Pull-ups every day, method or madness?

The most common way of designing any kind of fitness program is to divide the week up into sections where each section focuses on a different goal. The aims of each part of the week may be different modes of training like strength training some days and endurance training the others, or simply training different muscle groups or areas of the body on different days. There isn’t the room in one blog post or even one whole book to discuss all the combinations and modes of training that people engage in and the various ways in which these could be combined. However for the topic of this post I’ll be talking exclusively about resistance training, that being my main area of interest and most relevant to what I’m talking about.

 

I’ve been experimenting lately with a less common but certainly not unheard of resistance training design whereby a trainer performs exercises, in my experiment, pull ups, every day or even multiple times in a single day. Olympic lifters have always trained like this; often having up to three workouts a day where they train the same lift, as the nature of Olympic lifting supports very high frequency training. However this kind of method has been shown to work for general resistance training purposes as well.

 

The way I’ve been approaching this style of training is simply by doing multiple sets of pull ups, either in the gym or at home, every single day of the week. The trick is however to stay fairly far away from muscular failure for every set. The training effect (essentially the stimulus for adaptation and subsequent adaptation) from this type of training comes from the volume that is built up cumulatively over time.

 

As an example, a more traditional program may get you to train pull-ups once or twice a week and in each workout you would train fairly close to, if not to, muscular failure so as to elicit an adaptation response from your muscles. If you did say 4 sets of 8 pull ups twice a week (assuming this kind of volume takes you fairly close to muscular failure each workout) in a traditional program, a high frequency program would demand, for example, 5 sets of 3 every day of the week.

 

These examples are just arbitrary numbers to illustrate the point, which is that doing less volume and intensity than you would normally do, but doing so every day, or at least at a higher than usual frequency, can actually result in greater volume and workload over the course of a week, which some high level trainers, and scientific research support as an effective method of training.

 

As I said I’ve been trying this idea out myself over the last month using rep ranges and sets appropriate to my strength levels and I’m already seeing some interesting results. It took a little while to get over the psychological barrier of  feeling like I hadn’t worked that hard on any given day but that being said I’ve felt a fairly significant increase in my ability to do pull ups over the last month. That increase has come in terms of speed of movement, number of reps I can complete in a single set and total sets I can do without feeling fatigued, without a change in bodyweight.

 

Now I’ll be the first to admit that this is hardly a scientifically rigorous experiment! But I just thought I’d write up my experience for any of our fitness followers just as a point of interest and to demonstrate that there are many different ways of approaching your training other than what would be considered typical. I’m not necessarily arguing that this is a better way to train, rather just that there are other options and that we should all train in a way that we enjoy, as psychology is often a forgotten factor when it comes to physical training; however ‘optimal’ your training program is, if you don’t enjoy it and therefore put the appropriate amount of effort in, it ceases to be optimal!

 

Personally I really enjoy pull-ups as an exercise so for me, doing them every day is great since I find that to be an enjoyable way of training. So do remember that you can easily find ways of fitting your training around your preferences and your lifestyle and that anyone who claims that there is only one way to train is either likely trying to sell you something or is simply mistaken!

 

One would still have to be careful to balance the overall volume and intensity with this type of training as with any other type but it is generally accepted that spacing out training like this allows the body to cope with far higher overall volumes than by training in more concentrated time periods.

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post, let me know if you have any experience of higher frequency training or just share your favourite exercises or training methods that you’ve tried yourself 🙂 thanks very much for reading, Ben.

4 thoughts on “Pull-ups every day, method or madness?

  1. Hey Ben, great post. Actually, it came just on time for me. I will be starting a month long challenge for myself this Monday. It will last until the end of May. Anyhow, I will be doing my normal HIIT, full body exercises, but I will also be incorporating this type of thing that you mentioned here. Every day I want to spend 5 minute in the morning and 5 minutes in the evening focusing on certain body parts that I want to challenge and define. If you have any other advice I’d gladly receive it.
    Thanks 🙂

    • Glad to have been timely in my posting 🙂 that sounds like a good idea, I think that’s one of the most useful uses for this type of training actually; to bring up lagging areas or areas you want to focus on. I’ve found it’s hard not to get good at something that you do every day! Really my only advice would be to reiterate the point from the post that if you’re going to do certain exercises every day it’e best to avoid going too hard at it as you’ll need some left in the tank for the next day. Let the workload come from the build up of volume rather than going maximum intensity each session. Good luck with your challenge, let me know how it goes 🙂

  2. Love it. I’ve had great success on excessively high volume training before such as Smolov. Like you said so long as you aren’t repping out to failure often it can work well. If you want to make significant gains in a certain area pushing that area into overreaching territory and then backing off can work quite well!

    • Thanks very much Colin 🙂 ah I don’t envy you putting yourself through Smolov, never done it myself but I’ve seen others do it and understand it’s brutal! I agree absolutely, it takes some time to learn how much your body can take before needing to back off and ‘listening to your body’ is important but it’s certainly a valid way of approaching things. Thanks for you comment!

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