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I started training calisthenics a month ago. Ive managed to go from 0 chinups to doing 8 . However i have some concerns. While i can do 8 chinups in my first set unfortunately if i dont use an assisted band on my other sets im able to do only 3 or 4. Im taking 3 minutes max rest times and even then i cant do 8 or even pass that number. Now when it comes to pullups its even worse beign able to do only 2 without any help ,and i really have to strain myself a lot on the second one. In the past month ive trained with multiple sets of triples and 5 reps to reach 8 rels but now it doesnt seem to work? Any suggestions ?

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    After a short period of newbie gains, you will plateau. The fact that you were able to progress so quickly is quite impressive. Something you can consider doing is called greasing the groove. This is not a way to build muscle via the pull-up or chin-up but a way to strengthen the neural pathways to allow you to perform the movement more efficiently and pump out more reps. You just need to be careful to not over train doing this, so listen to your body. See this link: artofmanliness.com/articles/get-stronger-by-greasing-the-groove – Eric Warburton Jun 14 at 19:05
  • Your training appears to be just trying to do more of the same but after initial beginner gains, you will reach a plateau. To get past that, you need to do exercises which target the individual muscles used in pullups/chinups such as biceps, rear delts and lats. The idea being to add muscle mass AND endurance. So for endurance you would do low weight with high reps and muscle mass you would do high weight with low reps. Do a mix of the two, endurance for 2-3 weeks and then mass for 2-3 weeks. You will definitely improve if you do this. – NetServOps Jun 15 at 2:19
  • How many days per week do you do pull/chin-ups? – Michael Curtis Jun 17 at 14:04
  • @Michael Curtis I workout 3 days a week on them – Νικόλαος Παππάς Jun 18 at 10:40
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I posted this in comments but someone else posted essentially the same thing in their answer so I'm posting here.

Your training appears to be just trying to do more of the same but after initial beginner gains, you will reach a plateau. To get past that, you need to do exercises which target the individual muscles used in pullups/chinups such as biceps, rear delts and lats. The idea being to add muscle mass AND endurance. So for endurance you would do low weight with high reps and muscle mass you would do high weight with low reps. Do a mix of the two, endurance for 2-3 weeks and then mass for 2-3 weeks. You will definitely improve if you do this.

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As suggested by the comments here, you have probably hit a plateau and will continue to do so for a while. Chinups are easier than pullups because you're incorporating your arms more. The best way to master doing a pullup is to do one, even if cheating at first, until you get used to it. For your pullups, it sounds like you want to do more, which I guess maybe a few sets of 10, or are you wanting to hammer out a lot? I would work on all the muscles that assist in a pullup by building muscle/strength/ on forearms, upper and lower lats, and teres major/minor, rhomboids, etc.. and for your pullup workout you could do something like the following:

1 set of 8 (or AMAP) 1 set of 4 (or AMAP) 1 set of 3 1 set of 2 1 set of 1 1 set of 1... continue until you cant complete one. ... 3 sets of negative pullups(grab a box and start from the contracted pull up position, and lower yourself as slowly as you can, doing no more than 30 seconds, until you come to a deadhang).

Or you could do 10 sets of 3, and focus on hammering out a few. and really just focus on adding more reps or decreasing rest time starting from 3-5 minutes

After doing the above, you could then switch your grip to a medium close pronated grip, and do pullups. these are a bit harder. after this, you could switch to a wide grip pullup(even harder!) and work on this. The important thing is to focus on your back muscles and pulling muscles, address where you go weak first and start there. If you cant crank out a lot of reps, then do the above workout and make it a power workout by doing many sets of low reps. Theres a lot of tricks you can do with the above as well, such as focusing on 10 sets of 3, and working on resting less between sets, or slowly adding reps. I prefer to do 10 sets of 3 with 3 -5 minutes of rest, and slowly chip away the time between each set each week, until one day you'll go in only resting 15-20 seconds between each set, and then you'll start resting hardly at all first few sets, which will pave your way to doing 15-20 reps at a time with zero rest, which is like doing 6-7 sets

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  • Today i managed to pull a chinup workout at 8,6,6,8 the last set with 8 reps i assisted with a band. I go to failure in every set ,Do you think i need to keep some reps in preserve and only go to failure in my last one? Also after the chinup session i went on to do a few sets of pullups but could only do 1 and i had to use the assisted band for the other 3 sets.Why did that happen? – Νικόλαος Παππάς Jun 16 at 14:45
  • you'll always be weaker with pullups than chinups, it's just a harder exercise. I would only use the band if you cant get above 5. I think using pullups and trying to use the power sets of 10-3 may be helpful rather than chinups. Your chinups, you could also do 10 sets of 3 and stop after 3, or even do weighted chinups at 10 sets of 3, and then reevaluate your chinups after a 4 week block. Another fun trick could be to shoot for a certain number of reps, such as 10, and do negative reps if you cant finish. You could also do AMAP in 30 seconds, and do 5 rounds, and try to improve. just pick one – Ace Cabbie Jun 16 at 20:08
  • ultimately though, I think you should take a break and focus on building your pulling muscles and strength, and come back after 4-8 weeks and see where you're at. If your goal is just to do AMAP, then shoot for that, otherwise the amount youre doing is fine – Ace Cabbie Jun 16 at 20:09
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I've had the same problem as you and here's how I've tackled it.

Calisthenics in itself is not a very good idea for progressing in strength. At some point, you'll have to start training with a barbell. As far as pull-ups/chin-ups are concerned, what helped me was doing heavy compound movements.

Deadlift and barbell row affects the pullup in a direct way (since they targets the posterior chain really well), squats, presses (along with deadlifts and rows) build tolerance in the body for handling heavy weights. This results in a psychological surplus in you wherein, pulling your own bodyweight gets easier and easier as time progresses.

Still, you would have to train pull-ups with requisite volume in order to develop the necessary neuro-muscular co-ordination and become efficient in executing pull-ups.

What I've noticed in general is that, doing heavy barbell lifts improves other lifts significantly without even explicitly training them.

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  • Well the problem is i dont have a gym membership at the moment so the only thing i can do is calisthenics. – Νικόλαος Παππάς Jun 18 at 10:41
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Pull/chin ups are a challenging move so you need to try different things get strong at them.

Over the years my chin up strength has gone up and down depending on how much time I've devoted to them. So I understand the place you're at right now, trying break through to the next level.

One thing that very noticeably helped me was to chin up every day. Not lots of sets to completely wear out your back, but one really good set. Nice smooth, controlled motion. Try hitting your 8 reps each day with really good form.

Doing calisthenics exercises like chip up, sit up, push up, everyday really worked for me, but the point is it builds endurance. And that is what you want to those extra sets. Overall you want to reduce the rest period. Removing rest days is a first step.

Another thing to try is more indirect. Get used to hanging from the bar, just suspending your body weight with your arms. You can do it several ways. One is just hang for as long as you can. The obvious thing is it will exercise your grip, but it also stimulates all of your shoulders and back. You can add other things to hanging. Pull yourself up with just shoulder blade movement, you only move an inch or two, but it's an very important part of the full pull/chin-up movement. You can also pull up half way and statically hold that position, mind that you pull down your shoulder blades too, lower yourself slowly out of this position. From a hang you can also pull your hips up with side to side motion. I like to do this in a half-pull/hanging knee raise position. It works the abdominal muscles, but you can also feel the lats engage.

You don't need to be rigid about how to do these hanging exercises. It's not about reps and set. Go for time hanging from the bar and moving smoothly with control. Do what you can and build up slowly. Eventually you want to feel like hanging from the bar and changing in and out of various positions is an everyday thing.

Some of the hanging ideas can be worked into normal pull/chin-up reps. Hang for a moment at the bottom of each rep, go slow on the lowering movement, isolate just the middle range of motion, etc.

If 8 is your max, use the typical kind of programming for sets/reps/rest. Don't go to failure at 8 and then have nothing left to work out additional sets. Lower the numbers, shorten the rest, and build up endurance. Try something like 3 reps, 1 minute rest, 5 sets. Everyday. Experiment with the numbers so it's do-able but real work. When you get to the point where you feel strong at that, try a test/max day. Try to hit your 8 rep max, take 1 minute rest, see how many more you can do.

When your endurance increases you can also try things like negative reps, when you get to failure leap up to the top of the pull position they lower yourself as slowly as possible, 1-3 times. At, or near, failure do rest-pause reps. Get off the bar, take a count of 10, then try to get 1 or 2 more reps, take another resting 10 count and repeat a few more time.

I'm suggesting working everyday, but take a rest day when you need it. Something like one or two days off a week for rest, or when life just gets in the way, is fine.

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