I had to switch from Starting Strength to a 2-day-split because of recovery. The new routine is a push/pull split, done 4 times a week, which looks like this:

Squat 3x5
Bench Press 3x5
Shoulder Press 3x5

Dips 3x12
Abs 3xF (to failure)

Deadlift 1x5
Pullups 3x12
Pendlay Rows 3x5

Reverse Flyes 3x12
Curls 3x12

As you can see, the split does involve dips and pullups, both of which I can't do many reps. Right now, I'm using resistance bands to lift me up a bit, so I can get to ~12 reps per exercise, but I feel like progress is very slow.

Now my question would be, how can I progress faster on pullups/dips without influencing my strength routine in a negative way? As most programs to increase pullup/dip reps require 5 days per week, I'm not sure if that wouldn't mess up my other exercises.

(Additional information:
I'm 25 years old, 6' tall, ~160lbs, female, strength training for about 6 months.
My main goal is to get stronger and build some muscle.)

  • Why not pull pull-ups out of your exercise routines and do it daily instead? You do it daily, starting Week 1 with the goal of completing just one rep without assistance. Once achieved, Week 2 would be to increase the reps to 2, Week 3 to 3, and so on. Once you can complete without assistance, put it back into your exercise schedule. Commented May 1, 2014 at 13:53
  • @Kneel-Before-ZOD: I thought about that too, but was worried that it may be too much to handle, as I'd basically have to go all out to reach my rep goal every day.
    – user8119
    Commented May 1, 2014 at 14:49
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    Trust me, the first time you perform one full rep without any support, you'd be so elated you can't wait to try it again. And again. And again. I got the idea from Art of Manliness site and it worked for me and others perfectly. Commented May 1, 2014 at 16:12
  • 1
    @Kneel-Before-ZOD: I'm doing neutral (hammer) grip right now, which seems to be the easiest variant to me. I did an unassisted rep already, but it didn't feel as great as my first 12 reps assisted. If every single person answering me suggests ditching the bands though, I will do that. Just hope it doesn't interfere with my rows...
    – user8119
    Commented May 1, 2014 at 16:17
  • 1
    With some rest in between them, the pull-up (if performed first) shouldn't affect your rows. Without rest, expect to see some soreness carryover. :) Commented May 1, 2014 at 16:23

4 Answers 4


When I work the Starting Strength program, I always include pullups. A few suggestions for increasing reps:

First, I would also suggest ditching the band. I find the bands helpful for working up to a single rep of a pullup variant, but after that I find that greasing the groove and speed variation are better for actually adding reps.

To move up from a single rep to say 2-3 reps, I find "greasing the groove" most helpful. Do your single rep, but do it a lot. 10+ times per day throughout the day for several days, after which it should be possible to do 2-3 reps.

To move up from 2-3 reps, the most useful thing that I've found is speed variation. When I was working on getting to ten pullups and I hit a plateau, I would start doing each individual pullup as slowly as I could. This would cause a drop in the number of reps per set, but after a few weeks of slow pullups, I would be able to come back and do more reps than I had before starting the slow pullup phase - and if I really wanted to feel awesome, I'd do slow pullups for a few weeks and then crack out a few sets of pullups as fast as I could.

I find that doing pullups twice per week is the best way to increase reps. When I tried to do them 5 days/week I didn't have enough time to recover, and had a very hard time increasing the number of reps.

Another suggestion would be to move the pullups to the front of the workout. When I was working Starting Strength, I always started off my workout with a set of pullups. It didn't seem to affect the other lifts negatively, but I found it very hard to progress in pullups if I did them after a set of heavy squats or deadlifts. I'd just be too drained to really hit them hard.

Good luck!

  • That's actually good. Also, if you cannot do pull ups, you can start with chin ups :). Commented May 1, 2014 at 15:41

Don't program dips and pull-ups like barbell or dumbbell presses, with a set number of reps. Instead, do a predetermined number of sets (e.g. 3 or 5 or 6) to failure. If that doesn't give you very many total reps, pick a target number of total reps (e.g. 50) and take as many sets as necessary to get there.

Use negatives if you have to, but I recommend nixing the bands too. Sometimes they help too much in the wrong portion of the exercise.

I'd also consider not putting dips after shoulder presses. They're very similar movements and picking one or the other would probably allow for better progress.

  • The reps are more like a goal to strive for, as most of the time I reach failure before hitting them. Once I reach them consistently, I'll switch the resistance band for a lighter one and try to get there again. Resistance bands in general help me with overall muscle activation that I never got with negative, so I'm not keen on dropping those just yet. I do want to get rid of them eventually, but right now the benefits are just too convincing. Maybe I will drop Dips, though, as Shoulder Press seems more important to me.
    – user8119
    Commented May 1, 2014 at 12:19

It is hard to increase reps on the pull-up. Some days you just seem to be going backwards as you cant even do as many as you did a couple of days ago! This would indicate 'overtraining', perhaps leave them for a week and then go back and see if you can do more, this often is the case.


Actually you can't do 2 things at the same time. You have to choose between strength and endurance you can't do both. Best thing you can do is to firstly get rid of the resistance band and start doing strict full ROM pull ups and dips.

When you get 12-15 reps at each you can start doing weighted dips and pull ups. That will increase your endurance as well. But not as much and fast as if you were doing specific endurance training

P.S You can try adding to your routine some scapula pulls its a great exercise and it's most of the times what is missing from taking your pulls ups to the next level.

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