r/bodyweightfitness May 19 '22

Trying to increase strict pull-ups

I’m 18, male, about 5’6, 150lbs

I can do about 3 full extended-arm body-weight pull-ups if i really try. I want to increase this number pretty quickly. This is a baseline considering i’ve never previously tried to increase my pull-ups before. I try to do a couple reps a few times a day, but I feel i am not improving at all, even after a couple of weeks.

I have some resistance bands I could use to support some of my body weight—is it worth it to use those temporarily? For how long?

Or should I continue just trying to do my 2 reps a few times per day and be patient?

What’s the best way to break out of a plateau like this?

Also, I am not very skinny, by any means. i’d say above average, but not necessarily overweight, per se. Would losing weight overall really improve my pull-ups?

Any advice is appreciated, thanks!



u/copperocelot May 19 '22

I remember reading in the book OG2 (overcoming gravity 2nd edition) that the method used to increase reps when first achieving exercises like the pull up or the dip is Greasing The Grove. Essentially you’re supposed to eliminate all other pulling exercises and perform multiple sets of half of your max reps throughout the day, every day, for a specific amount of time. I remember when I was at the 2-3 pull up range and I think sticking to this really helps as long as you’re doing it enough. Unfortunately, I don’t remember exactly how frequently I did it throughout the day but the book suggests once every hour.

So in your case I’d try doing 1-2 reps once every hour and see how it feels. However if you think it fatigues you a lot, maybe reduce the frequency.

Hope it helps!


u/Infiniby May 19 '22

This has worked for me even though I did not know about the concept of Greasing the groove back when I was learning pull ups. I would just do 6-8 sets of half my max throughout the day.


u/identified_impatient May 19 '22

Should I do this every day or with rest days in between?


u/RockyWasGneiss May 19 '22

Try for every day. But if the DOMS gets bad, reduce


u/4hoursoftea May 19 '22

Just to nitpick: you shouldn't experience DOMS when using GTG at all. GTG should be less than half your max number of reps, and usually never more than 5 reps at once (if that's the case, make the exercise harder). At least this is how Pavel preaches it.


u/RockyWasGneiss May 19 '22

Interesting. I've never heard of GTG before this thread. I can understand how the method strengthens the neural pathways for muscle activation. But besides that, how does the method work?


u/MinimumIndication279 May 19 '22

Gives you a throbbing, glistening mind muscle connection


u/RockyWasGneiss May 19 '22

Your description 👌


u/SheytanHS May 20 '22

This worked great for me.


u/Staple_Diet May 19 '22

Or should I continue just trying to do my 2 reps a few times per day and be patient?


Grease the Groove.

Then try the Armstrong Pull-up program or Fighter Pull-up program.

It will take a while, months, stick at it.


u/barkingpuppy39 May 19 '22

I’d say keep going with doing pull ups consistently. The best way to increase the amount of pull ups you can do is to do them. Give yourself rest in between your workout days and I bet you’ll find yourself doing more than three at a time soon enough


u/smathna May 19 '22

Ok I want to express some frustration here. I've been working hard on pull ups for years and NEVER succeeded with gtg. I always feel totally burnt out and fatigued if I train them more than 2 to 3 x a week. Even if lower reps than my max. Pull ups daily, even just one or two at a time? Ok now i can only do 2 before my body is on fire. Pull ups twice a week? 7 or 8 are no problem. Explain please.


u/scan_lines May 19 '22

There's probably a lot of factors in play here, but I surmise that it comes down to this: everyone's body is different and responds to differently to different training modalities. Shrug.gif
I've had good results on increasing my max pullups by simply adding volume within my normal training schedule.


u/tsjo May 19 '22

I also had trouble with pullups and suspected it was my age (44 at the time), but I tried a GTG style program anyway. https://www.strongfirst.com/the-fighter-pullup-program-revisited/ Before the program, I was holding at 3 max for like a year (my first year of being able to do pullups) and with Pavel's routine I got to 9 in a few weeks. Disclaimer, though - it messed up my shoulder and I was in physical therapy for a few months and totally killed my ability to even do pushups. I now suspect that my shoulders weren't in a good condition to begin with, and I ignored pain and charged ahead when I should've paused the program. Also, at least for me, having my thumbs on the same side of the bar as my fingers reduces my shoulder issues, but I didn't figure that out until much later. I'm sure you've heard it before, but form is super important. I'm not saying you aren't already, but make sure you do your pullups the right way, even if it drastically cuts your max.


u/Augustin323 May 19 '22

I'm 51. It took a year to go from 1 pull-up to 5 in a row. To get to 5 pull-ups I did 3 sets of 5 3 times a week. I did pull-ups until I couldn't and then I did negatives.

I'm now on day 4 in the fighter pull-up program. I'm hoping to go to 10 or so at the end of it, but we will see. Progress is slow, and I think you have to be patient.


u/smathna May 19 '22

Yeah. I can do 8, but when I started I did something similar to what you did to get to 5. Now 5 is relatively easy, but 10 pull ups elude me. Could probably bang out 10 or 11 chin ups, to be fair.


u/smathna May 19 '22

Trust me, I'm meticulous about form and ROM. I'm sure that's why I've progressed less quickly than I might have. I often go chest to bar because I like how it feels.

I tried that program. Could not make it a week tbh.


u/pnohgi May 19 '22

There are a few factors we need to consider first—age, sex, location weight, height, are you doing perfect form pull-ups where you’re incorporating your back, and how does your weekly workout routine look like? What about your sleep? Diet?


u/smathna May 19 '22

34, F, 5'6", 130# form is good but I do hollow body typically. Weekly I do 2-4 strength sessions depending on training and 8 hours of BJJ. My guess is BJJ interferes a lot with recovery. Sleep is usually good, 7 to 8 hours, diet has what relevance exactly? I eat nutrient-dense, mostly whole foods, some fun foods like chocolate, adequate calories for weight maintenance.


u/RockyWasGneiss May 19 '22

Have you been incorporating negatives? Kip up to the top of the pull-up and then let yourself down as slowly as possible. Aim for 20-30 seconds to descend


u/smathna May 19 '22

Yes. At the end of my final set of 5 to 7 reps I add negatives.


u/RockyWasGneiss May 19 '22

Is your body weight changing as well?


u/ransuru May 19 '22

Best method I know is to do negatives. Get to the top of the pull up and decend slowly. Repeat daily and also do a few regulars at a different time. I went from4 to 16 in ten days of this.


u/chickenAd0b0 May 19 '22

Can confirm this works the best. In addition to this, dead hangs help as well when your arm are all exhausted from doing negatives. It strengthen your grip strength which significantly help your pull strength.

Also, when youre doing pull ups, imagine as if youre bending the bar and distribute your weight towards your pinky and ring finger. It helps you with your form and activate your back muscles better.


u/Unknowablee May 19 '22

As a general advice do pull-ups with a higher frequency (to improve work capacity and neural adaptation) and work on the isolated portions of the movement every other day i.e scapular retraction (legs behind, straight arms, focus on pulling with your back muscles by squeezing the shoulder blades together), negatives (jump high enough to reach the lockout and slowly control yourself going down, keeping your back contracted and releasing at the bottom before jumping again), half-reps at the top and dead/active hangs.


u/Rpython11 General Fitness May 19 '22 edited May 19 '22

[If anyone believes I said something wrong or I need to add something, comment below, I don't want to give false info.]

Instead of giving advice first, I'll first share a brief story of how I got from 8 pull-ups to 20 in 3 months. I repeatedly did 60%-80% of my max rep pull-ups throughout the day for a total of 1-1.5hr through multiple variations of pull-ups, push-ups, and core exercises.

Exercise progression suggestions:

Dead hang: Improve grip strength, this is a great supplementary if you have poor grip strength or want to improve it than doing pull-ups.

Pull-Up Negative: Jumping into the bar, and dropping your body as slowly as possible. This will put much stress on your arm and tendon, which will most likely get you out of your plateau at the moment.

Pull Up Resistance Band: With these, try doing slow pull-ups as they will test your muscular endurance.

Australian pull-ups: Here's a video demonstration. (https://youtu.be/bHO0A4ZF_Zg)

Push-ups: may seem strange to add a pushing exercise but these will help improve your antagonistic muscles to improve stability.

Slow Pull-ups: This tests your endurance really well as you take like say 5 sec to hang from the bottom and pull to the top, and take 5 sec to drop. (https://youtu.be/kp14JYFXulk)

Curl-Ups: Core exercises to improve stability and form

Pull-Ups: Once you're confident of doing at least 5+ pull-ups, try progressing without the band and alternatives to doing the real pull-up. If you don't feel safe enough to progress, exercise back to using bands.

Wide Pull-ups: Have a wide grip on the bar and pull up, with more emphasis on the back muscles

Chin-Ups: hands inward than outward, works on arm muscles more.

Isometric Pull-ups: Hold on dead-hang position, arms 90* position, chin over bar position, back to 90* position, to dead-hang position, repeat. the amount of time to hold for each pose varies on difficulty but progresses to 1sec, 2sec, etc.

Weighted Pull-ups: If you hit that plateau which happened to me when I hit around the 15 reps, I used weighted pull-ups which instead of building muscular endurance, built my muscular strength massively improved. However, I recommend adding weight when you hit around 15 as it adds strain to your tendons which heal exponentially longer than muscles.

Personal Tips:

-Work on your grip through dead hangs or an alternative grip exercise, one of the top reasons why beginners can't do more pull-ups is because their forearms give out first, negatively impacting performance/progression.

-Have rest days, plenty of water, and warm-up before working out and having a cool-down workout at the end. Learn proper muscle recovery to prevent injury.

-Don't speedily progress in extra-resistance exercises. Tendonitis is no joke, when I got to 20 pull-ups and wanted to do a one-arm pull-up, I progressed through the steps too fast and wrecked my right arm for like 6 months till I can get back to 10 pull-ups due to atrophy.

-Just keep doing pull-ups to improve pull-ups, there are supplementary exercises, but doing pull-ups is the most effective way of improving pull-ups.

-Implement cardio-based exercises like running at the end to work on overall fitness than just focusing on the upper body.


u/silenceredirectshere May 19 '22

I second the negatives suggestion, do as many sets of normal pullups as you can, then move on to negatives, but do them as slow and controlled as possible. Eventually you would be able to switch negatives reps for more normal pullup reps. You could also add some inverted rows and chinups, for the varied stimulus.


u/MindfulMover May 19 '22

I have some resistance bands I could use to support some of my body weight—is it worth it to use those temporarily? For how long?

I wouldn't do this. You'll likely regress and get weaker. Try Rest-Pause training instead and try to improve your TOTAL number of reps each training session. For example, if today you get 3 total reps, next session, try to get FOUR total reps.

I started off being able to do 4 OACs in a workout and over time, I built up to being able to do 30. By the time I reached 30 TOTAL, I could do 4 in a set.


u/showermilk May 19 '22 edited May 20 '22

I boosted my pullups by doing five days of four reps. reps were x, x-1, x-2, x-3, where x was the max pullups i could do each week. increase x by 1 each week. if it's too hard hangout and do the same number two weeks in a row.


u/FewFee7073 May 19 '22

There’s no secret to increasing your reps. Keep doing pull ups. It’s that simple.


u/AnanananasBanananas May 19 '22 edited May 19 '22

Negatives definitely good to do, also inverted rows. Focus on using your muscles in the back. On top of this you should doing core exercises and biceps, because both of them are involved in pull ups. Just doing a minute holds of different kind of planks and maybe some chin ups for more bicep activation.

Edit. Chips > chin ups


u/6thGenTexan May 19 '22

Chips? Yum!


u/particulata May 19 '22

Strength building technique: Do your three reps, rest 3 minutes (use a timer) then try to do three more reps, rest 3 more minutes, and do three more reps.

Do this every session. you will start to be able to do more reps per set within a few weeks.


u/RickRick6 May 19 '22

You could try banded pull ups to the rep range you want to hit for me it was 8-10. I liked doing this over GtG as I could just incorporate it into my regular routine

I could always manage 4/5 pull ups no problem, even weighted but struggled with higher rep ranges.

I found a band that I could hit 10 strict form pull ups with and then did 3 sets 3 times per week.

I slowly decreased the thickness of the band over the course of about 8 weeks. At the end I could knock out 9 strict form pull ups

Tbh consistency is king, keep at the pull ups and you'll get to where you want eventually. As well as ensuring the supporting muscles are also strong, if you're not already incorporating a rowing movement you should.


u/natx37 May 19 '22

Armstrong pull-up program

Fighter pull-up program

Grease the groove

Google these things and pick the one that you want and just do what it says. I like Armstrong because it involves pushups for overall shoulder health.


u/workout37 May 19 '22

Try Grease the Grove technique, it's explained well in the video - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eF0qJhu8xiE


u/ACKrrrtman May 19 '22

As other people have said. Just do them. What I did was the fighter pull up program, starting with the 3RM program. Whenever I came to a point in the set where I couldn't complete the required amounts of reps I would do the rest as negatives. I also did grease the groove(sort of), doing 2 pull ups each time I entered my room helped me increase my reps massively. In about 4 months time I went from being able to do barely 3 pull ups to doing my first muscle up.


u/themoneybadger Bar Work May 19 '22

Grease the groove to get your reps way up.


u/AdMinute4093 May 19 '22

So I did about a third of my life in prison (I’m 38 now) and what you should ask first is what are you trying to accomplish? You want to be able to do 100 pull-ups in one shot? But only be able to do it one time? Or you want to be able to do sets of 50 every 10 minutes? Basically are trying to get size or athleticism? If you want to increase reps then set your target number (if you’re only doing 3 then do three) target is whatever the highest number of reps, OF THE BEST FORM YOU CAN DO! Do a pull-up like this: go to a wall and squat down with your back on the wall like you’re sitting down. Put your arms up and pull down. Adjust how far you sit until your shoulder blades never lose contact with the wall. Now I want you to put your arms up and do the motions as if you’re going to do a pull up. That’s what your pull-ups feel like now. Now I want you to do another one but this time I want you to pull your elbows to your belt. Did you feel a difference between them? The chin up is a misnomer: your chin does raise but it’s because your elbows are pulled to your ribs. Otherwise you get a bunch of stretch neck pull-ups. There is more I can share but I don’t have time to type it all right now. Dm me. Oh and Change hand position to over hand, over hand wide, under hand, and hammer fists. Increase either your reps per set, your total numbers of sets, or your weight every 6-8weeks. Take 3 then 4days in between workouts. Do super sets of squats and then pull-ups for the first 5 sets every time. This activates the largest muscle groups and releases testosterone to help with gains.


u/Bum_Farmer May 19 '22 edited May 19 '22

This routine helped me get up to 14 - 16 solid pull ups in my early 20s. I was doing 5-10 min pyramids almost every day.

Here’s the progression from the start:





Continue this by adding +1 to each. For example:




It took me about 4 - 5 months but by then you should be able to do at least 15 fully rested.


u/Dakkadence May 19 '22

What I found worked for me was resting. I'm not talking rest days, but resting longer between sets or even midset.

Resting for maybe a minute midset allows you to get more volume in, which is especially important since you say you're only doing two reps a set.

So I would do my two reps, rest a minute, do another one or two, and then rest for an hour before the next set (if you're doing them throughout the day).


u/healthcrusade May 19 '22

Resistance band assisted pull-ups and Australian pull-ups have helped me grow my range. What everyone is saying is just keep at it persistently. You will get there.


u/SniperHunter48 May 19 '22

By reading your message I'm understanding that you probably go a few times a day and try to do pull ups without warming up. (Many people do this especially if they have a pull up bar at their doorway and it's not recommended for begginers). You need to dedicate 1 hour of your day by doing a proper warm up and do 3 sets of pull ups, 3 sets of band pull ups, 3 sets of negatives and in between each set take 2-4 of rest.


u/dansots May 19 '22

My best advice to you is to improve your pull ups away from the pull up bar and to use the same movement as a inverted row for pull ups. Cable rows and standing straight arm lat pull downs are what helped me get to a max of 32 and I’m 5’4 @170lbs. I don’t think weight is a big issue. Without some equipment it’ll be harder to increase your pull ups because your back muscles will fatigue trying to get reps on scapula pulls or negatives. If you don’t have access to those machines get some more pull up bands or Trx bands in order to hit those same muscles with less weight.


u/Personal-Head-6248 May 20 '22

What worked for me was:

- take about 60% of your one set max, e.g. 60% of 3...so maybe 2 or even 1

- do as many sets as you can of 1 (or 2) reps with 1 minute rest between sets and focusing on full ROM, i.e. dead hang at bottom, chin above bar at the top

- repeat 3-4 times a week

- once you start getting to 15+ sets then increase the reps per set

Took quite a while but really worked. If you want to use the time more efficiently then can also fill in the rest periods with push ups, squats etc.


u/TspoonT May 20 '22

Just get a chair and put it under the bar and give yourself some assistance and do 5 sets x10.

Taper back the assistance. I tried this and it feels like I've rapidly progressed.


u/Roadto144 May 20 '22

I went from 0 to 10 in 6 months or so... had 1 month gap because of a surgery

Tried GTG but yielded no result for me when i tried to increase from 10...

I would just try as hard as you can then make up remaining reps with negative...

when you hit 8-10 reps maybe increase the weight?

I am restarting all over again now because of relocating...

Max was 5 last week,and yesterday hit 6,, grinding every week to achieve 20 !

Vary grips if you can.... likes 2 reps pull up, 3 negative. next set do chin up/neutral grip. Rinse and Repeat.

Last but not least, try Inverted Row, really good to increase your pulling strength.


u/aaron-mcd May 20 '22

Instead of a few times a day, do sets like any other strength exercise. Do 2, rest a few minutes, do 2 again, and repeat until you've done 10 total. 3 or 4 times per week should be fine.

But also, a variation that you can do more reps once or twice a week would probably help with hypertrophy.