expressionless faces gymnasts use during their routines and have trained myself to not show emotion while I workout, even when it really hurts. This is probably what made the pull ups look so effortless. I also came to be extremely resilient after acquiring so much endurance, and found that even a 2-3 minute rest could fully rejuvenate me for several hours, so it was easy to keep my body looking strong for every pull up as well, as I had almost all of my strength restored and available for every pull up.

If there are any additional questions you have about me or my training, please email me at pullup2406@yahoo.com or jarmstrong@charter.net

Frank Needham
06-07-2010, 02:28 PM
Yeah, sometimes what not to do can be instructive also.

Donald Lee
06-07-2010, 02:47 PM
I can usually get to about 19-20 before having to pause for singles.


I think I'll switch over to doing PU's more frequently like you guys suggested. One question, how many days per week should I go to exhaustion? I imagine I should do it at least once so I can see if I'm progressing, but not more than twice because of the load on the CNS.

You can go to failure pretty often. You maybe even should do so to train your higher threshold fibers. Especially with your endurance capabilities, your body should be able to recover. Don't do dropset type of supra-failure/rest-pause stuff too often.

Also, in the military, they've never heard of CNS not recovering with going to failure. Just in case you don't know, the training in the military isn't 'optimal', but you just do it. You might have in mind what is proper training and proper rest; they would probably think you're being a weak, lazy ass.

Just so you know, you should throw out all the S&C you know when you're in SEARS or whatever. The only training knowledge that might be helpful is prehab and rehab knowledge because you'll be sore all over and start developing overuse injuries. I don't know if they care about your health at all where you're going, but the 2nd time I went to OCS, they hooked us up with foam rollers and the rolling sticks. And, they'd give us days where our PT consisted of stretching because of a hard day the day before. The Marine Corps has gotten soft. The first time I went, I woke up everyday sore and feeling like I wouldn't be able to train and somehow willed my body through it after feeling very heavy during the warmups. People who drop out of SEARS seem to drop out because they're not mentally tough enough, so I'd prepare yourself mentally just as much as physically.

Donald Lee
06-07-2010, 02:49 PM
The current world record holder's methods my be of some interest to you. http://www.wannabebig.com/forums/showthread.php?88041-16-Year-Old-does-2-446-pull-ups-in-12-hours-breaking-the-world-record-by-224-reps.
He has just recently set another record.

That kid is pretty articulate and knowledgeable for a 16-year old. I bet he'll be breaking some more records before he's done.

Gant Grimes
06-08-2010, 08:37 AM
Blah blah blah program program program.

PT 10 pounds off your ass and don't let go of the damn bar. There's 2 more. Problem solved.

Gant Grimes
06-08-2010, 08:47 AM
Dude, I'm 156#.

http://everystockphoto.s3.amazonaws.com/Object_Cutout_Horror_264559_l.jpg

Donald Lee
06-08-2010, 10:52 AM
Good point, I've heard that's how the military operates. On the other hand, while I've heard of lots of Marines who can bang out 20 pullups, I've not heard of too many people who can do 30 good ones with military PT alone.

I think military PT blows. I was referring more toward the training you have to go through before you're out in the fleet. I do think the un-'optimal' training is very useful though, at times, and if it's implemented smartly. Training in optimal conditions and having that translate to un-optimal conditions can be surprisingly different. You'll see what I mean.