One of the most commonly repeated questions I get is in regards to how to do MORE push ups and pull ups.
For me, it was easy as I started to do push ups and pull ups at a young age as my dad got me into bodyweight training real early.
I can remember cranking out pull ups on the old “T” clothes hanger pole I had in my back yard behind my parents house just for fun.
I’d go back there when ever I was bored and just do pull ups.
Back then it wasn’t to get “get strong”, but just because I wanted to.
I’d also go out there and crank pull ups after I had been watching Rocky or any type of Arnold movie to get jacked up 😉
As for push ups, I started doing those at a young age as well.
Every night, I’d crank any where from 100-200 before I’d hit the hay.
Either way, I started young with push ups and pull ups so I’m lucky to have a good amount of “base level strength” already built up to help me out in present time.
For other people who may be extremely weak, they don’t always have this “base level strength” to fall back on.
So, to help you out (especially if you need to increase your push ups and pull ups) here’s 7 KEYS that I’m going to go over below that will help you increase your numbers.
FOCUS #1 – Balance
The first key is to BALANCE out the amount of pushing and pulling you do.
Most people are more push dominant which makes them very weak when it comes to pulling.
One of the things I like to do is to always start with my pull movements and variations first in a workout. Do this especially if your weak with your pull ups as this will allow you to put more focus towards your weakness while you’re fresh.
If you’re doing a push / pull superset, do the pull movement first in order to help favor your weakness.
Another key point here is to focus on balancing out the amount of pushing and pulling you do by matching your strengths. If you’re solid in push ups, but suck at pull ups, do a few more sets of pull ups then you do with push ups to help balance things out. Overtime, you’ll bring up that lagging movement.
The more balanced you are with your movements, the stronger you’ll be.
Key Focus #2 – Go Weighted
Obviously one of the BEST ways to get stronger with anything is through the use of more resistance.
If you’re stuck at your current amount of push ups or pull ups and your fairly efficient at them, I’d definitely recommend adding in weighted variations of push ups and pull ups ASAP.
Generally you should be able to crank out at least 30+ push ups non-stop in order to start training weighted push ups and for pull ups, I say you should be at 10 or above STRICT non-stop. (no kipping BS allowed).
From there, start mixing in sets of weighted push ups and pull ups. Generally I like using sets ranging from 3-8 reps. If you go above that, you’re pretty much already strong, so add more weight.
In regards to how much weight to use, I have NO clue.
Everyone is different. You’ll want to test and tweak.
As I mentioned, find resistances that allow you to crank anywhere from 3-8 reps in a set and go from there. The lower rep range will be for more BRUTE strength gain and the higher reps with help increase overall strength endurance.
Best ways to add weight for your push ups and pull ups will be via a weighted vest or chains. I also like using band tension for my push ups and for pull ups, just put a DB in between your feet and go from there!
Now go crank em’!
Key Focus #3 – Key Assistance Work
One of the major mistakes people make when trying to increase their pull ups or push ups is by neglecting key assistance work and instead just focus on the main movements themselves.
While this will work, it will only work so much. Sooner or later you’ll hit a wall.
By adding in key assistance movements, you’ll help improve your main movements in order to bust past that wall.
It’s just like with deadlifts in that you’re not just going to do deadlifts in order to improve on them. You’ll want to add in assistance movements such as glute ham raises, good mornings, RDL’s, reverse hypers, kettlebell swings, ect.
By adding in those assistance movements you’ll get much faster results.
Now, when it comes to push ups and pull ups, here are my favorite assistance movements:
Push Ups – Hand Walking variations, Bench Press, DB Bench, Dips (assistance dips), suspended skull crushers, planks (mostly for core strength), DB Military Press, Incline DB Bench, Close Grip Bench Press, Wall Walks
Pull Ups – Band Pull Aparts, Suspended Recline Rows (work ALL angles), Band Assisted Pull Ups, Negative Pull Ups, Recline Rope Climbs, DB Bent Rows (1 and 2 arm variations), Barbell Bent Rows, Grip Work (stronger grip = more pull ups)
Really, what it all comes down to is to get in a good mix of different pulls and pushes that will help your body get stronger in lot of different planes of motion instead of just a few.
You’ll get some great mileage out of hitting just the main movements themselves, but at some point you’ll need to call in for backup. Adding in the assistance movements I mentioned above will help do the trick.
Key Focus #4 – Failure NO More
This key here is simple – No more going to failure.
What!? You don’t want me to go 110% H.A.M.!?
I thought I was supposed to give every set, everything I had???
Just hold up a sec…
Let me explain for the sake of STRENGTH and getting STRONGER 😉
Yes, I still want you to give every set you do everything you have, but just avoid going to complete failure.
When you start to grind reps out, your form starts to diminish, and your overall speed of movement slows by a large amount, STOP your set right there.
When it comes to pull ups and push ups, always think about staying at a few reps above failure.
What this will do is allow you to recover faster from your sets in order to stay fresh.
When you train to complete failure or close to it, you not only tax your muscles to a large degree, you also tax out your nervous system.
It takes your nervous system a lot longer to recover from workouts then it does for your actual muscles to recover.
Not training to failure will help you avoid taxing out your nervous system which will then allow you to train with more intensity more often.
YES – you still want to train 110% H.A.M., but train SMART.
I see younger athletes training to failure way too often.
It never fails when I have a young athlete come in for the first time.
They always try to go way beyond failure when I have them do either push ups or pull ups (that’s if they can even do them).
They’ll start to do a set and after a few reps, they’ll start to really slow their movement down and grind reps out. They’ll put every bit of what they have into just getting one more rep.
That’s great if you’re testing out or something like that, but not for a normal strength session. Not only does this effect the athlete through that actual set, but their next few sets are now toast as their already cashed out.
You ever do that?
For example, think back to when you cranked out a set of push ups or pull ups and went 110% ALL OUT for that first set. You edged out every last rep. How well were the rest of your sets after that??? Probably not too good…
Bottom line is if you go to failure every time you train bodyweight, especially push ups and pull ups, you’ll stay at where ever you’re at or worse, decrease in strength overtime.
Key Focus #5 – Speed!
In order to increase overall strength, you’ll want to increase your ability to create FORCE or POWER.
In order to do that, you need to train FAST.
Just like with the assistance movements I mentioned above, another way you’ll be able to increase your ability to crank out push ups and pull ups is to focus in on training with SPEED.
Instead of always doing normal variations of your movements, it’s good to also add in explosion-based movements such as plyo push ups and explosive pull ups.
With these variations, you won’t be able to do the same amount of reps as you would be able to with your normal variations and that’s fine. You’ll want to focus on pure speed and explosiveness. Once your speed slows down, you’re set would be done.
One of the ways I like to incorporate speed training in with my push ups and pull ups is via plyo push ups and pull ups. I’ll always have these in at the START of my training session if I use them.
There’s other ways to do speed movements instead of just plyo push ups and pull ups via med ball work.
For pressing, explosive chest passes work well and for pulling, overhead slams hit the body well for that.
Training with Resistance Bands will also do the trick.
Power rows and lat pull downs work well for pulls and speed punches and presses work great in assisting push ups.
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Another speed training tip is to use these fast movements before your normal variation of movements.
Moving your body via plyo’s with help “activate” more muscle fiber within your body allowing you to be a bit more stronger with your normal movements.
For example, next time you go to bench press, do a few sets of submax plyo push ups first in order to active your pressing power. You’ll tell a huge difference.
Key Focus #6 – EROM
First off, what the heck does “ERMO” stand for?
It means “Extra Range of Motion” and when you train using an extra range of motion, you’ll get stronger.
It’s important to note that in order to use EROM with your different push up and pull variations that you’ll first need to be at a bit of an advanced level. In other words, you should be able to crank out a fair amount of regular pull ups and push ups at this point.
EROM is definitely an advanced focus.
Now, for Push Ups, I like to implement in the use of rings or suspension straps. Not only do those add in the ability to go deeper into your push up, they also add in a bit of balance and stability work as well.
Other variations of EROM push ups include push ups on DB’s, KB’s, or a set of boxes. All you’re trying to do is add in a bit of extra room for your chest to go when you get to the bottom of the push up.
If you’re up to this level and are hitting a wall with your push ups, crank out some EROM push ups for a good 3-4 weeks then re-test your regular push ups. You’ll be happy with the results.
As for pull ups, there’s a few different ways to add in EROM, but it’s important to note that you’ll definitely want to have a good base level of strength already built up to this point.
If you can’t crank out normal pull ups yet, you’ll want to build yourself up to cranking out normal pull ups first before adding in EROM pull ups.
The Main variation of EROM Pull Up I like to use is chest to bar pull ups. Instead of pulling your chin above bar like most people do, start pulling to your chest. Shoot, if you can, pull until you get below your chest. That will get your strong as hell with your pull ups.
Just like with the EROM push ups I mentioned above, switch it up for 3-4 weeks and just do chest to bar pull ups. When you go back to your regular chin above the bar pull ups it will feel like cheating.
My other favorite variation EROM Pull Ups would be Ring Chest to Bar Pull Ups. Same concept with the normal chest to bar pull up on the bar, but now you mix in the balance and stability aspect the rings bring to the table.
Those will definitely get you stronger.
Focus #7 – Use Variation
The last focus is to zero in on the power of VARIATION.
Just like with the assistance movements I mentioned above, the key to getting stronger is to consistently hit your body from different angles of movement. If all you do is the regular variation of push ups and pull ups every time you train them, you’ll eventually hit a wall.
My best recommendation for busting through that wall is to always be switching things up.
For push ups, do close grip, wide grip, hands on med ball, hands on DB’s, hands elevated on box, hand in straps feet in straps, feel elevated on box… I can go on and on here.
There’s thousands of different variations you can use, just don’t use one.
Same thing for pull ups… Go with a wide grip, close grip, neutral grip, palms facing you, alternated grip, on rings (these will get you strong FAST)… Again, the variations go on and on.
Bottom line is to use variation. Now, don’t go losing sight of the normal variations, those are your home base. Just make sure to switch it up often.
So now, it’s time to get seriously strong with your push ups and pull ups!
Use these 7 KEYS to do so!
Real Quick, I’m interested to know how many STRICT Pull Ups and Push Ups YOU can crank out???
Drop your numbers in the comments below…
Live and Train Aggressive!
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