I like pull-ups, easily my favorite exercise and I do a lot of them whenever I get the chance. I'm quite familiar with form, do them very strict (elbow lock-out, chin way over bar etc) and vary my grip often. Still, I'd like to add some more peak power to the movement and I'm not sure how. My eventual goal is to progress to a muscle-up, but the bar in my apartment is too close to the ceiling for me to practice this. :)

I guess learning to do a kipping pull-up would be a good idea, but as long as I remember I've been focusing on maintaining absolute control and tension, and a kipping pull-up is completely opposite all that. If kipping pull-ups are the answer, I'd appreciate a link to some good resources on learning to do them.

While my goal is more speed-strength in general, I'd be even happier if the suggestions have carry-over to muscle-ups. Currently, I can do about 10-12 pulls without much problem. I tend to train by "greasing the groove" and doing sets of 4-6, but I also travel a lot and don't have a bar everywhere, so this isn't daily or anything. I'm more interested in exercise suggestions than full programs.

Also, I rock-climb, so any carry-over is welcome (but I am looking for power outside the context of rock-climbing, too).

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    Do you mean power in the specific sense of speed-strength? And if so, are you looking for peak power (e.g. upper body explosiveness) or maximum power output (Crossfit's goal of maximum sustained work over time)? Commented Aug 29, 2012 at 17:56
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    I'm in about the same position as you - can do about a dozen chest to bar pullups. I wouldn't write this up as an answer, but have you thought about doing weighted pullups? I was planning on doing them soon as a way to continue to build strength in the pullup-motion, with the goal of working towards a one-arm pullup. I'm curious to see what answers this question will get. :)
    – DavidR
    Commented Aug 29, 2012 at 17:57
  • Yeah, I'd second @DaveLiepmann 's question - what's your goal? A muscle up?
    – DavidR
    Commented Aug 29, 2012 at 17:57
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    If you can do 12 strict pullups, you are very likely strong enough for a muscle up. The limiting factor will be technique.
    – michael
    Commented Aug 29, 2012 at 18:47
  • @DaveLiepmann Yes, power as in speed-strength. I'm looking more for peak power.
    – VPeric
    Commented Aug 29, 2012 at 19:09

1 Answer 1


It sounds like you want to start incorporating muscle-ups and weighted pull-ups whenever possible. I don't think kipping pull-ups are really appropriate for a number of reasons, but if they float your boat (and you have a healthy, strong, flexible shoulder girdle), rock 'em.

Upper-Body Pulling Power

Power is not a common goal for upper body pulls, though it makes sense for a number of applications (combat sports, particularly grappling, come to mind). My go-to methods for developing speed-strength in that movement pattern would be sets of chest-to-bar chin-ups and/or pull-ups, eventually progressing to clapping pull-ups, muscle-ups (on a bar as well as rings), and climbing rope. A lot of the power work in that movement pattern ends up being sport-specific for me, such as fit-ins for judo throws.

(I realize that some of those might not be appropriate for your situation.)

Strength Informs Power

I'm not a big fan of kipping pull-ups. They seem to me to be a diversion from my goals of strength, power, and flexibility. They require all those things, but I think they're too risky for shoulder health, and they don't seem to develop those qualities as efficiently as other methods. (Though if I were a gymnast, I'd be singing a different tune.) I think that instead of developing power, kipping pull-ups would develop strength-endurance and work capacity.

I think that the surest path to upper-body pulling power would be to get strong as hell. Power is a function of strength, after all, so getting stronger will usually automatically make one more powerful.

All the methods listed above would apply to a strength-oriented approach, but so would working up to one-arm chins, as well as weighted pull-ups.

I made the mistake of switching from high-volume chin-ups and pull-ups (something like 3 sets of 12-15) to low-volume weighted chins (3 sets of 3-5 reps with 25-60 pounds extra). Once I work back up to 15 chins in a row, I'm going to add weighted chins as a supplement, not a replacement: 2 sets of 12 to 15 reps unweighted, 1 set of 7 to 10 reps with weight.

  • Thanks, you've mostly confirmed what I already thought - many of the things you mentioned are on my list of "to-get" (actual room for muscle-ups, rings, rope to climb). I also agree with you on kipping pull-ups, it was just a thought (but I'm glad I had the sense to ask about it here). As far as sport-specific goes, I rock-climb, but that's not my main motivation.
    – VPeric
    Commented Aug 29, 2012 at 20:26
  • BTW, as far as work capacity goes, I've always wanted to try burpee-pullups, but again, the bar I have is too low, so when I jump there's hardly any room for pulling.
    – VPeric
    Commented Aug 29, 2012 at 20:27
  • Oh, and -- what is your opinion on chest pull-ups? I do them occasionally but I could put more focus on them. Are they helpful in this context, or should I consider them just another pull-up variation?
    – VPeric
    Commented Aug 29, 2012 at 20:31
  • @VPeric 1) I could be wrong on kipping! I'd get a second opinion and decide for yourself. 2) Push-up, jump, land, grab bar, pull-up, repeat. Oof. 3) I don't know "chest pull-ups". Are those where you touch your chest to the bar? I consider that to be the pull-up ideal. Perfect form. Commented Aug 29, 2012 at 20:34
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    @DavidR Linear progress with weighted chins is, by all accounts I've seen, veeeeery different from, say, bench press. Less "add 5 pounds each workout" and more "when you can do 3 sets of 10 at that weight, add 5 pounds". I don't see anything wrong with 3 sets weighted as long as the reps stay in the 7-10 range; my mistake was letting the total reps for a workout drop below 15. Commented Aug 29, 2012 at 23:30

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