Wednesday, January 21, 2015


Robin increased her pull-ups by 5 reps in just 6 weeks. I don't think it's outlandish to say that you can too.

If you know me, you know my favorite exercise is the pull-up.  It's such an empowering move. What else is cooler than being able to pull yourself up completely off the ground?  And what else in fitness is more metaphorical to life?

The pull-up is not an easy move by any means. We all know some guys who can bench and deadlift hundreds of pounds  but yet fail to perform even a few clean and strict pull-ups, if any. But recently I was motivated by an article that was posted about from a guy who believed that most women would never be able to do even one pull-up, no matter how hard they tried. I'm not sure I agree with that.

So I have a few ladies from class who I'm helping right now. One of them is Robin. She set a goal to get to get from 5 pull-ups to 7 in eight weeks. I said, "why not get to 10, and even sooner?"

Here's how we did it.....

I told Robin that she needed to do 2-3 sets of pull-ups 2-3 times a week, which we already do in class. I gave her one thing to add: every workout, come in, get warmed up, and do one drop set of pull-ups. This means do your max, then drop and wait about :20 seconds, then jump back up and do as many pull-ups as you can again. Then drop and rest again. Repeat until you hit your goal reps, and then some. (to get technical, a drop set usually refers to weights, where you do as many reps as you can on bench press for example, then take some weight off, and go for max reps again. But, I can't think of a better way to label this for pull-ups because it literally spells out exactly what you're doing---dropping and resting. So stay away jargon-nazis.)

For example:
Robin's first max set was 5.
She dropped and rested :20.
Then did 2-3 more pull-ups.
Then dropped again and rested.
Then did 1-3 more.
Until she at least hit her goal of 10.

She literally saw progress in just one week. Before we knew it she was at 7, then 8, then 10 in just a few weeks.

I would say, we didn't do anything fancy. It's just about being INTENTIONAL and SPECIFIC. If you want to do more pull-ups then you actually have to do pull-ups. The drop set faked Robin's body out to thinking she could do 10 pull-ups. Her nervous system became acclimated and in no time she was actually doing them.

One note I will make here is that sometimes you need to REST LONGER. You want to make sure you can get back on the bar for clean reps. So if at the beginning you need to take :30 seconds, that's fine. Your endurance will improve over time and you'll be able to decrease that break.  Also, "max" refers to as many as you can do CLEAN. Don't force that last rep if you know you're not going to make it. Just drop and rest and get ready for the next set.

I think everyone should do pull-ups, even if you require assistance with super bands or other apparatus. It's one of the biggest moves in fitness and hits an entire slew of muscles including your big back muscles, biceps and shoulders, and your abs.

Plus, just think about the bragging rights Robin earned her son, "well my mom can do more pull-ups than yours can!"

So don't doubt yourself. Jump on the bar and start practicing pull-ups today. It may just be an absolute game-changer for you and everyone in your life.

It's not about us,
Coach Theo

P.S. What do you do if you can't even do one pull-up yet? That's coming up in my next article on HOW TO GO FROM ZERO TO ONE PULL-UP. Stay tuned.

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