Pull-ups Continued

In the last tip I talked about my favorite upper body strengthening exercise: the pull-up!. Here I tackle a few questions I’ve received since last week.

Q: How many sets of pull-ups do you do in a session?

A:If I am doing a ‘normal’ strength training session I usually do 3 sets, but it really depends on my energy levels and what other exercises I’m doing in that workout. If I am tired I may only do one or two sets. If pull-ups are the main focus of the workout then I may do 5 or 6 sets, varying hand position each set.

Q: How many pull-ups do you do in a work out?

A:Again this really depends, both on the speed of the pull-ups and on how many sets I do. If I do the pull-ups slowly and with good form then I might only be able to do 10 to 12 pullups per set, so if I do 3 sets with strict form I will do about 35 bodyweight pull-ups. If I do the pull-ups faster with slight cheating (kicking with the legs, etc.) then I can do a lot more. The number of pull-ups someone can do is affected by their bodyweight, strength, grip, endurance, hand position and the speed of the pull-ups. Don’t get too hung up on the total number of pull-ups you can do, just do them!

Q: How much time for recovery is necessary after maxing out?

A:I usually rest one to two minutes between sets of pull-ups (and most other exercises as well). The less time you rest between sets the more you are working on muscular endurance. The longer you rest the more you are working on strength. Sometimes I shake things up and jump on the stairmaster for a minute between sets of pull-ups, which really makes me feel miserable!

Q: What about seated pulldowns on a cable machine? Are these equivalent to pull-ups?

A: I think that pull-ups are mostly superior to cable pulldowns, but obviously doing pulldowns is better than not doing anything at all. Pull-ups are harder (especially if you add weight) and they may also impart a little bit of gymnastic athleticism.

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