Ask anyone who has ever been given advice by the ‘skinny guy’ in the gym and chances are they will talk at great length at their annoyance of the skinny guy giving out advice weighing only 160 pounds. The truth is you don’t have to be huge to be strong. you can of course be both but you can have one without the other.
Mastering one’s body is the purest form of strength, the lion is king of the jungle despite an elephant being 10 times it’s size. To be the strongest you can be it is a good idea to master the pull up, this puts everyone on a level playing field with one of the best tests of strength, relative strength.
Many people will begin to say how pull ups are an unfair test on big guys, sorry but this is nonsense, a 250-pound guy should have no more trouble pumping out 20 pull ups than a guy half his weight unless they happen to be carrying a lot of excess body fat.
Pull-ups are great because they keep you honest, if you are gaining weight and the number of reps on pull-ups are going down it means you are getting fatter, however if your reps stay the same or increase you are getting stronger.
Stop kidding yourself that your 20-inch guns are pure muscle, anyone who is 250 pounds of pure muscle should have no issue performing 20 reps. If you are someone looking for a fat-loss goal without looking at numbers on a scale or body fat percentage then you could do a lot worse than this challenge.
Before concerning yourself with 20 reps, let’s first concentrate on proper form of one pull-up. Compared to other calisthenic staples like pistol squats or handstands which require a lot of neurological training, pull-ups are very simple to perform, this is exactly why it is a good standard for strength. Grab the bar tightly and keep your legs straight then brace your entire body as you pull your chin up over the bar level.
It is important to get in the habit of doing clean reps from the beginning, none of the 20 pull-ups can involve momentum. You do have to lean back a little bit to avoid hitting your head on the bar at the top of a pull-up, your body shouldn’t travel very far forward or backwards.
You can use the grip of your choice for this exercise, overhand, underhand or even a neutral grip with palms facing each other which some people do find more favorable to their joints. So long as you get full extension at the bottom of every rep and make sure your chin goes above the bar without any uncertainty at the top of all 20 reps then your good to go.
Once you have a solid pull-up technique, it is time to start adding on those reps, it is good to have a target number of reps for each session, then make it your goal to hit that number, no matter how much rest or sets it takes to hit that number.
It is important not to ruin your form at any point just to get more reps out, quality will get you where you want to be much faster than sheer quantity, taking long breaks between sets if needed.
Once you can complete the target number of reps gradually start to reduce the amount of time and sets required to complete the amount of sets you want to achieve. When you can complete your goal reps in less than 15 minutes including breaks you can add-on more reps and begin the process again.
To determine how many reps to aim for in each workout, test yourself to find out your current maximum number of pull-ups in each set without coming off the bar, now use the chart below to work out the best way to progress.
Max Pull-Ups In One Set Number To Aim For In Each Workout
1-3 Reps 10 Per workout
Start doing this workout once or twice a week to begin with, making sure to have enough recovery time between training sessions, you should be more or less 100% recovered from the last session before working out again.
Even doing this exercise twice a week you will still want to hit your other muscles but you won’t want to do much else for your back or biceps. Everyone is different so some people will progress faster than others, being consistent is key over time to see great improvement. After a couple of weeks you can add in a third or even fourth day so long as you are recovering enough.
When you are ready take a few days off and test yourself. Keep a strict form, grind only as much as necessary and maybe have someone else do the counting if this is easier. Stop when your form starts to slip even if this is on 19 reps, you might be a little disappointed but you will be doing wonders for your upper body strength, keep it up and come back for more.
Twenty pull-ups may not seem like much but it is pretty rare to see them performed cleanly and with a full range of motion, take this challenge seriously and do not underestimate its difficulty.
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