How To Do More Pull-Ups in a Workout for Muscle Gain

Hi! I am the author and founder of Old School Calisthenic

March 15, 2018

Pull-ups are the most powerful tools for building strong arms, size, and a sculpted V-taper back. Almost all professional athletes utilize pull-ups in their training to increase the inherent strength, even bodybuilders, whereas calisthenics athletes overdo pull-ups for other purposes too.

I am no different. If I take a look at my calisthenics training throughout the past years, I think I do an average of 5000 pull-ups per year. How does this number appear to you? The reason why I do so many is that pull-ups are great for muscle gain. And natural aesthetics is something I am interested in.

Accruing volume in a workout is not easy. The harder the exercises are, the lower your volume will be, and vice-versa. Therefore, you must pick exercises that are neither extremely easy nor the hardest. A medium intensity, or a switch from something hard to something light, will allow you to add more volume.

How to Trigger Hypertrophy

  • Pick 3-4 pull-up exercises for each workout
  • Do 4-5 sets for each variation
  • Use a rep range of 7-10
  • Train pull-ups twice a week
  • Rest around 60 seconds from a set to another.

The minimum volume per workout you can do by following my recommendations will then be of 84 pull-ups, and with a maximum of 200 pull-ups. Depending on your fitness level, you might end up being somewhere between. Nevertheless, a volume of more than 80 clean pull-ups will trigger hypertrophy! That is what I advocate. The volume drops on the second workout usually due to muscle soreness. It is expected to be like this. 

Don’t panic if you are not able to do more than 50 pull-ups at your workout, there are ways around it.

My methods are not about progressing towards harder exercises or about doing advanced calisthenics. They are about training the muscles so you can gain both functional strength and aesthetics. It is not about being advanced or beginner. It is about finding the right approach to work out better.

Use Resistance Bands for Volume and Execution!

Assisted calisthenics wide pull-ups

These resistance bands will help you to:

  • always keep good form
  • better control the movement
  • control the speed
  • add reps
  • to train other variations that otherwise would be impossible.

Focus your training around pure bodyweight training, without assistance. However, from a point on, if you plan on doing 7-10 reps per set and you can only do 5, then rest briefly and complete the remaining reps assisted.

If everything is hard, then use these resistance bands right from the beginning. Then, if you move to lighter exercises, you can remove the assistance and go purely bodyweight. 

Some of my friends can’t do more than 50-60 pull-ups per workout. At the end of it, they start kicking and bouncing to get more reps. Bouncing and using too much momentum can compromise your goal. A good resistance band will eliminate that bounce and thus, your time under tension will increase. You will control the movement a lot better. These aspects are very important for muscle growth. It is not only about the volume only!

They now utilize elastic bands and from 50 pull-ups per workout, they now do around 70-100. They even started to feel a lot of muscle soreness into their biceps and lats. These are all signs that they work efficiently.

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