March 15th, 2010 by Chad Waterbury
Of all the upper body exercises that you can choose from, the pull-up ranks at the top of the list. That’s because it builds strength and size in your upper back, arms, and gripping muscles. Specifically, I’m referring to the lats, rhomboids, mid/lower traps, rear deltoids, biceps, and forearms. You’d be hard-pressed to find another single upper body exercise that does so much good.
In fact, a true measure of physical prowess is the pull-up test. Put simply, the pull-up is the ultimate test of relative strength, a measure of how strong you are in relation to your body weight. My male clients need to be able to perform at least 20, while females should knock off somewhere between 8-10. Of course, more is better, but this is a good starting point.
So, how can you increase your pull-ups? There are generally two schools of thought. The first school pulls out a magnifying glass and breaks the pull-up into little bits and pieces: isolation exercises. For example, you’ll perform an exercise or two for the following body parts: forearms, biceps, rear delts, rhomboids, mid/low traps, and lats. This equates to 6-12 different exercises. Taken a step further, you would need to find time for dozens of extra sets in your current routine.
The other school says to just do the damn things. After all, the SAID principle states that your body will Specifically Adapt to the Imposed Demand. Force your body to do pull-ups on a frequent basis and you’ll be rewarded with more muscle and strength. You’ll enhance the neural connections between your nerves and muscles through the Law of Repetition.
I’m all for solutions that require the least investment of time with the greatest reward. Therefore, I adhere to the second methodology: more pull-ups will boost your pull-up performance without protracting your workouts.
The simple truth is that you don’t need to perform more than one set of maximum rep pull-ups, provided you do them every day. So let’s just say that each set lasts about a minute. If you do one set every day for four weeks, that equals 28 minutes of total time.
What should you expect? In my experience, you’ll double (or almost double) your current performance with this simple strategy. I know it sounds like marketing B.S. to tell you that you can virtually double your pull-ups with 28 minutes worth of work, but that’s exactly what this guy did.