I got my first strict pull-up in grad school. My brother had a pull-up bar in the house we shared. Every couple days I would do a handful of negative reps wondering how long the process would take. It was several months later when I walked in and just tried a regular pull-up. I remember how shocked I was when I pulled my chin over the bar: pure elation.

The program wasn’t special, it wasn’t perfectly tailored to me, it didn’t include every pulling variation possible, it didn’t have a ton of different equipment, and it certainly didn’t take much time. All it had was consistent, honest effort.

Fast forward 15 years from that day, and as a 6 foot, 180-lb female, my 3-rep max weighted pull-up is 52.5 pounds over bodyweight. It turns out, 15 years of 4-6 days a week of weightlifting and high-intensity exercise has led to some pretty impressive results! This isn’t to brag; this is to demonstrate the power of consistency and the commitment needed for strength gains. I wasn’t “built” for weighted pull-ups, but I have them.

If you don’t have a strict pull-up, it’s never too late to start. This program was designed specifically for the everyday athlete whose best athletic quality is simply the commitment to be “in.”  You are willing to put in 10 minutes of assistance work three days per week. Though the volume and time commitment is low, you are willing to work hard in each effort. The program duration is a year. While we can’t guarantee everyone will get a pull-up, this is about the time to get even the athlete who can barely flex their elbows in a hang position (that was me!) to a real strict pull-up. It can also be for the athlete who has one pull-up and wants to get to several pull-ups.

Each month you will get a template of the assistance work, which has scaling options for any level of strength. All you have to do is stick with the program with dedicated effort; your strict pull-up is waiting!

Equipment List (all available at Roots)

  • Pull-up bar (with upright support beams)
  • Rings (2)
  • Dumbbells (various, up to 50# is likely enough)
  • Bench
  • Bands (various, light to thick)
  • Box (ideally that can be rotated between 20, 24, and 30-inch heights)
  • Barbell

The Program

  • Each month there are 5 different exercises that are used on a three-day-a-week rotation.
  • The athlete can choose which three days of the week to complete the work. We recommend Mon-Wed-Fri or Tues-Thurs-Sat. The work will be loaded into SugarWOD in a new Track. Remember, consistency over perfection. If you need to do it on Thurs-Fri-Sat one week, so be it.
  • We want this session to be completed in 10 minutes. Bring a watch and use it to keep pace and time; don’t let this become another workout session.

Tips to Make Each Session Effective

  • Quality over quantity! It is better to demonstrate control and range of motion versus more repetitions.
  • Bring focus to each session. They are short but you must work hard to see the results you want. You cannot simply “check the box” of completing the reps.
  • Do not be too concerned with exact rep counts. If the reps say 6-8 and you get 10 reps, maybe add weight (or use less assistance) for the next set. If you start too light and get 20 reps, don’t count the set. If you get 5 reps but the form was correct, it is just as “good” as 6 reps. Remember, effort and consistency over precision.
  • While you can record your effort with each session, it is more important to work hard. We recommend putting the effort into doing versus recording every detail. 

Check out SugarWOD on MONDAY to get started!

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