The approach of adding strength as a novice is really quite simple. You lift a weight you can do about five reps with, perform a few sets of that exercise, rest, and then add a tiny bit more weight on your next workout. In the case of calisthenics, however, you are only lifting against your own body weight. You can’t just add more natural weight each time.
You could, of course, wear a weight vest or use some other piece of equipment to add weight to your body, but as a beginner, it is better to focus on consistency and repetition. Progression is about increasing the number of repetitions each time you workout. Over time you will develop the strength and balance to perform the movement with ease.
This pull-up progression program does exactly that. You’ll perform five workouts per week, each consisting of five sets of pull-ups. Each week you will add additional pull-ups. By the end of eight weeks, you will be able to perform one max set of about 20 pull-ups.
|Pull-up Progression Program|
|Week 1||Sets of 5, 4, 3, 2, 1|
|Week 2||Sets of 6, 5, 4, 3, 2|
|Week 3||Sets of 7, 6, 5, 4, 3|
|Week 4||Sets of 8, 7, 6, 5, 4|
|Week 5||Sets of 9, 8, 7, 7, 6|
|Week 6||Sets of 9, 8, 8, 7, 6|
|Week 7||Sets of 9, 9, 8, 7, 6|
|Week 8||Sets of 9, 9, 8, 7, 7|
Max Reps Test
If you cannot perform at least two sets of 10 pull-ups, simply reset to week four but do not add any weight.
Reset to week four and start by adding 10lbs with a vest or other equipment. It is important that the weight be evenly distributed, so a weight vest or tactical vest typically works best. Run the program again through week eight, then reset and add about 5lbs more. On the first day of every reset, perform the max reps test again.