2

I see a lot of advice on (weighted) pull-ups on the internet, but nothing specifically for women, so hopefully someone can help me out with some wisdom. :) I'm relatively new to working out, but I really like doing pull-ups as an exercise. I make sure they're clean, with 90-120 secs of rest between sets. I always do a total of 20. My max is 6 fresh, but I usually do four sets of five. Sometimes five sets of four on a bad day. haha I also do inverted rows (3x8) after, and banded pull-ups (3x8) as well as deadhangs (2:10 min max).

Now my problem is that I have been stuck with these numbers for 1-2 months (seems long but maybe it's not?), and I'm excited to give weighted pull-ups a go and see if that could help me get some more strength. But whenever I research this, I read that you shouldn't add weight until you can do 8 or 10 pull-ups. Is that truth or is there any actual disadvantage to starting to add some weight now?

Or maybe I'm missing something else that slows my progress? Thank you for any advice! :)

3
  • There shouldn't be any difference in pull-up advice for men or women, both answers below should work for both.
    – Luciano
    Commented Jan 12 at 8:55
  • @Luciano That's interesting! I thought that there might be one as it relates to reps (and by extension min # required for weighted) because generally men are required to do more pull-ups than women to pass certain strengths tests, i.e. marines.
    – Oh Ffs
    Commented Jan 12 at 21:48
  • Men generally are stronger on upper body, hence the difference on test requirements. More strength = more reps, and increasing strength works the same for everyone, just stronger people will start at higher reps or with more weight.
    – Luciano
    Commented Jan 15 at 16:03

3 Answers 3

2

I read that you shouldn't add weight until you can do 8 or 10 pull-ups. Is that truth or is there any actual disadvantage to starting to add some weight now?

I've seen two schools of thought around this.

The first is that if a person can't do 8-10 pull-ups, then that means their shoulders are not strong enough to safely hold bodyweight + added weight. So you should first because really good at bodyweight pull-ups, and then progress higher when you've reached this point. This is, as far as I can tell, a completely arbitrary and made up "fact" that someone long ago said and people have been repeating ever since.

The second is that the usual bodybuilding mentality of "You shouldn't add weight until you've reached 8, 10, 15, 20, x reps" which arguably has some merit for various reasons. Though, sometimes to break a plateau you need to stir the pot a little and try something new.

So if you want to give weighted pull-ups a try, then I think you can go for it. If the goal is to build strength in a given exercise, then you should try to do explosive reps without going to near or at failure. So you could add 5 lbs or so, and just do one or two reps as fast as you can. Make sure to lower yourself down slowly while under control. Wait a couple minutes and then do it again. Do this for two to four sets.

The strategy is similar to how weightlifters or powerlifters do singles, doubles, and triples to build strength for a competition. It's not as taxing as a failure-set, but it's not supposed to be. The goal is power and strength, not hypertrophy and endurance.

1
  • Thank you for taking the time to answer and the suggestion! I'm excited to give that a try. :)
    – Oh Ffs
    Commented Jan 12 at 21:39
2

My problem is that I have been stuck with these numbers for 1-2 months

My first solution to this problem would be more volume, not adding weight. Twenty reps per workout is not very many if you want to get your single-set max reps greater than six. What about six sets of four, or five sets of five, or four sets of five plus three bonus sets, or four sets of four and then a max-reps attempt?

On the other hand, being excited to do weighted pull-ups might be sufficient reason to add weight. Maybe start alternating workouts between unweighted-with-more-volume and weighted-but-fewer, e.g. "25 total reps" and "15 total reps with added weight". The method is then to increase total-reps and added-weight gradually over time, which should naturally result in more reps per set.

3
  • Interesting idea, thank you! I haven't thought about increasing total reps as I'm pretty tired at the end of the 20 and the last 2-3 pull-ups are taking a lot of effort. How often do you think I should be doing pull-ups? I'm currently doing 3x a week (plus, I also climb once a week). Is that enough rest time? In general, I don't mind taking it slow, I just want to make sure I'm doing the right things to progress, even if slowly. :)
    – Oh Ffs
    Commented Jan 14 at 12:07
  • 3x a week plus climbing sounds fine :) Whether that's enough rest is a question of how you feel and how things are progressing. Maybe add only a little bit at a time — 22 total per workout, by doing just one extra set. After a month, 23...24... Commented Jan 15 at 17:53
  • Thank you. I appreciate it!
    – Oh Ffs
    Commented Jan 16 at 17:33
1

I read that you shouldn't add weight until you can do 8 or 10 pull-ups.

This is completely made up. There is no reason to not add weight, especially if your progress has plateaued. Naturally, progressive loading should be done sensibly, start with adding five or ten pounds and slowly go up from there - adding a 45 pound plate at the start is obviously an unrealistic expectation.

1
  • Thank you and that makes total sense!
    – Oh Ffs
    Commented Jan 12 at 21:39

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.