If you are already capable of 15 pull-ups in a row with good form, adding reps is endurance work. Of course, if you increase your pull-ups from 15 to 30, your absolute strength will go up too. Strength and endurance have a certain amount of carryover to each other. However, if your primary mission is to improve your strength levels, it makes more sense to attack your goals directly instead of hoping that indirect work will help you.
Therefore, after reaching 15 reps of pull-ups, you can simply add weight with a belt and bring your reps down a bit.
There are two main ways to build up your pulling strength. One is rep work, the other is heavy low rep training.
Let’s say that a lifter can do 15 pull-ups (they don’t have to be easy, but the form has to be decent). If that person adds 10lbs/4.5 kg to him with the help of a pull-up belt, he or she would probably do 8-10 reps.
Ultimately, the goal is to add enough weight to bring the reps down to a relatively easy set of 5.
Let’s say that in our case that’s 25lbs/12kg.
One of the ways to increase your strength is to simply build up to 10-15 reps in a set.
To improve, you could do a simple workout consisting of 3-5 sets with the same weight. Try to add a rep or two when you can.
You could keep the weight the same until you can do 10-15 reps with it for your first set. It does not matter whether the reps are hard or even brutal. All that matters is maintaining good form. Go all the way down to complete dead hang. Don’t do biceps hangs and partials. You can even pause at the bottom for a second to make your form even stricter. However, those are technically paused pull-ups and your weight will go down.
Before doing sets with added weight, warm-up and do a set or two with just your bodyweight without going close to failure. You want to preserve your energy for your work sets.
It depends on the rest of your routine. However, more than twice a week may be too much. If pull-ups are your main focus, you can train three times a week, though.
My favorite strategy is to rest 4 days between workouts. This means that if you do your first workout on Monday, your next session will be on Saturday, and your next one on Thursday the following week.
LOW REP WORK
The other way to get stronger is to simply add weight.
When programming weighted pull-ups and chin-ups, I prefer to do ramping sets of 5.
In other words, I increase the weight until I reach a single work set.
Here’s a hypothetical cycle for our imaginary lifter doing 25lbs for a set of 5.
Set 1: 1 set of 5-8 bodyweight pull-ups after a general warm-up
Set 2: 1 set of 5+5lbs/2.5 kg
Set 3: 1 set of 5+10 lbs/4.5 kg
Set 4: 1 set of 5+15lbs/7 kg
Set 5: 1 set of 5+25 lbs/12 kg
Add 1-2.5kg to your last sets.
Add 1-2.5kg to your last sets.
At one point, your top set will get really heavy. You have two options – reduce it to a triple and keep adding weight for a few more workouts or simply end your training cycle and build back up again. I don’t recommend doing less than 3 reps. There is no need. Sets of 3 offer plenty of intensity.
Here’s a hypothetical cycle with a deload.
Note: The cycle lists only the work sets.
Workout 1: 5 reps with 25lbs/12kg
Workout 2: 5 reps with 30lbs/14 kg
Workout 3: 5 reps with 35lbs/16 kg – switch to 2lbs jumps
Workout 4: 5 reps with 37 lbs/16.81 kg
Workout 5: 5 reps with 39 lbs/18kg – switch to triples
Workout 6: 3 reps with 41lbs/18.6 kg
Workout 7: 3 reps with 43lb/20kg
Workout 8: 3 reps with 45lbs/21kg
When the weight gets too heavy, and you can’t complete 3 clean reps, end the cycle and reduce the weight to 30-35lbs. Then, build back up again to a new personal best.
The goal of cycling is to allow your joints and mind to recover. However, in order to progress, you have to start your new cycles with a weight that’s heavier than your previous starting point.
Why do you recommend ramping sets?
Because heavy sets across are too hard, take too much time and are not required to progress. One work set is easier on the mind, and you can focus on it with greater concentration, respect, and intensity.
Do you recommend pull-ups or chin-ups?
I recommend the ring pull-up because they are the easiest on the elbows and wrists. The second best is the neutral grip pull-up.
Solid advice. Personally I started being only able to do with 3 bodyweight reps. I switched to neutral grip pullups and within a year was able to get up to 55lbs for 4 reps. Not the best progress, but still proud of it regardless. I should probably try cycling, been stuck for 55lbs for a couple months.
good advice. i started a year ago with 1 rep bodyweight neutral grip chin up and have progressed to 25kg weighted chin ups for 4 reps.
i initially worked on proper form and the built up to 4 sets of 8 chin ups. when i hit 15 reps in first set, i moved to weighted chin ups, starting at 2.5kg.
i train chin ups twice a week, 5 sets, bodyweight x 5, 10kg x 5, 15x 5, 17.5kg x 5, 25kg x failure (usually 2 or 3 reps)
i plan to continue with this plan until i can hit 5 x 25 and then i will gradually add 1.25kg at a time. my main advice is to work on good bodyweight form and keep body fat to a sensible level which helps tremendously. good vids on youtube via athlean-x