Pavel’s Fighter Pull-up Program Optimized For Naturals

My first run of Pavel Tsatsouline’s Fighter Pull-up Program resulted in overtraining. This is hardly a surprise since the routine calls for 25 days of high volume. If you are not familiar with the actual program, it looks a little something like this:

The 5RM Fighter Pull-up 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 do only 5 good pull-ups in a row. You do 5 sets. The first set is to failure. 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 ten days before burning out. My forearms were sore, and my life outside of the gym was affected too. I hated it, but my ego told me to continue. At one point, however, I actually started to regress.

The reason for my failure was not me. I did my part of the deal, but the program failed, and I decided to modify it.

I added 4 days of rest after each session. It worked. My recovery was on point, and I was stronger each session. It took me a few more weeks to finish the program, but I remained injury free and took my reps from 6 to about 14.

I also decided to completely ignore the advice of Pavel to perform the pull-ups in the so-called “hollow” position. His reasoning behind the hollow technique 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 in this fashion irritated my shoulders and hurt the mind-muscle connection with the lats. Instead, I did the classic bodybuilding pull-up on rings with my chest sticking out as much as possible. This version provides a much better contraction and saves your joints.

Having said that, I loved the program. I just don’t think it’s made for average humans like me. When choosing a routine, you need to think from your own perspective. Otherwise, the plan will fail.

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