About 6 years ago, after having been a couch-potato for about a decade (following a knee injury) I've picked up strength training once more, and for the most part I'm already back at about 80% of my pre-injury strength stats:

  • Shoulder press: 120kg
  • Bench press: 140kg
  • Squat : 260kg
  • Dead lift : 200kg
  • Press-down : 100kg
  • Leg-press : 600kg
  • Curls : 60kg
  • Leg extensions : 110kg
  • Lat pull-down : 75kg

My current body weight is 108kg, so these stats for me are pretty satisfactory for the most part for a 43 year old guy I think. I'm not where I was prior to my knee injury, but I'm not a twenty something anymore so I'm quite happy with where I'm currently at, especially as my stats are still improving over time. With this much regained strength, one would expect that doing a few pull ups wouldn't be any problem, right? Unfortunately for me they are. I can still not even do one clean (broad) pull-up. In fact, with the lat pull down I've been stuck at about 75kg for a few years now. Progress has completely halted on my lat-pull-down, and at 108kg body weight that's just to much of a gap to even try to do pull ups.

I would really like to be able to do pull-ups like I used to do in my twenties. My last attempt at changing my schedule ended in disaster. I moved shoulders from back/biceps day to chest/triceps day so I would have more room to focus on my upper back, but doing so ended me up with a shoulder injury that took me two months to recover from, so I had to move shoulders back to back/biceps day.

Are there any ways to somehow get myself out of this stagnated lat-pull-down situation and somehow work to doing clean broad bodyweight pull-ups, or should I just accept that I won't ever be able to do pull-ups again?

  • I'm going to go out in a limb here and suggest that grip strength might be a part of the equation. Do you sense that this may be the reason why you pull significantly less than you squat? Do you do any direct grip work or you do you usually pull with straps, etc. Just putting my two cents in. Good luck with your training!
    – user8222
    Mar 27, 2014 at 11:40
  • If that's really the limiting factor, deadlifts with double overhand grip work wonders on grip strength. And don't use any straps or even gloves. Chalk is highly recommended, though.
    – user8119
    Mar 27, 2014 at 12:07

1 Answer 1


You say you're stuck at your lat-pulldown, but you want to be able to do chinups. Well, lat-pulldowns don't make good pull ups, pull ups do. So let's just take a look at the bigger picture and concentrate on your upper back instead of just lats. With that said here are some ideas on how to overcome your plateau:

  • Plan for a dedicated 'upper back day' and do it first in the week, when you're well rested from the weekend.
  • Use compound exercises first and add isolation after that. For example do pull-ups first, then add dumbbell rows, lat-pulldowns etc.
  • Set your rep-range to about 3-5 reps and use a very high intensity. Max-effort training will make you stronger faster than the 8-12 bodybuilding rep-range.

Now you said you can't do a straight clean pull up, but there are some techniques to get there:

  • Try doing assisted pull ups. There are machines for that, but you could also use resistance bands or a training buddy.
  • Negative reps (jumping up and then coming down slowly) are also helpful.
  • If you can do chin ups, do those instead. They work the same muscles for the most part, so there's a significant carry-over between those (and all other pull-up variations). This is also a good way to prevent injury by shifting the stress ever so slightly around.
  • If you're able to do some repetitions start clustering. Set a goal and reach it in as few sets of as much reps as you can.

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