Mini-Sets for Maximum Gains
Suck at pull-ups? You need to work them with frequent training. Start every workout with a total of 20 pull-ups done in as little time as possible using "mini-sets" of half your current max effort. Use a clock to track how long it takes and try to beat that time each session.
The best strategy is to NOT hit failure on any of the mini-sets since it would require too much rest between sets and thus would take longer to complete.
- Let's say your current max is 4 or 5 pull-ups. Start with mini-sets of 2, resting as little as possible between each set – about 20 seconds rest is plenty.
- When doing the second rep becomes a grind, extend the rest to 30 seconds.
- When the second rep becomes tough again even with the longer rest, move down to doing sets of 1 with 15-20 seconds of rest until you hit your total (20 reps) for the day.
As you get stronger, you'll be able to use more than two reps for your mini-sets, but be very gradual about increasing them. Monitor the time it takes you to complete 20 reps to gauge if your strategy is adequate. When you increase the reps per set, your total time should continue decreasing.
Ideally, in 8 to 10 weeks you'd end up hitting the 20 reps in just two sets of 10 with about 20 seconds of rest. When that happens, you'll likely be able to hit 15 good pull-ups in a row.
Once you can complete 20 total reps in just two mini-sets with no more than 30 seconds rest, increase the target total to 30 reps and resume the progression. Eventually, when you can hit the 30 reps in just two sets with less than 20 seconds of rest, go back down to 20 total reps, but here's the killer... add 15 pounds to your waist and resume the progression all over again.