Pull-ups are the ultimate test. They'll quickly tell you if your upper body is weak or if you're too fat, something the pulldown machine can't do. Suck at pull-ups? That's a wake-up call you should answer. Here's one way to do it.
Twice per week, on non-consecutive days, do this simple workout:
- Set a countdown timer for 5 minutes.
- Do as many pull-ups as you can, in various styles using strict form, in that timeframe. Rest as needed, but remember, the clock is ticking.
- Write down the number of reps you get. Next time, try to beat that number.
Guidelines & Tips
- Start your 5 minute workout with your weakest pull-up variation. For most people, that's a wide-grip pull-up with a pronated grip – palms facing away from you. As you begin to fatigue, bring the hands closer together. Once fatigued in that position, switch to a supinated grip chin-up – palms facing you. Finish with a neutral grip (see photo), palms facing one another, which is the strongest position for most lifters.
- Don't hit failure in the first 4 minutes. If you can normally do 10 pull-ups in a set, do 7 or 8.
- By the 4 minute mark, you may be doing singles. That's fine. Just rest, do one rep, rest again, do another rep, etc.
- Don't use straps. Chalk only.
- Don't forget to write down the number of total reps you get in 5 minutes. A few days later, do it again and try to beat that number. If you get 40 reps, try and hit 45 or so the next time around.
- If you're damn good at pull-ups and/or scrawny, add load with a dipping belt, a weighted vest, or by holding a dumbbell between your feet.
- Don't be surprised if your abs are sore the next day.