Despite being reasonably well-trained in the past, I always sucked at pull-ups. At the beginning of this summer, I started training again. In the beginning, my max was only 1-2 clean pull-ups (I am 175 cm and 85 kg and I'd like to stay around this weight).
At first, I started doing 5 sets of 5 pull-ups 3x a week. Because I could not do 5 clean pull-ups, once I felt I could not do one more pull-up, I did negatives to complete the set. So usually my five sets would look like 3 pullups + 2 negatives, then 2 + 3, 2 + 3, 1 + 4 or similar. I tried to improve each training by doing more pull-ups and less negatives.
During the same training, I would also do parallel bar dips (more on that later).
This worked, but progress was quite slow, I progressed from being able to do 5 pull-ups in (only) my first set after 2 months, but I still felt like I'm struggling with it.
To compare this with dips, where my max was also only 1-2 at the beginning, with roughly the same program, after the same time, I was doing 10,10,10,8,8 easily, so I started using additional weight.
Then, I switched to doing pull-ups 5-6 days a week, something similar to GTG. I decided to set a target volume for each day depending on how I felt. In a couple of days I ramped up to 10 sets of 3-5 a day. After a week, I was easily doing 12 sets of 5 a day, and I feel like my pull-up strength has skyrocketed. I think, what made it work are two details, first, not going over the target even if I feel like I could do more, second, using a variety of grips (parallel, overhand, false grip on rings) to keep my elbow happy.
As after 2 weeks of this, I feel great, no signs of exhaustion or pain, I plan to continue with the same volume for 1-2 more weeks, then switch to something more focused on endurance, as my goal is to get 20 clean pull-ups.
My question is:
Why did 5x5 work not so well for pull-ups for me? It seems to me, that in the beginning, volume is the main driver for progress, so being able to do more total volume means faster progress.
But then, why was it different for dips, and why is it different for barbell training?