Find out how to do 15 pull-ups or more in a row!
Pull-ups are a bodyweight exercise popular in calisthenics and fitness training. Focusing on your upper-body strength, the pull-up starts with your body on a dead hang from a bar, you then pull your body with the strength of your arms and back until your collarbone comes close to the bar, and ultimately lower yourself down slowly.
Pull-ups are a foundational exercise for upper body strength and can be described as the “heavy-lifting exercises of the calisthenics world.”
If the thought of doing 15 or more unbroken pull-ups seems daunting, keep reading. Here are six common mistakes people make with pull-ups that prevent them from reaching their full potential with this excellent back exercise.
Increasing the number of pull-ups is a goal many aspire to achieve. Not only is it an effective bodyweight exercise that requires just a pull-up bar, but it also builds muscle size and strength comparable to many barbell back exercises.
Jeff Cavaliere went through 6 mistakes huge mistakes that prevent people from doing 15 or more pull-ups in a row. Jeff Cavaliere was the head physical therapist of the New York Mets for 3 years and is now a YouTube sensation. He delivers clear information without noise on his ATHLEAN-X YouTube channel.
However, if you cannot do a single pull-up yet, we have a better link for you to follow below.
How to Do 15 Pull-Ups or More in a Row
First, proper setup is crucial.
Many people position themselves directly under the bar and simply pull straight up and down. However, this is incorrect as it creates too much looseness in the upper body, particularly the scapula. To generate the necessary rigidity for better power transfer and strength, think not only about pulling down into the bar but also pushing your body back and away slightly.
By doing this, you engage the lats, the powerful muscles of the upper body, similar to performing a straight-arm pushdown. This allows the forearms and biceps to take on a secondary role in driving the ascent, while the lats take the lead. Once you experience the correct sensation and engagement, you’ll never perform pull-ups any other way.
Next, focus on the position of your elbows during the exercise. They should not point directly out to the sides if you aim to do a lot of pull-ups. Instead, angle them forward at approximately 45 degrees. This alignment, known as the scapular plane, promotes safer shoulder function and greater lat engagement due to a slight stretch.
From a side view, someone should be able to see your elbows slightly in front of the squat rack or cage where you perform the pull-ups. If they can’t, it means your elbows are too much in the frontal plane, which will hinder your total unbroken pull-up count.
Now, address any lack of tightness throughout your entire body to maximize your rep count. This involves fixing what I call “energy leaks.” To increase your pull-ups as much as possible, you must preserve every bit of force you generate and minimize loss. Straighten your knees by contracting your quads, point your toes by flexing your calves, tighten your abs, and squeeze your glutes to limit swinging and maintain total body tension.
When all these aspects are properly executed, your pull-up form will be impeccable, and your ability to effortlessly clear the bar on every rep will significantly improve.
Next, pay attention to your grip. Avoid a narrow grip, as it places an excessive load on the forearm muscles, which aren’t as proficient at lifting your body weight as your lats. Also, consider the direction of the force applied through your hands. Instead of merely pulling down into the bar, think about squeezing your hands toward each other and downward simultaneously.
This engages not only the lats but also the chest muscles, which act as adductors. This assists you in lifting your body over the bar.
Furthermore, avoid collapsing your chest as you pull up to the top. This often happens when fatigue sets in during a rep. Prevent this by targeting the bar with your sternum, reaching up with your chest as you ascend. Imagine puffing out your chest and slightly arching your back to maintain proper form and prevent the body from sagging backwards, which makes the exercise more challenging.
Finally, don’t overlook weighted training. Increasing your pull-ups shouldn’t be your sole focus. If you aim to perform more unbroken pull-ups, including sets of 15 or more, incorporate weighted pull-ups into your training routine as well.
See Cavaliere’s video below for all the information you need on how to do 15 pull-ups or more in a row by fixing the mistakes presented above.
There are many popular progressions to achieving the required strength to do pull-ups. They include the ring row, banded pull-ups, and negatives (jumping up and slowly lowering down).
In addition to progressions, you’ll need solid and consistent practice.
- Deadhangs – deadhangs are an effective way to build shoulder stability and grip strength, both of which you’ll need before you can perform a pull-up. Aim to simply hang from a bar for around a minute. Deadhangs can be performed passively or with active shoulders, train both.
- Push-ups – push-ups are your friends when working on developing strict strength for pull-ups. Most athletes are able to perform at least a dozen push-ups unbroken before they have the strength to perform pull-ups.
- Ring rows – ring rows follow a similar movement pattern of a pull-up except you get the extra aid from having your feet on the floor. Alongside with ring dips, ring rows are a great exercise to develop strength for pull-ups.
- Bands – use a band to get yourself used to the movement pattern of pull-ups and know exactly which muscles will be taxed. Bands take some weight away from your body and help you perform the movements easier. Assisted pull-ups have their place as a developmental exercise but you should combine them with other variations and progressions to develop better pull-ups.
- Negatives – in your quest to becoming stronger, negative pull-ups are probably one of the most effective exercises because they focus on the eccentric part of the movement. Jump onto the pull-up bar so your chin is over it and hold this position for a few seconds. Then, lower yourself as slowly as possible until your arms are extended again. Make sure you go through the full range of motion.
- Chin over bar hold – this will help you develop your end strength, required for the final portion of the pull-up. Aim to hold this for around 30 seconds while keeping your whole body under control.
- Supine barbell row – this movement will allow you to develop similar muscles to the pull-up except in a different plane of motion and at an easier intensity. Unlike ring rows, the supine barbell row keeps the hands in a fixed position (like the pull-up).
Should You Do Pull-Ups Every Day?
While pull-ups can be a great exercise for building upper body strength, it is generally not recommended to do pull-ups every day. This is because your muscles need time to rest and recover after a workout in order to repair and grow stronger.
Doing pull-ups every day without allowing for proper recovery time can increase your risk of injury and also lead to overtraining, which can negatively impact your overall fitness goals.
Instead, it is recommended to incorporate pull-ups into a well-rounded strength training program that includes other exercises and allows for adequate rest and recovery time between workouts. A good rule of thumb is to aim for two to three strength training sessions per week, with at least one day of rest in between each session.
It’s also important to note that everyone’s fitness level and recovery time can vary, so it’s important to listen to your body and adjust your workout schedule accordingly.