You have done it! You have accomplished your first pull-up (or even multiple)...Now what? After a while you may find yourself stuck at a specific amount of repetitions that cannot seem to break through. In this article, I will be covering how to break through your pull-up plateau and increase your pullup count by using the tips listed below.
1.Isometric Holds: The biggest part of getting the best "bang for your buck" when it comes to pull-ups is to prioritize the full range of motion. One problem I find with most people performing pull-ups is their strength and range of motion at the top of the movement. By performing isometric holds at the top of the movement, you strengthen your concentration on retracting your scapula (pulling with your back) and feeling what the top of every regular repetition SHOULD feel like.
(Bonus Tip: You can also perform leg raises during isometrics to challenge yourself and your core)
2. Heavy Negatives: Another problem I find many people have during pull-ups is letting the eccentric phase (lowering your body down) take too much energy out of them. You want to really focus on the eccentric for muscle tension and growth, so just losing tension is not the answer. Instead, strengthening the eccentric phase through heavier negatives (perform eccentric phase slowly, then kick/jump to the top of the movement) can help reduce the energy output and strength required for each eccentric phase.
(Bonus Tip: Use these after your strength/core exercise or during a strength phase for efficient use)
3.Dead Hangs: We all want to get our chest to the bar, but while fatigued we can find ourselves unmotivated....at the bottom of the exercise. What happens next? The exercise becomes EVEN HARDER due to releasing muscular tension. Dead hangs are performed just like a regular pull-up, except you relax at the bottom of the movement (releasing muscular tension). This helps you practice engaging muscles from a dead-stop position in case you find yourself maxing out mid-set, allowing yourself to still hang there, and trying to find the strength to pull your chest to the bar one last time. This exercise also helps strengthen your "raw" pull power, as no momentum or elastic tension aids in your repetitions.
(Bonus Tip: Perform these with low volume, because higher volume may irritate the joints of those predisposed to joint discomfort/pain)
4. Scapula Retractions: A lot of people performing pull-ups (whether it be 1 pull-up or 30) do not feel their back muscles actually being activated and utilized during their repetitions. Without activating the right muscles during your pull-ups, you are holding back immense pulling strength you could be using to your advantage. By hanging on a bar, keeping your arms straight, and performing scapula retractions (pulling your shoulder blades back), you give yourself the opportunity to use ALL YOUR STRENGTH and perform more repetitions.
(Bonus Tip: Use these as a warm-up during your work out to target the right pulling muscles)
5. More Volume: Last but not least....DO MORE! Pull-ups require strength, stability, and skill. You must not only be stronger, but more in-tuned with your movement in order to master the exercise. Performing more repetitions or sets than usual gives yourself the ability to practice more often, strengthen your back more, and build confidence in your abilities.
(Bonus Tip: "Grease The Groove" by performing a few repetitions or sets each day in order to increase your practice/strength without dedicating too much time to one exercise.
Just because you have accomplished you first pull-up, does not mean that the journey is over. In order to up your pull-up count, you can add some variations/techniques into your training. By incorporating isometric holds, heavy negatives, dead hangs, scapula retractions, and more volume, you give yourself the tools needed to improve your pull-up count!