I do pull-ups.

I aim to do X pullups, and I try to do as many pullups as I can during sets, in an attempt to increase the number of pullups I can do in a single set.

To reach X pull ups, I might end up doing 5 sets like this:

(Y + 2) + (Y + 1) + Y + Y + Y

I'm wondering now, if there's a reason why I would want to instead try to do an equal amount of pullups in each set, rather than going all in from the beginning, and then being to tired to maintain the same level across the other sets.

  • 2
    what is X and what is the current amount you can do? i t really depends if X is 3 or 15. Aug 14, 2014 at 10:37
  • I can add that info if it's necessary, but I'm hoping someone can write an answer that encompasses both, so the question becomes more useful for others. Also, in my particular case, I'm doing PLP 60, so X changes on a daily basis.
    – Letharion
    Aug 14, 2014 at 11:05
  • Is this about bodyweight pullups or with added weight? Sep 14, 2014 at 15:44

4 Answers 4


Numbers are approximate, but here's what I do.

If you can only do one to three pull-ups, then you should use negatives or assisted pull-ups and strive for an equal number of reps across your sets. At this stage you're not strong enough to warrant straining to do some variable but small number of real pull-ups. You're better served by getting in a consistent, larger amount of volume (total reps) while gradually making it harder by doing slower negatives or decreasing the amount of assistance weight on the band or assisted pull-up machine.

If you can do four to eight pull-ups then you should find a number you can reliably do in each set and do that for several sets. At this point you're strong enough so that real pull-ups are best, but weak enough that you might severely limit volume by going for your max every set. Alternatively, you could nix the entire idea of a set number of sets, and just pick a total to reach in however many sets it takes.

If you can do nine or more pull-ups then you should stop worrying about consistent numbers across sets. Just go for your max (or a training max) in each set and make sure it stays within an acceptable range: if you can do 15 at your best, make sure each set is between 12 and 15. Then you can keep the number of sets constant and know you're still challenging yourself in terms of volume and effort.

  • 1
    I agree with this answer, the only thing I'd like to add is; how many reps you want to do depends on what your goal is. If you want to become stronger, doing 15 reps per set might not be as effective as doing 8 reps per set with added weight.
    – MJB
    Feb 25, 2022 at 12:13

If you mean to always to an even number of reps per set for every workout, than no. If you're doing strength training and working in sets, you should work to achieve the same number of reps in a set, and once you achieve that goal, you can either A) increase the number of reps you want to achieve across all sets, or B) change the mechanics of the workout as to increase the amount of stress on your muscles and then try to achieve the same number of reps across sets as your previous exercise progression. For pull-ups, I recommend looking up archer pull-ups, one arm pull-ups, or muscle ups.


From my experience, each set is defined by failure.

Because your muscle really works when it burns and if you aim 10 reps and your 10th rep didn't even burn you... "you've wasted a set". That's from my experience only.

  • 3
    if you do each set until failure on every exercise, you're doing something wrong IMHO Aug 14, 2014 at 11:50
  • @PhilippSander Each person has is own belif, and each person has is own bio-mecanic. I'm doing something wrong ? can you explain ? going to failure doesn't mean picking 1kg dumbel and curl until you get 300 reps... failure can be 50 reps as can be 4 reps. it depends on the weight.. and put -1 because you don't think the same way as I... lmao
    – e1che
    Aug 14, 2014 at 15:42
  • Philipp is correct thought. Going to failure on every set of every exercise is simply going to hurt your progress in the long run.
    – MJB
    Feb 25, 2022 at 12:17

To reach X reps, you don't need to perform multiple sets; you only need a single set of incrementing Y

Performing multiple sets will only condition your body against fatigue and will increase your endurance. But if you must perform multiple sets (which I recommend), reduce the number of sets to a maximum of 3. This will allow you to focus on increasing your reps without worrying about completing all the sets.

However, if you must complete 5 sets, don't worry too much about the unequal number of sets; just ensure that on each set, you perform same or higher reps than your previous session.

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