Last week's post had thoughts on conquering the first pull up. It's always the hardest, but the subsequent reps are much easier to accumulate. As an avid pull-upper, below are tips I've used to increase my max pull up number.
1. Do more pull ups.
The best way to get better at pull ups is to do more pull ups. Halt! Before you leap onto a bar, I don't mean rep out as many as possible until the pull up resembles a raw, wriggling fish.
Practice makes permanent, not perfect.
I really like doing reps throughout my training session. It's a sound way to accomplish a higher volume without sacrificing form because each set only has a few reps. Two years ago, I set a goal to be able to perform 10 pull ups at the drop of a hat (or an off-hand challenge). Note: I could already do about 5 pull ups at this point, but the idea remains the same. This meant that 10 pull ups had to be easy and my max needed to be in the teens. I needed to build up both strength and endurance. Once per week I would perform pull ups throughout my workout until I hit my total rep goal, for example on week 1 I started with 7 sets of 3 working with a goal of 21 total reps. Week 2, 27 total, Week 3, 30 total. Once I hit 50 total, I upped the reps to 4. And I started back with 7 sets of 4, then 8, etc. Each time I hit my top-end total reps, I'd increase the rep count.
Fast forward a year, and I could comfortably hit 10 reps any time I wanted. Huzzah!
1.5 Grease the Groove.
This is how one should implement "do more pull ups," and whynot maxing out works. (Thank you Pavel Tsatsouline) Instead of providing a long-winded explanation, click HERE for a much better one. The bottom line of Grease the Groove training is neurological training to create a more efficient movement pattern. I'll say it again, practice makes permanent, not perfect (so practice perfectly)!
2. Do more pull ups. And be patient.
Seriously, there isn't a magic trick to this. I planned on having a couple different tips, but really, it just comes down to practicing and performing more pull ups over time (and doing them well!). Over the past year, I incorporated them into ladders, wove them throughout my regular training sessions, and did a pull up every time I went to the bathroom (that only lasted a week, though, because I drink a lot of water).
Essentially, the grease the groove article explains it well. Start small and work your way up.
It takes a while to get "good" at pull ups, especially for us ladies, and so patience is key. Remember, it took me a whole year to have a solid 10 pull ups in my back pocket. Be patient and do more pull ups.
Here's my post-workout let's-see-how-many-I-can-do