How to Build a Simple Pull-Up System
Want a simple pull-up system for training but want to keep your training as simple and direct as possible?
Fawkes offered these three simple strategies rooted in his evidenced-based approach to fitness: make burning off body fat a priority if you have it to burn; training the neurological mechanics of your skill with pull-ups on a daily basis; and toast yourself with one-to-two cluster-style workouts to build power and strength.
1. Burn Off Body Fat
If you have some excess belly to burn, Fawkes says that one of the simplest ways to improve your pull-up PR is to focus on weight loss while you pursue your bodyweight exercise program. “You’ll see rapid progress,” Fawkes says.
2. Train Your Neurological Pathways for Efficiency & Endurance
For those taking on the challenge of a max rep pull-up goal, he advises using “Grease the Groove” training.
For Grease the Groove, you need to have the ability to do at least a few pull-ups, Fawkes says.
Essentially Grease the Groove is about doing a bunch of sets of pull-ups throughout the day but not burning yourself down by going to muscle failure.
Rather, this is about becoming more efficient with the pure skill side of the pull-up. “Maximize the amount of practice,” Fawkes says.
Fawkes says that Grease the Groove training is popular in the military and in fact has its origins in the Soviet military.
The key, Fawkes says, is to build lots of quick sets of pull-ups throughout your day. Each set doing roughly half of your current max PR.
Or to the point where you start to incur lactic acid in the muscle.
“Do pull-ups until you feel the burn. Then stop there.”
As part of building a pull-up system of training, this is counts toward a neurological aspect training, Fawkes says.
“You’re practicing technique, building the neuro pathways,” he explains. This kind of practice trains the specific muscles and motor patterns that the exercise requires. While it doesn’t have that much in the way of crossover to improving other exercises, you’ll become more efficient at the exercise (like pull-ups) and get more of them.
Fawkes also says that Grease the Groove training builds physiological endurance in the early reps. Meaning that you’ll be triggering more lactic acid later in the set. Allowing for more pull-ups.
3. Use Cluster Sets to Build Raw Strength & Power
Tech cluster sets are more about chasing the burn. And throwing yourself into the muscle-building fire.
“Don’t do this every day,” Fawkes says.
Cluster sets are more about going heavy with one rep and a short recovery and then doing another heavy rep for a period of 10 to 20 minutes.
Rests between reps should be between 10 and 20 seconds.
By the end of 10 to 20 minutes, you’ll have a done a nice job of dosing yourself with a solid session of strength work. Doing this kind of workout 1-2 per week would be optimal.
Listen to the entire interview with John on the Become the Discipline podcast.
Want a workout you can do anywhere? Download the Spartan Bodyweight Training Plan.