The Ultimate Pull Up Training Programme

Moving from intermediate to advanced in the pull up is a very challenging training endeavour that takes a lot of time and consistency of pursuit. It also requires a logical and well thought out training plan to ensure you are moving in the right direction. In this article I aim to provide you with a blueprint of a training plan that you can use consistently over time along with examples of weekly design and exercise selection.

6 min read
Sean Klein
Written by
Sean Klein
Published on
11/04/24
Last updated
22/05/24
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Upper Body
Vertical Pull
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Upper Body
Vertical Pull
Primary
Upper Body
Horizontal Pull
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Upper Body
Horizontal Pull

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In This Resource
  • Ingredients List:
  • Vertical Pulling Strength
  • Vertical Pulling Endurance
  • Horizontal Pulling Strength
  • Horizontal Pull Muscular Endurance
  • Weekly Design
  • Sample Week With Exercises
  • Long Term Considerations

Please note that this article is for more advanced individuals who can already perform 10+ strict pull ups. If you are looking for information on how beginners can get their first pull up, read our article on the topic, How To Get Your First Pull Up: Pull Up Progression and Exercise Selection.

This training plan doesn’t designate sets and reps. Here we provide the ingredients list for a week of training that be certain to improve the amount of pull ups you can perform. Ideal to perform this training programme you will need to be resistance training 3-4 times a week already.

Ingredients List:

Vertical Pulling Strength

Vertical Pulling Endurance

Horizontal Pulling Strength

Horizontal Pulling Endurance

Vertical Pulling Strength

Building maximal strength in your pull up will be extremely beneficial to your ability to perform pull ups. Strength work, just like with weights, requires you to lift loads which are challenging for minimal repetitions. This means performing between 3-6 repetitions on heavy loads.

My favourite exercise here is the weighted pull up, I really enjoy treating this like any other strength exercise when traditionally it is just used for muscular endurance. That being said there are many options here, archer pull ups, tempo pull ups etc. Any exercise that can be reduced to between 3-6 repetitions because the limiting factor is force production. Remember that these working sets will be performed practically to failure (As Many Reps as Possible - 1 or 2) apart from on deload weeks.

Perform 4-6 working sets per week.

Sample Exercise

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Upper Body
Vertical Pull

Vertical Pulling Endurance

Increasing muscular endurance unsurprisingly involves performing lots of repetitions through the vertical pull movement pattern. This type of training will feel very different from the strength training discussed above, it will feel more like body building. The exercises that will work the vertical pulling endurance will need to be easy in the sense that you will need to be able to perform a great deal of repetitions, ideally 15+. This is why working muscular endurance with actual pull ups can be very challenging, as most people cannot perform this kind of repetitions on pull ups (congratulation if you can!).

My go to exercise here is the band assisted pull up, it allows us to generate a very high amount of fatigue in the pull up, which will be very beneficial for improving muscular endurance. The lat pull down is also a very effective option, banded pull downs (if you have a band with enough resistance)

Perform 4-8 working sets per week.

Sample Exercise

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Vertical Pull

Horizontal Pulling Strength

This follows exactly the same principles as improving strength in vertical pull, lifting something heavy for minimal repetitions. This is very rarely done with bodyweight exercises, especially for advanced individuals. In order to build strength in the horizontal pull using bodyweight exercises we need to use exercises which are not seen very often in most gyms, like the feet elevated ring rows. If you are very advanced then performing weighted vest feet elevated ring rows is a very effective way at improving horizontal pulling strength.

Perform 4-6 working sets per week.

Sample Exercise

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Upper Body
Horizontal Pull

Horizontal Pull Muscular Endurance

Again, this involves performing high number of repetitions through the horizontal pull movement pattern. Anything between 15-25 repetitions will be very effective at developing muscular endurance in the horizontal pull movement pattern. Good exercises here include ring rows and inverted press ups.

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Upper Body
Horizontal Pull

Weekly Design

In order for these weekly sets to be most effective I recommend breaking them over at least 3 sessions within the week where you can perform other resistance training exercises. If you were to perform only 1-2 sessions, to much fatigue would be accumulated in once session for optimal progression.

Session 1

Vertical Pulling Strength + Horizontal Pulling Muscular Endurance

Session 2

Horizontal Pulling Strength

Session 3

Vertical Pulling Muscular Endurance

Sample Week With Exercises

Session 1

Weighted Pull Up

5 x AMRAP - 1 @15kg +

Ring Row

5 x Max Reps in 90 seconds

Session 2

Weighted Feet Elevated Ring Row

5 x AMRAP - 1 @10KG

Session 3

Banded Pull Ups

5 x AMRAP - 1

Long Term Considerations

Once you have made your initial exercise selections, these should be added into a training cycle. This cycle can be performed from 3-12 weeks, at which point I would recommend taking a slight deload and changing the exercises and consider switching up the structure. If you can be consistent with this level of output towards bodyweight pulling strength you will be able to build towards the 15-20 pull up mark, which will make you very advanced. Make sure that you are performing you repetitions perfectly from the beginning so you never have to take a step backwards. Good luck!

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This resource was written by Sean Klein. Sean Richard Klein has thousands of hours of coaching experience and a BSc in Sports Science with Management from Loughborough University. He owns a gym in Bayonne France, CrossFit Essor, which runs group classes and a Personal training studio.

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