Would you like to increase your pull-muscle and lock-off strength, lunging power, and pulling endurance by 20% or more? Of course, you would!
Here’s how. Commit to performing weighted pull-ups, three times per week, for the next ten weeks. Sound simple? Yes it is, but you need to make a commitment and follow through completely to obtain the results.
(Caveat: If you’re really strong already—can you do a one-arm pull-up?—then this article isn’t for you!)
First, let’s establish a benchmark for your current pull-up endurance and strength—this will provide you with a value for comparison when you re-take the test in 10 weeks. Here are the two tests:
- Endurance Metric—the number of “true” pull-ups you can do in one set. A “true” pull-up is going all the way down to straight arms and pulling up until your chin is fully above the bar (arms in lock-off position)—partial pull-ups don’t count. Take this test after a complete warm up, and use a pull-up bar or the bucket holds of a fingerboard to perform the pull-ups. Record in a training notebook you test results. Now, calculate where you’d be with a 20 percent increase in the number of pull-ups—this is your 10-week goal.
- Strength Metric—the maximum added weight with which you can do a single true pull-up. This test takes some extra equipment, either a few weight belts and a vest (with removable weights) or better yet a Dips Belt or harness from which you can hang weight lifting plates (see photo). After a warm up, begin testing yourself with a series of one-rep pull-up sets, adding weight each time until you find the maximum weight you can perform a true pull-up with. Really strong climbers can begin testing with 25% of body weight added and go up in about 10-pound increments, while most others should begin with 10% of body weight added and increase by 5-pound increments. Upon finding your max weight, record the result and calculate your 20% goal weight.
Your 10-Week Pull-Muscle Training Program
To achieve this goal you’re going to leverage a “hypergravity training” techniques as detailed in my book, Training For Climbing.
In a nut shell, you’re going to simulate hypergravity (greater than gravity’s natural pull) by adding weight to your body while you perform five sets of pull-ups. Ever notice how light your feet feel upon taking off a pair of ski boots or a heavy backpack? We are going to create the same effect with your climbing muscles! The key is to do all of your pull-up training with weight added (weight vest, belt, or free weights hanging from your harness) to trigger your neuromuscular system to adapt to this apparent increase in gravity. Long-term, you’ll develop a new level of pull-up and lock-off strength—on the rock at normal body weight, you just might begin to feel like you are climbing on the moon!
Here’s the training protocol. On your normal training and/or climbing days, perform five sets of weighted pull-ups, ideally toward the end of your session when the muscles are well-warmed. Each set will consist of just five pull-ups, followed by exactly three minutes of rest. Initially, you’ll need to experiment a bit to find the right training weight—which is an amount that is difficult, but only brings you to near complete failure on the last (fifth) rep of the fourth and fifth sets. For many people the right training weight will be around half of their one-rep max added weight, as identified in the Strength Metric test above. Increase your training weight as needed to stay with this protocol throughout the ten-week program. (TIP: Vary the distance between your hands slightly with each set, and do not “hang rest” in the middle of a pull-up set).
Upon the completion of this ten-week program, take three to five days off from serious training/climbing. Then do a good warm-up and repeat the Strength and Endurance tests. I’m confident that you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the results!
As a final note, weighted pull-up training is not appropriate if you are unable to do at least 10 consecutive true pull-ups. Instead, commit to a similar three-day-per week, ten-week program of pull-ups at body weight. Your training goal each session is to do five sets of 5 to 8 pull-ups. The secret to your success is to have a spotter aid you in doing 5 to 8 pull-ups in each of your five sets. Begin each set doing the pull-ups under your own power, but have the spotter grab hold at your hips and help lift to complete 5 to 8 reps per set. Within ten weeks, you should become able to do 10 pull-ups on your own (and you’ll feel way stronger on the rock!), at which time you can begin the weighted pull-up protocol detailed above.
Copyright © 2000–2019 Eric J. Hörst | All Rights Reserved.