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Pullups: The Missing Link!

June 3, 2002 12:12 PM

Well Comrades its been nearly 17 years since I have been performing Pull-ups and what an experience it has been. They have increased my functional strength, increased my muscular size and improved my punch power, arm wrestling ability and they have nearly got me arrested!

If you are still thinking, Why should I perform them? Well everyone else who is serious about training is doing them, so you should be to! Why you say? Well Olympic lifters, Powerlifters, Boxers, Wrestlers and Just about everyone has performed them at sometime in their athletic career.

Athletes from Linford Christie too Bruce Lee have performed them with great results, So if Pull-ups are the missing link in your training routine, then start doing them NOW!

If you are still not convinced then think about Charles Poliquin's Take on Pull-ups. He sees them as the equivalent of an upper body squat! Still not convinced?

Here is a list of the muscles used, when performing pull-ups or chin-ups:

Target Muscles

  • Latissimus Dorsi

Synergists (Helps Target muscle accomplish movement).

  • Brachialis
  • Brachioradialis
  • Biceps Brachii
  • Teres Major
  • Rhomboids Levator Scapulae
  • Trapezius, Lower
  • Pectoralis Major, Sternal
  • Pectoralis Minor

Dynamic Stabilizers (Provides stabilisation during compound movements)

  • Triceps, Long Head

NOW, if you are not convinced that Pull-ups are not a great exercise, you never will be! Ok Comrades, enough of the motivational chat. Let's get down to business. Firstly we will concentrate on a routine for Comrades who want to improve their numbers. However this routine will not just improve your numbers it will also improve your limit strength.

Routine 1 Functional Isometric Contractions

  • Tempo: Rhythmic.
  • Rest period: 3 minutes between sets.
  • Grip size: Normal.
  • Intensity: Medium.
  • Volume: Medium.
  • Style: Conventional Pull-ups.
  • Perform twice a week max.

  • Perform 3 sets of the following.

    • 5 normal reps
    • 3 half up reps. Hold at the top of the half up movement for 3 - 5 seconds.
    • 3 half down reps. Hold at the bottom of the half down movement for 3 - 5 seconds.
    • 5 normal reps.

REMEMBER! Do not train to FAILURE! Only perform as much as you can comfortably. For example when I used the above routine I only just completed it! My other two training colleagues performed one set and two sets respectively.

If you can complete this routine straight off you're doing well! If that is the case you can make it harder by increasing the length of the isometric holds from 3,4 and then eventually 5 seconds. Otherwise just persevere until you improve or complete the routine. I would not perform this routine more than twice a week, however if you wish to perform a more conventional pull-up routine combined with this routine, that would be ok as long as it's not to taxing.

Also DO NOT perform this routine more than 4 weeks duration as FIC (functional Isometric Contractions) are very taxing on the CNS (Central Nervous System) and connective tissues.

Finally expect fairly good gains on this routine. I increased my Numbers by 5 reps in 4 weeks and a massive 10kg gain on my max strength.

Ok comrades and now for those of you who want scary limit strength on pull-ups. Here is the next routine.

Routine 2 A)

  • Tempo: 3001 (3 = eccentric & 1 = concentric)
  • Rest Period: 3 - 5 minutes.
  • Grip: Large (using padding or a towel over the bar)
  • Intensity: Progressive.
  • Volume: Medium
  • Style: Conventional Pull -ups
  • Perform once a week
    • 4 sets 3 - 5 reps work weight.

  • 6 week routine.
    • Week

      • 1 55 - 70 % 1rm
      • 2 55 - 75 %
      • 3 55 - 80 %
      • 4 55 - 85 %
      • 5 55 - 90 %
      • 6 55 - 95 % 1 REP MAX.

REMEMBER! Do not train to FAILURE!
Start with week one, working up to 70 % 1 rep max for the last set, For 3 - 5 comfortable reps. Eventually work up to week six
And max out with a new comfortable 3rm.

Ok Comrades, here is part B which you incorporate with the above routine.

Routine 2 B)

  • Tempo: Isometric
  • Rest Period: 3 - 5 minutes.
  • Grip: Large (using padding or a towel over the bar)
  • Intensity: Progressive.
  • Volume: Medium
  • Style: Conventional Pull -ups
  • Perform once a week

    • 3 sets of 3 reps of 5 second Isometric contractions.

Perform at your 3 weakest positions. Normally Bottom, middle and top. These are great for increasing strength in your weak range of motion. They also have a 15-degree (either Way) carryover effect. Start this 6-week cycle and perform in conjunction with routine 2A. Initially perform Isometric contractions with a comfortable weight and then increase weekly. By the 6th week You will probably be using an enormous weight.

Once you have completed these routines go back to conventional Pull-up training. You can expect to make substantial gains. When I went back to performing conventional Pull-ups with a normal handle size, my strength had increased by 10-15 kg!

Anyway Comrades good luck with your training and do not let pull-ups be the missing link!