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February 12, 2020

Once you’re able to complete a set of pull-ups without assistance, you may find that increasing the number of reps you can complete per set is quite challenging.

So what can you do to help increase the number of pull-ups you can perform in a single set? Read our 10 tips below to find out!

#1 ACCEPT THAT SLIMMER PEOPLE FIND PULL-UPS EASIER

Any amount of extra body fat will make it tougher to perform a pull-up.

This is because your upper-body strength doesn’t automatically increase in line with your body weight.

If you want to increase (or even just complete) your pull-ups, you may want to think about losing any extra fat first.

2. SKIP DOING REPS UNTIL YOUR FAILURE POINT

Working sets to failure is a common mistake of beginners.

Sets are about doing 5-8 reps and then pausing, rather than to complete as many pull-ups as you physically can within a single set.

Doing this means that tiredness overcomes you and correct form is quickly lost, which can also lead to possible injuries. Cut out the kipping and swinging about on the bar when overly tired by sticking to the planned reps in your set.

By approaching your pull-ups this way, you won’t fill your muscles with lactic acid. In return, you’ll find you can perform more sets over a week, which helps you get a better result overall.

#3 BE HONEST AND DON’T CHEAT YOURSELF

Cheating to get your set completed isn’t a good idea. You won’t get the full muscle development when doing so; only temporary bragging rights of more reps completed without feeling tired.

When performing a pull-up, ‘cheating’ usually means one of two things:

  1. Failing to disengage your scapular at the bottom of the pull-up completely, and therefore reducing the distance for the next rep
  2. Not getting your chin up and over the bar at the top of the pull-up

#4 GREASE THE GROOVE

To see improvement over time, exercise is like other things in life. When you do a little bit on a regular basis, your ability increases. This works for learning a new language, playing a computer game, and in this case, performing more pull-ups.

This method is called ‘Grease the Groove’, and you can try it by performing a few pull-ups regularly throughout the day, whenever you feel up for it.

We recommend investing in a free-standing pull-up bar so that you can try this in the comfort of your own home. Our Gravity Fitness free-standing pull-up bar is the perfect tool for this (it has been rated as the #1 free-standing pull-up bar in the UK by Calisthenics 101).

#5 BUDDY UP!

It can be hard to be motivated when exercising alone. You also might not be the type of person who wants to push themselves outside their comfort zone, which could be holding back your growth.

Instead, get a buddy to exercise with you. Learn what each other struggle with and encourage one another to push past each other’s comfort zone and achieve new personal bests.

#4 IGNORE THE CROSSFIT ADVICE

Not everything in CrossFit is the best idea for pure Calisthenics. 

In CrossFit (and pull-ups specifically), there’s a trend to see pull-up technique include a kipping or swinging motion. This technique is used because CrossFit is all completing a certain number of reps, rather than completing a number of reps with proper form.

Following CrossFit advice will hold you back from proper development of effective technique, building strength and agility. You won’t get stronger by messing around with the pull-up bar, so don’t even try.

It’s all about the reps and the sets. Nothing else.

#7 USE A RESISTANCE BAND

Make use of a resistance band to improve your overall arm strength and fitness. It’s another way to create physical improvement even if you’re away from home or stuck late at the office.

These bands pack down small and light to carry them discretely in a backpack or briefcase. Take a look at our Gravity Fitness Resistance Bands to find a resistance band for you.

#8 GET THE HAND GRIP RIGHT

When gripping the bar correctly, you will develop stronger hands to hold on but skip the nasty calluses. As a result, it’s possible to build up your sets of reps without injuring your sensitive palms.

Place the top of your fingers over the bar, rather than placing the bar in the palm of your hand. Gripping the bar with the fingers avoids trapping a section of skin near the base of the fingers, which causes soreness and eventually, calluses.

Once you’ve gripped the bar with your fingers, roll the bar to get into the correct hand position.

#9 BUILD BOTH STRENGTH AND ENDURANCE

Strength and endurance are different.

Building endurance with pull-ups requires a long series of reps. Therefore, 15-30 reps will be necessary once you become proficient, instead of 7-12 reps.

For strength, it’s a little like with lifting heavier weights. Effectively, you must either make yourself temporarily heavier or use a harder pull-up technique to increase the difficulty level. By performing fewer reps but using a dip belt or weighted vest, it requires all your strength to perform standard pull-ups that were easier before.

Do alternate between strength building and endurance building with your pull-up sets. This will help you to become a more well-rounded bodyweight pro.

#10 WORK ON YOUR GRIP

With a correct grip, pulling your body weight up becomes much more manageable. You won’t develop a stronger grip from performing pull-ups alone, though. 

Use a gripper device or a small foam ball to develop your grip strength daily. Fast-forward a month or two, and you’ll see a big difference.


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