If you really want to increase your strength, why not start with the best upper body exercise, the pull-up?
The pull-up very well might be the hardest upper body exercise to perform. Now that you know how to do it, the first step is to make sure you get all the way to the bar. There are a few different ways to build the strength needed to do so:
1. Jumping pull-ups
For this pull-up variation you need a bar you can reach. What I want you to do is put your hands on the bar and squeeze it hard. Now with your hands set jump up and pull yourself up in the same movement. The jump will act as your assistance to pulling yourself up there. Make sure you pull all the way until your chest touches the bar and have your shoulders down and back. Squeeze your back hard! If you just jump and ride it out you’re wasting my time, and you do not want to waste my time.
2. Isometric + Eccentric Pull-Ups
For this one you can either use a box, or jump to get up (honestly I could care less which you choose). What I want you to do is set your grip and get yourself to the top of the pull up, making sure your shoulders are down and back, and squeezing your back as hard as possible. Hold the top position as long as you can. Once you start to feel like you’re losing the position, squeeze your shoulder blades together as hard as possible and fight as hard as you can from lowering. If you go all out, you’ll probably only be able to do one or two before you need a break. That’s fine because these should be at max effort.
3. Assisted Pull-Ups
You can do these any of 3 ways:
a. Band Assisted
Use a jump stretch band and start with your foot in it and perform pull-ups. The band is great because it helps you get started and you have to work to finish it. Start with the band under your feet with your legs straight. The next step is to kneel in the band, but don’t extend your knees unless you want to eat the band. Remember, be smarter than dumb.
b. Feet on the ground pull-ups
Set a bar about chin height in a power rack. Hold tight to the bar and squat down. Stretch your back for a few seconds and then pull yourself up like you’re doing a pull up, but allow your legs to help you up. You should feel your back muscles working if you really pinch your shoulder blades down and back. Get your chest all the way to the bar and hold it for a 1 count at the top.
c. Assisted Machine
You may or may not have access to this, but if you do it can help. The big key to this is to not swing around while you do the pull-ups, and to get as high up as you can. With this machine you might not be able to get all the way up, but you can decrease the assistance by 10 pounds each week and work your way up to using no resistance. So with a machine, as always, there’s a good and a bad.
For those of you that already can do pull-ups my favorite way to train with them is the same way that we have talked about with all the upper body exercises so far. We’ll take your PR (PR=Personal Record=Most you can do) and divide it by 2. You will do 4 sets at ½ your PR week 1, and 4 sets at ½ your PR+1 Rep on week 2. After week two we add 5 pounds and repeat. So week 3 you do 4 x1/2 PR +5, Week 5 you do 4x1/2 PR +10, so on and so forth. Try to go for 4 cycles (so you’re hitting your last 2 weeks with 20 pounds) and see if you can still hit half your PR. After the 2 weeks with 20 pounds added, try another all out set and see where you’re at. You should show some huge gains.
This is a chart to show you this progression:
Honestly, I just turned 31 and when I tried this program out for myself, I went from I went from 14 pull-ups to 20 (20th didn't hit my chest so 19, but you see where I’m going). The athlete's who did this during the season (scout team guys who don't play) had even better gains. We saw greater than 50% improvement in the number of pull ups these guys could do! It was NUTS! So give this a shot for 6-10 weeks and you’ll see some ridiculous gains.
Now if you want to crank up the intensity another way, I’d recommend doing 5’s or 3’s and working up to what we refer to as a Heavy 5, or a Heavy 3 (also known as building up to a 5 rep max or 3 rep max). Here, the goal is to do 5 sets while adding a little weight each time so that you’re gradually building up to the heaviest weight you can do for 5 reps or 3 reps.
Remember we are most concerned with setting a pull-up PR and that the workup sets are there to get you ready to handle the weight you are trying to hit in your last set. With this in mind make sure you make small jumps to start, and if you get to 3 reps and it’s easy, shut that set down and bump the weight up. This will help you improve your heaving set as you won’t be gassed out from your progression.
Knowing that, the pull-up portion of your programming might look like this:
Set 1: BW x 3 Reps (Was easy so you stopped at 3)
Set 2: BW + 5 lbs x 3 Reps (Was easy so you stopped at 3)
Set 3: BW + 10 lbs x 3 Reps (Was easy so you stopped at 3)
Set 4: BW + 15 lbs x 4 Reps (Wasn’t too easy, but thought you could bump it up more)
Set 5: BW + 20 lbs x 5 Reps (This was your Heavy 5)
Each week you should be able to increase the weight so that your last set is heavier than it was the week before. So a 4 week wave of your final set may look like this:
Week 1: 20 lbsx 5 Reps
Week 2: 25 lbs x 5 RepsWeek 3: 30 lbs x 5 Reps
Week 4: 32.5 lbs x 5 Reps
Week 5: 35 lbs x 4 Reps (missed 5)
Week 6: 45 lbs x 3 Reps
Week 7: 55 lbs x 3 Reps
Week 8: 60 lbs x 2 Reps (missed 3)
Week 9: 3x5 @ Body Weight
Week 10: Restart with 5’s
And 1R, to prepare you for each lift, we at OneResult recommend the following NCAA-legal pre-workout supplements: