One of the best ways to improve your pull-up numbers is to do a lot of pull-ups. There are many different ways to achieve this goal. One of them is the ladder system.
The ladder method works like this – 1 pull-up; rest; 2 pull-ups; rest; 3 pull-ups; rest; 5 pull-ups; big rest; start all over again (e.g., 1,2,3,4,5 | 1,2,3,4 |1,2,3…etc.)
The rest periods should be relatively short – 1-3 minutes for the first ladder and 3-5 minutes for the next ladders.
Ladders allow you to accumulate an enormous volume that’s hard to reach with another rep and set scheme.
If you can do 12-14 pull-ups in a row, your ladders will probably look like this: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7 |1,2,3,4,5,6 | 1,2,3,4,5 |1,2,3,4,5. That’s a total of about 79 reps. If you were to do pull-ups the classic way and go for three sets to failure, you would probably get 1×12, 1×10, and 1×8 which equal 30 reps.
Always keep a rep or two in the bank. Never go to complete failure. The high volume will trigger enough adaptation. There is no need to go all out.
What about elbow tendonitis?
High volume pull-up workouts should not be done more than three times a week. Also, you shouldn’t do other exercises for your back except for maybe deadlifts. Otherwise, the chances of over-training the small joints around the elbow and the wrist are quite high.
Will my back get bigger?
Of course, but don’t expect to develop the back of a pro by doing pull-ups. You will definetely seem some lat growth, though.
Can I use ladders for other exercises?
Technically, yes, but the method seems more practical for bodyweight movements.