How to Breakthrough a Chin-up Plateau

In Bodyweight Mastery by adminLeave a Comment

I remember the Presidential Physical Fitness Test back in 8th grade. Well, part of it anyway…

For those not familiar with the test it involved doing reps on pushups, situps and pullups.

And it was the pullups that stand out in my mind. I jumped up onto the bar and hung there. I couldn’t budge an inch…in fact, I couldn’t even comprehend how people did this exercise!

Fast forward many years and I could easily ACE that test. Just last week I posted a video of a new personal record of 22 chins. I’ve put that here too for anyone that missed it.

Doing so generated quite a few questions and comments. Here’s what Ricky asked:

“It seems like pull-ups and chin-ups are so easy to get stuck on? I hear about this all of the time, and see videos and articles occasionally talking about it. Why can’t I ever do more than 8 …or sometimes on my best day 9… chin-ups EVER!? Does it mean I am not making any progress, and am just wasting my time?”

Yes, they are easy to get stuck on. And this happens in multiple different stages. Many people get stuck not being able to do a single rep. Then there are rep or weighted pullup plateaus.

Lastly, one of my personal goals is to do a true one arm chin. Still haven’t gotten there…but I will in time.

Here’s the thing.

If you’re not making progress you’re doing it wrong.

Progression is the name of the game when it comes to fitness.

I’m not going to sugar coat it. Hey, I get stuck sometimes too. And then I change up my approach because it obviously not working.

Now, two things that are important here.

First, maximum reps in a set is only one form of progress. There are other ways you could make progress that wouldn’t necessarily affect this number. But you need to be moving forward in SOME direction. And if it’s closely aligned, progression in one form will bleed into another. (You’ll see an example of this shortly.)

Secondly, I don’t know how Ricky is training for pullups. So many people get caught up in a certain set and rep scheme. Or maybe just continually try to max out and then scratching their head about why the number isn’t going up.

In either of those cases the following will work…

Do sets of 5 or 6 chins. These can be spread throughout the day in a “grease the groove” style. Or they can be done in a single workout, just with a good amount of rest between sets.

Never go above 6 reps per set. Simply work on adding volume, more sets per workout. Even work yourself up to 100 reps in a day…but with the goal of them all being easy. (Of course, paying attention to your body’s signals and recovery along the way.)

Note that this is progress through volume, not a single set or intensity…but it will carry over.

Do this for a month or perhaps six weeks.

Then, after taking a day or two off for rest, go for a max set.

I can virtually guarantee you’ll break through that plateau.

What more like this? Then check out The Ultimate Guide to Pullups and Chin-ups.


Oh, and if you this that this only applies if you’re stuck at 8 or 9 chin-ups, think again. While modifications would need to be made, this “method” works for all strength levels and all kinds of exercises.

In the future I will being updating The Ultimate Guide to Pullups and Chin-ups. In fact, I’m going to be updating all the books in that series. The first one, and coming soon, is on squats and pistols…

Leave a Comment