Welcome to another Ask Ant blog post where I answer any and all of your questions!
Hi, I’m a rower and I do a lot of pulling movements in the weights room. However I feel that my pull-up reps are limited by a weak grip.
So what can I do to strengthen my grip for pull-ups?
Charlie, thanks for asking a question, lets take a closer look at your problem and what you can do to solve it.
Pull-ups require a hell of a lot of strength but are one of THE best bodyweight exercises you can do, so stick at them, especially as you’re a rower with a need for a strong grip and pulling strength! The best way to improve your grip strength for pull-ups is to do more pull-ups! You need to improve your grip strength-endurance…
There are two main ways to increase total strength endurance.
1) Increase your muscular coordination.
2) Increased growth of type IIa (fast oxidative glycolytic) muscle fibres.
Lets take a more in-depth look at these two ways.
Firstly, why should you increase your muscular coordination?
Basically, by performing more reps per workout your body will learn how to recruit the related muscles much more efficiently.
But how do you go about doing more reps per workout?
It all boils down to one thing: You need to perform as much QUALITY strength work as you can whilst staying as FRESH as possible!
We can change this to: You need to perform as many pull-up reps as possible, without excessively tiring yourself out.
Here is the easiest way to do so:
Grab a training partner and perform one pull-up each, taking turns, then 2, 3, 4, 5 etc. As soon as you can’t get the required number of reps, drop straight back to 1 rep on your next set. DO NOT pyramid back down (5, 4, 3, 2, 1) as this will burn out your grip and stop you doing any more QUALITY work!
So your pull-up ladder workout may look like this:
1 rep, 2 reps, 3 reps, 4 reps, 5 reps, (Failure to get 6 reps, END of 1st ladder), 1 rep, 2 reps, 3 reps, 4 reps, (failure to get 5 reps, END of 2nd ladder), 1 rep, 2 reps, 3 reps, (failure to get 4 reps, END of 3rd ladder)
You only rest as long as it takes your training partner to perform their set, or how long you think it would take them if you’re a loner! Don’t take any extra rest when you drop back to one. Just keep ploughing through the reps. This method will allow you to do a lot of pull-ups in a short space of time, 1+2+3+4+5+1+2+3+4+1+2+3 = 31 total reps. This WILL increase your grip strength and total reps!
3 ladders is plenty of work if you do this every other day, if you want to do pull-ups every day then 2 ladders is plenty. Remember that you must stay FRESH, and not destroy your body so that you can’t recover for the next workout.
Do this workout at least every other day and your muscular coordination will improve massively, SIMPLY by PRACTISING the SKILL of PULL-UPS!
Next then, why should you increase growth of type IIa muscle fibres?
I’m gonna quickly go over the science of muscle just so the routine makes sense! But science is fun, right?!
Fast twitch or Type II muscle fibres provide energy for anaerobic activities like pull-ups, these are subdivided into type IIa and type IIb muscle fibres. Type IIb are the fibres used for maximal strength output and type IIa are the fibres used for activities that require strength output for an extended period of time.
And as you want to improve your total number of pull-up reps by improving your grip you need to stimulate your type IIa muscle fibres to increase their growth and endurance.
And here is how you do so:
Max Rep Sets
This couldn’t be simpler, perform a maximal set of pull-ups. Do as many reps as you can! This will require strength AND endurance. If you can perform pull-ups every day then one set is fine, if you can only get to a pull-up bar 2 or 3 times a week then perform 2 more sets of as many as you can. Rest about 60-90 secs between those extra sets.
That’s it! Two really simple methods to improve your pull-up numbers…….BUT….. I'm going to advise that you only pick ONE of these methods per workout. And preferably do one workout a day and EVERY day including weekends!
So you either do 2 ladders in a workout, or 1 set of max reps. You can also alternate between these two methods every workout, I’m fine with that, as you’re gonna do more pull-ups either way!
Let me know how you get on and thanks for the question!
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