How do you make strict pull-ups more challenging? Most lifters immediately answer, "Add weight!" But here's a pro tip: Master bodyweight-only variations first. Not only will you reap some serious gains, you'll take your pull-up game to the next level, too.
1. Chest-to-Bar Pull-Up
Strength is gained mostly in the range of motion that it's trained. If you only do chin-over-bar pull-ups, you're neglecting a considerable range, and that means you're neglecting a considerable amount of muscle and strength development.
If you can't perform a chest-to-bar-pull-up at bodyweight, don't bother with adding weight to standard pull-ups. Keep it simple and just pull yourself higher each rep.
2. Wide-Grip Pull-Up
A proper wide-grip pull-up is significantly more challenging than a shoulder-width pull-up. Want that V-taper look? Make these a staple and watch your lats grow. Bonus: If you're really strong, try wide chest-to-bar pull-ups.
3. Strict Pull-Up with Straight Legs
By changing from knees bent to legs straight with feet in front of your body, you increase the difficulty of the strict pull-up.
4. Strict Pull-Up with Knees Up
If you're up for a real challenge, do full range of motion pull-ups holding your knees up. Try not to let your knees drop when you first start the rep. It's easier said than done. This variation really isolates the lats and builds tremendous strength at the bottom of the rep.
5. L Pull-Up
One of the most challenging pull-up variations! The L pull-up requires a lot of requisite strength in the abs, hip flexors, and quads. But if you've mastered the previous progressions, these are entirely possible.