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Four Tips To Increase Your Pullup Count

Pullups. P90X loves ’em and the new Insanity (Asylum) will be doing them as well. Thing is… they’re TOUGH. When I first started P90X, I could only do three… and the third looked more like a wriggling, gasping  fish on a hook than an actual pullup. You may find you can do more. You may also find you can’t do any. But like we say, that’s OK. We all start somewhere. In my case, three has turned into 20+ and counting.

So what did I do to help increase my pull-up power which in turn increased upper body strength, toned my back and built out my lats? Try these tips– whether your goal is to achieve one unassisted pullup or add a few more to the rep count:

Do PullUps

The best way to get better at pullups is to simply DO them. Don’t skip them. For every bit of strain and struggle you exert to pull your head above that bar, you’re setting a new standard for your muscles to adapt to. Muscles and strength increase based on the load they’re given. More load means more strength as your muscle adapts to meet the challenge. Challenge yourself to get one more rep or one inch more than the previous and you’ll see DOING pullups will be the best way to increase your count.

Do Negatives

A negative motion is the “release” of the muscle from the contraction of pulling or pushing the weight. In pullups, that’s the downward motion. Instead of allowing yourself to easily drop down after pulling yourself up, fight gravity on your way down. If you’re struggling to get up, you can do one of two things: You can jump or use a chair to help you up to the point you’ve pulled your head above the bar. Once there, take your feet off the chair and slowly control your “negative” coming down.

How does this help? You’re using the same muscles to lower yourself as you would to pull yourself up. By doing negatives, you strengthen these muscles which will allow you to complete a full pull up or an additional rep.

Use A Chair

That’s right– there’s absolutely no shame in using a chair. In fact, I STILL use a chair on my last few reps to really tax those lats and push myself. So whether you’re beginning or a pull-up crazy-man/woman– a chair is always a great tool to have ready and waiting. Simply place the chair slightly in front of your pullup bar and use one leg to take roughly40-50% of the weight to assist with the pullup. You should still be incorporating all upper body muscles you can to get up while allowing the one leg to pick up any slack. P90X gives great examples of how to do this in Chest and Back. Be sure to switch legs to avoid favoring one side.

Add Weight

Once you begin tearing through a bunch of pullups before you start feeling burn and fatigue… add weight. You can do this by placing weight plates (or other heavy object like a brick, canned food, etc.) in a backpack, holding a dumbbell between your feet or by picking up a pair of ankle weights and strapping them on. Sure, this will feel like you’re back at square one as you experience your pull-up count go down, but know you’re adding strength and resistance– and as we know, resistance builds lean muscle. After a few weeks with added weight, go back to no weight– your rep count will sky rocket as you find you can go toe-to-toe with anyone for You Tube pullup bragging rights.

Wondering how to make P90X work for you with nutrition tips, help and personal support? If you have any questions, feel free to email me at or make me your coach.

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