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I found a workout online that would help me with my current pull-up goal. I don't know if there is a specific way to complete it, but I'll put it under here.

Perform & Progress The Following 2x/week:
Scapular Pull-Ups: 3 sets of 10-15 reps
Banded Pull-Ups: 3 sets of 6-12 reps
Kneeling Lat Pulldowns: 3 sets of 10-15 reps
Inverted Row: 3 sets of 8-12 reps (LOWER ANGLE OVERTIME)
Pull-Up Negatives: 2-3 sets (WORK UP TO 30S DESCENT)

I don't know if I'm supposed to do scapular pullups for one set, and then move on, or complete all three sets and then move onto the next workout. I assume that it doesn't really matter, but the point of my question is which method provides better results? For context, the workout is aimed towards general strength (so I can increase my # of pull-up reps), but I am trying increase muscle mass (hypertrophy) as well. What should I do?

2 Answers 2

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If you see a program written as a list of exercises, where each is specified as a number of set of a number of reps, then that means you should do all sets of the first exercise, then the sets of the second, and so on. A circuit program, in which you change exercises every set, would instead contain a list of exercises with a rep and/or weight range specified for each, and then would have and additional instruction like "repeat for thee rounds" at the end.

That said, this looks like a pretty terrible program. Firstly, it contains mostly bodyweight exercises, and yet specifies rep ranges. So what are you supposed to do if, say, for scapular pull-ups, you number of reps you can complete is either less than or way more than the 10-15 reps prescribed? There is no instruction for how to handle that very likely case. Secondly, this is prescribing 30 sets per week for a single muscle group, which is an obscenely high amount of volume for a beginner program.

I'd recommend just getting in a set of pull-ups whenever you can (often called "greasing the groove"), which is especially convenient if you have a pull-up bar at home and can do them at random times throughout the day, rather than having to travel to a gym. You should aim to be gradually increasing both the number of sets you're doing per week, and the number of reps you're doing per set. If you can't do a single rep of a pull-up yet, then band-assisted pull-ups and negative pull-ups are good alternatives until you build up enough strength.

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  • Where does it say it works up to 30 sets per week? If I counted correctly I see 14-15 sets. Also, you say this seems to be a terrible program but your best advice is to "just do pullups whenever you can" instead of going to a gym and work your back? This seems like even worse advice.
    – MJB
    Mar 29, 2022 at 9:38
  • I do agree that greasing the groove is a fantastic program for increasing pullups. It personally raised mine from 12-25 in a couple months. I must include the risks, what it actually does, and how to do it though. You are supposed to perform it to a level where it doesn't fatigue you, so every time you hop on the bar you are 100% fresh and perform perfect reps. So if you can do 12 max, do 5-8 every time you hop on the bar. This will promote neurological adaptations primarily, not hypertrophy. Mar 29, 2022 at 20:26
  • This program is amazing at adding tons of volume, but the downside to that is that it it is very easy to develop tendonitis, so if you start to feel pain near your joints, stop completely until you have healed. This being said, I don't think grease the groove really makes sense until you can do at least 5 pull-ups. Mar 29, 2022 at 20:26
  • @MJB It's 14-15 sets twice per week, so 28-30 sets per week in total. (And it gets even worse if you track down the source for this workout, which prescribes a different program for people who can do 10+ pull-ups, with the advanced program only having 6-8 sets per week! Seriously, who programs four times more volume for beginners than they do for advanced trainees?) Mar 30, 2022 at 4:22
  • @DavidScarlett Oh my bad, I didn't notice this was recommended twice a week! I agree with you that that kind of volume is too high.
    – MJB
    Mar 30, 2022 at 7:17
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The exercises are pretty good to learn a pullup, but I would definitely change the order in which you do them, and also change some of the rep ranges around. You want to start with the heaviest exercises first. If I were you I'd:

Start with actual pullups, even if you can only do 2 or 3. After that you go into assisted pullups with a band. Try doing 4 sets of 6-8. (At the start you might struggle to reach 6 reps on the 4th set, but by the time you can do 4 sets of 8, you'll be able to do a couple of pullups without the band aswell.)

After this you want to focus on easier exercises where you can really focus on using the right muscles to do the movement instead of compensating with other bodyparts. Any type of row movement is good for this, inverted row, bend over row or seated row are some of my favorites. If you want to work on strenght, you again want to focus on getting around 6 reps per set, up to 8 before moving towards higher weight. You don't want to be doing 15 reps per set.

After this you can to some accessory work, a lat pulldown (if available) is great for this. You can finish of your back with some lat pulldowns and scapular work on this machine.

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