Pavel’s Fighter Pull-up Program Optimized For Naturals The same thing - just more real and easier to recover from.

I always fail when I attempt to make a mainstream program happy. I never progress as expected and back in the day that used to frustrate me a lot, even to the point of self-hatred. As I got more experienced, I finally understood what the problem was – all programs advertised as the “best” thing ever are like the pretty car everybody looks at on the street, but nobody actually wants to drive and maintain.  100 dollars on gas, 600 dollars on insurance and the constant fear that it might be gone for good without even a notice is hard to take. So, what do you do? You modify in order to find what’s right for you. Sometimes you may need a bike, instead of an actual car.


My relationship with Pavel Tsatsouline’s Fighter Pull-up Program was the same. The poor thing calls for 25 days of high volume pull-up workouts in a month. The first time I saw the schedule I told to myself: “How is that thing supposed to work?”. Later on I decided to “man up” and do it. After all, I’ve done plenty of crazy workouts that looked way more ambitious.

If you are not familiar with the actual program it goes as follows:

The 5RM Fighter Pullup Program

Day 1     5, 4, 3, 2, 1
Day 2     5, 4, 3, 2, 2
Day 3     5, 4, 3, 3, 2
Day 4     5, 4, 4, 3, 2
Day 5     5, 5, 4, 3, 2
Day 6     off
Day 7     6, 5, 4, 3, 2
Day 8     6, 5, 4, 3, 3
Day 9     6, 5, 4, 4, 3
Day 10    6, 5, 5, 4, 3
Day 11    6, 6, 5, 4, 3
Day 12    off
Day 13    7, 6, 5, 4, 3
Day 14    7, 6, 5, 4, 4
Day 15    7, 6, 5, 5, 4
Day 16    7, 6, 6, 5, 4
Day 17     7, 7, 6, 5, 4
Day 18    off
Day 19    8, 7, 6, 5, 4
Day 20    8, 7, 6, 5, 5
Day 21    8, 7, 6, 6, 5
Day 22    8, 7, 7, 6, 5
Day 23    8, 8, 7, 6, 5
Day 24    off
Day 25    9, 8, 7, 6, 5
Day 26    9, 8, 7, 6, 6
Day 27    9, 8, 7, 7, 6
Day 28    9, 8, 8, 7, 6
Day 29    9, 9, 8, 7, 6
Day 30    off

Explanation: The program above is for people who can only do 5 good pull-ups. You do 5 sets. The first set is done to failure and every following set has one less rep. The next day you add a rep to the last set. One day later you add a rep to the set before the last one….etc.

I did it for a few days and that was it. My forearms were sore, I couldn’t train much else and my average life of a human slave was affected. I hated it but my ego told me to continue, and I did a few more workouts. At that point I was really done because I was actually regressing and couldn’t get my reps. So, I said to myself: Man, **********!

The reason for my failure was not me. I did my part of the deal, but the program failed for me. This is when I modified it in order to make it work for me, instead of being its slave. I was used to being a slave at work, but being a slave to a program? You have to be joking.

Instead of doing each workout with only 24 hours of rest in between, I added 4 days after each session. Man, was that good! I was able to recover and feel much stronger each session. It took me a few more weeks to finish the program, but I did remain injury free, and was able to increase my reps from 6 to about 14 which could be considered a fine progress. There is no doubt that if I was to listen to my ego and continue to train every day, I was only going to get elbow tendonitis and suffer fast regression instead of the fast gains promised by the routine.

I also decided to completely ignore the advise of Pavel to perform my pull-ups in the so-called “hollow” position which he recommends. The idea is that when a fighter is in a boxing stance, he is not sticking his chest out. It’s the opposite – the chin is down and the chest is a little bit tucked in. Well, guess what? Pull-ups done this way only got my shoulders irritated and I wasn’t quite able to feel my lats. So, what did I do? I did the classic bodybuilding pull-up on rings with my chest sticking out as much as I want. This version provides much better contraction. And before all, let’s get real! It’s obvious that Mike Tyson counted on “fighter pull-ups” to improve his boxing as much as Usain Bolt counts on biceps curls to run faster.

Related article: Why Bodybuilding Routines Fail To Produce Results

With that being said, I loved the program. I just don’t think it’s made for average humans like me. When choosing your routine, you need to think from your own perspective. You can’t expect that it will work as advertised. Why? Because we are not robots.

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