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How To Improve Pullups

Pullups are considered to be one of the best exercises in all of fitness…and it’s for good reason.  They work almost every major upper body muscle group and are a great test of strength.  If you have done P90X then you know that pullups are a big part of the program.  The problem is that most people can’t do them when they first start, or struggle to only get only a couple.  This leads to the belief that they will never be able to master the pullup.  When I first started P90X I could only muster a couple of pullups during each exercise.  As I continued to do P90X my pullup strength increased as well as my rep count.  Now I am able to do well over 20+ on most pullup variations.

So how do you increase your pullup strength?  Below are a few easy tips to think about when going through P90X, Asylum, P90X2 or any other fitness program.  Pullups are one of my favorite exercises, and easily my favorite back exercise.  If you want to get stronger, have those ripped lats and back then use these tips below.

How To Improve Pullups

1.  Don’t Avoid Them! I can’t tell you how many times I hear people say that they can’t do pullups so they don’t do them at all.  You only get good at things you do often.  You can’t expect to go play a sport without practice…the same goes for pullups.  Some people also think that you can use a lat pull down machine instead as well.  But again, you can only progress so far that way.   In order to get better at pullups you must practice.  Even if it means only doing a couple. Each time you do them you will improve a little bit.  Make it a goal to try to do 1 more pullup than last time.

For the advanced: Every time you walk past your pullup bar during the day try to do as many as you can.  This allows you to do more than just your max.  For example, if you can do 8 pullups then try to do 6-7 each time you walk by your bar.  If you do this 5x during that day then you have done 30-35 extra pullups!

But what if you can’t do any?  Well try your best and forget the rest.  “Don’t say you can’t, say I presently struggle with”, and move onto number 2.

2.  Do Assisted Pullups! There is a great new tool in the P90X arsenal that you can use to increase your pullups that is MUCH better than a chair.  The Chin Up Max Band Assist! I have been talking about this thing a lot lately and it’s for good reason.  I was first introduced to it during the rehearsals for P90X2.  I was amazed how well it worked, and how simple of a concept it was.  The Chin Up Max is a resistance band that is only made to help you with pull ups.  It has a hook on one end and a food stirrup on the other.  All you have to do is hook it on your pull up bar, put your foot into the stirrup and pull away!  The beauty about this thing is it forces you to use good form and engages all the correct muscle groups, assisting your pullups enough to where you are still gaining strength.  I like this better than the chair because with the chair you tend to use your legs way to much to assist.  The Chin Up Max is a great tool for anyone who wants to get more pullup reps.

For the advanced: I have been using it to do some pullup drop sets.  So I go for my max on my pullup reps without any assistance, and I then use the Chin Up Max to help get another few reps.  This has helped me use proper form and really get the most out of my pullup endurance without having to kip and lose my tempo.

3.  Use Proper Form and Tempo! As I have gone through my P90X journey these last couple years I have found that form is king and tempo is queen.  You need to use proper form and tempo to get the most out of all body weight exercises.  Pullups are no exception.  The the longest time I thought that adding weight was number one when in actuality I was hindering my pullup strength by not following the number one rule, to use good form.  I started upping my weight via a weighted vest and my ego got in the way.  I wanted my rep count to go up so I started to kip more and more.  It wasn’t until this last round of P90X that I decided to drop the weighted vest completely and take my ego out of it.  I used perfect form on each pullup exercise and my reps dropped significantly.  As I continued to use proper form and controlled tempo, my reps started to increase and so did my strength.  I was able to break through plateaus at the beach workout because of this key element.

Proper Form and Tempo:  Proper from is going all the way down so your using full range of motion and all the way up so your chin is over the bar.  Don’t sell yourself short here.  I see a ton of guys only going half way down and going back up.  Full range of motion is key.  Your tempo should be a explosive movement to get your chin over the bar, pause for a split second at the top then a controlled “2 count” on the way back down.  That is 1 rep.  Do this and watch your pullup strength improve over time! Here is a video taken of me at the beach workout with Tony Horton and crew, during our warm up round for a reference.

4.  Add Variation! This is what is great about P90X and P90X2.  Your not just doing pullups and chin ups.  Your doing switch grip pullups and closed grip pullups, corn cobs and towel pullups.  Adding variation is crucial.  P90X2 takes this to a whole new level.  You will see some awesome pullup variations that aren’t in P90X.  Again, you have to use good form.  You can’t do these moves sloppy…if you can’t do them with good form then go to tip number 2 and buy the Chin Up Max so you can! Below is a pic of me doing a Lever Pull Up.

5.  If you follow 1-4 then you can now Add Weight! This is for the advanced fitness guru who wants to continue to break plateaus.  Adding weight is great for any body weight exercise.  You can do this very easily with a weighted vest or by holding a medicine ball between your legs.  The one thing you MUST do is use proper form and tempo.  My biggest mistake was not following proper form when I added weight.  I started Kipping way to much to get more reps.  This forced me to plateau.  If you can follow tips 1-4 then you can add weight and continue to get strong!


Do you currently struggle with Pullups?  Are these Tips Helpful?  Comment and let us know!



  1. [...] is also a coach and has a website with some great articles like this one on pull ups.  Check his site out, especially that pull up article.  It’s probably the best advice [...]

  2. [...]   Here Is another great blog about pull ups from my coach [...]