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Pull ups and progressive overload


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I have one of those easy-install doorframe pull up bars. I use it to do a set here-and-there as a break from work. I got it at the beginning of last year, and initially I couldn't do a single pull up. It took some effort to be able to do two good pull ups, but after that, I felt like progress was relatively steady even with a pretty casual workout plan. Right now, I can do 12 pull ups (maybe 13 on a good day), but my progress seems to have stalled. My max reps hasn't changed in months. My plan was to wait until I got to 15 and then start adding weight, but I'm wondering if now is the time. I tried doing a few sets with 10 pounds of weight (just stuff in a backpack). I only did 10 reps on my first set, but by the second, I was already back up to 12. Is there a good rule of thumb either for how much weight I should be adding (my current body weight is about 165) or how many reps I should be down after adding weight? Like just add weight until I can only do six reps or something, and then work my way back up.

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On 10/12/2021 at 6:09 PM, Mudd said:

I have one of those easy-install doorframe pull up bars. I use it to do a set here-and-there as a break from work. I got it at the beginning of last year, and initially I couldn't do a single pull up. It took some effort to be able to do two good pull ups, but after that, I felt like progress was relatively steady even with a pretty casual workout plan. Right now, I can do 12 pull ups (maybe 13 on a good day), but my progress seems to have stalled. My max reps hasn't changed in months. My plan was to wait until I got to 15 and then start adding weight, but I'm wondering if now is the time. I tried doing a few sets with 10 pounds of weight (just stuff in a backpack). I only did 10 reps on my first set, but by the second, I was already back up to 12. Is there a good rule of thumb either for how much weight I should be adding (my current body weight is about 165) or how many reps I should be down after adding weight? Like just add weight until I can only do six reps or something, and then work my way back up.

 

I'm not an expert in pull ups, but I think generally, any reps from 5 to 12 are great for hypertrophy plus strength, but people can also build some muscle and strength from as low as 1 rep to above 20 reps, too, if they don't have smaller increments to work with. Although the ranges overlap a lot, what people often choose is 3-5 reps for strength, and 8-12 reps if you're working on hypertrophy. That said, you might have different preferences for different exercises. (I prefer super low reps for squats and deadlifts, because my priority is avoiding so much whole-body fatigue that I can't do other stuff that day. But much higher reps for other, smaller exercises are fine for me. It might be different if you have injuries or weaknesses that are aggravated by repetition, or by maximal weights, or whatever) With bodyweight exercises you don't usually have small increments, but different progressions that create large jumps in difficulty, so you can't afford to be too particular with rep ranges. But if you can load incrementally, you could try staying in the 5-12 range, for example. I don't know how much weight you should add each time you reset, sorry. That really depends on your strength. But if you're getting close to the reps you were doing before, with a new weight, then it seems like you could go for a bigger increment. So for exmaple, just lift whatever weight allows you to hit 5 reps on the first day. Work up to 12 reps with that weight. Then start again at a new weight that you can *just* get 5 reps with. Or do the same thing with 3-5. Or 5-8. Or 8-15. Everything in this area is fine for strength and hypertrophy, even if some parts of the range are slightly better. See what works for you. Above about 20 reps, though, you start gradually transitioning into endurance territory, from what I've read.

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This makes a lot of sense. I tried more-or-less what you advised and experimented with different weight. At 20 lbs, I dropped to 6 reps on the first set, but then jumped back up to 8 or 9 from the 2nd set onward. I think that's probably good enough for now. It does seem like the very first time I try a new amount of weight it's especially hard. Maybe that'll go away as I get more experience working with different amounts of added weight.

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1 hour ago, Mudd said:

This makes a lot of sense. I tried more-or-less what you advised and experimented with different weight. At 20 lbs, I dropped to 6 reps on the first set, but then jumped back up to 8 or 9 from the 2nd set onward. I think that's probably good enough for now. It does seem like the very first time I try a new amount of weight it's especially hard. Maybe that'll go away as I get more experience working with different amounts of added weight.

 

Sounds good!

Let cheese and oxen and mead crowd out our secret desires for power and domination - Harriet the viking

Just be bold, fluid and unapologetic, not small, hairy and indecisive - Harriet the artist

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I don't know much about weighted calisthenics. What helped me to break through my own plateau though, was adding body weight rows as an accessoir exercise. This way, I increased the volume without the repetitiveness of more pull-up sets. As a nice bonus, they also got a lot higher (from chin to chest level), just from the strengthened elbow drive in the top position. I started the rows with a broom between two tables and progressed to archer and later to one-handed rows on a ring. the unilateral progressions in both rows and pull-ups also help identify any imbalances. (I guess, your door frame might not be wide enough for archer pull-ups though. ; )

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40 minutes ago, Woodsrunner said:

 

I don't know much about weighted calisthenics. What helped me to break through my own plateau though, was adding body weight rows as an accessoir exercise. This way, I increased the volume without the repetitiveness of more pull-up sets. As a nice bonus, they also got a lot higher (from chin to chest level), just from the strengthened elbow drive in the top position. I started the rows with a broom between two tables and progressed to archer and later to one-handed rows on a ring. the unilateral progressions in both rows and pull-ups also help identify any imbalances. (I guess, your door frame might not be wide enough for archer pull-ups though. ; )

So how often did you do the rows? Did you do both pull ups and rows on the same days?

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20 hours ago, Elastigirl said:

So how often did you do the rows? Did you do both pull ups and rows on the same days?

 

Yes, when I was focussed on calisthenics and strength, I used a full-body routine or an upper-lower split, but always with both exercises on the same day. For time reasons, I paired pull-ups with (archer) push-ups and rows with dips into supersets, the harder exercises coming first, three sets each, three times a week. But honestly, sometimes that was more than I could recover from and I do less now.

 

I don't think, much speaks against practicing rows only say on Monday and pull-ups only on Wednesday though, If you prefer that.

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20 minutes ago, Woodsrunner said:

 

Yes, when I was focussed on calisthenics and strength, I used a full-body routine or an upper-lower split, but always with both exercises on the same day. For time reasons, I paired pull-ups with (archer) push-ups and rows with dips into supersets, the harder exercises coming first, three sets each, three times a week. But honestly, sometimes that was more than I could recover from and I do less now.

 

I don't think, much speaks against practicing rows only say on Monday and pull-ups only on Wednesday though, If you prefer that.

Thanks. I think I will try doing both on my upper body days and see how that goes

Wisdom 22.5   Dexterity 13   Charisma 15   Strength 21  Constitution-13

"If more of us valued food and cheer and song, above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world" J.R.R.Tolkien

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For my case, I've tried different pull up exercises first before I added some weights in my routine. The important question I asked myself before is, could I support my whole weight if I added some variations to a regular pull up? As it turns out, my reps lower when I tried different versions of it. 

It's actually relatively simple though. Add weight to your pull ups when you are able to and when you're going to be able to maintain performance and technical positions. There's no benefit to rushing weighted pull ups and, if you're not able to do them strictly, there's no point adding weight.
 

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