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:

  1. Set a countdown timer for 5 minutes.
  2. 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.
  3. Write down the number of reps you get. Next time, try to beat that number.

Guidelines & Tips

Neutral Grip
  • 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.

Related:  The Chin-Up Project

Related:  Stop Sucking at Pull-Ups