>Pull Up Programming beyond your one-set max
Team, you are lucky to be here.  The pull up and I have been homies since 1997. 
“How many can you do?” the USMC recruiter asked me.
“What’s a perfect score?” said a sloppy, uninitiated 18 year old variant of myself. 
    He then tells me that Marine Corps Physical Fitness standards require a minimum of 3, and that 20 is aces.  Once you leave recruit training, however, most Marines can rip off a minimum set of 10. 
“Well” I say, “here comes 20”.  And out came 7.  7 pull ups.  I wanted to disappear from the face of the Earth.  And within 24 hours, my biceps and back muscles were so sore I contemplated calling in sick from my job as an appliance delivery boy.  Soon I would be a man, but not before I learned to clear the bar, repeatedly, in my sleep.
    The Presidential Fitness Exam, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and The Russian Kettlebell Challenge Level II Instructor cert are some of the respected organizations that employ the pull up as a measuring stick.  Not everyone who practices pull ups actually practices them, however.  Many cats and kittens simply mount the bar and flex their joints.  Some dig on pull ups for muscular development, adding degrees of sexiness to their frame by chiseling out back muscles.  Some athletes use the pull up as a warm up, aerialists and gymnasts to name a few.  Marines have to eat pull ups for morning chow and then chew on a 5KM run for lunch.  In this space here, we speak only of one pull up, the Tactical Pull Up [TPU], as Russian Kettlebell Challenge Chief Instructor and flexibility guru Pavel Tsatsouline has dubbed it.  Below are the factors which define a TPU.  Before I list the standards, allow me to tell you that unless you are painfully short, or a 5th grader, no pull up unit sold on television to be mounted on your door, or in your door jamb, will suffice.  You must begin from a dead-hang.  ‘Nuff ‘ced.
-The bar is of a height which allows the user to hang free of the ground, with arms and legs extended at the elbows and knees respectively.
-The pull to ‘chinning’ is one controlled motion, with no jerking, kipping, or swinging.
-The user’s neck touches the bar, satisfactory performance being accepted once the chin and jawbone are above and in front of the bar.
    Performance of the pull up is clearly described here, yet cannot be taught online.  You must operate with a bar, text nearby, and visual aid in the form of an excellent instructor who can demonstrate, communicate, and motivate.  This token will cover how to improve the numbers of your perfect pull up, with simple programming following flawless execution of a pull up, meeting the markers listed above.  If you have trouble performing a pull up correctly, seek out an RKC II or hop the train to 30Th Street Station in Philly and I’ll heal you.
    Regardless of your one-set-max, if you can perform a minimum of three pull ups, you are able to train with me.  Enjoy the simplicity of The Trinity, and email me when you hit 10 or more pull ups in one set.  If you are under ownership of a sick strength-to-bodyweight-ratio, and you feel that you must add weight to your pull ups, so be it.  Maintain the course I set for you, and hang a bell off each foot, tough guy. 
    I have calculated the time involved to perform each ascending set, or ‘ladder’ of 1-2-3 repetitions, heretofore known as ‘rungs’, and we are looking at about 3 minutes.  I will not tell you why I selected this format, or how I know it works, but I will tell you that one the most cutting edge, knowledgeable, and ballsy trainers on this planet has accepted my request to help him write a book on the Pull Up.  What I have learned about the pull up has come from my experience in the USMC, and in the RKC system.  Listen to me, and every day is pay day.  You will train to achieve a number of reps each session by performing multiple sets of low repetitions, opposed to a few maxed out sets that would leave you sore, and unschooled.  Print this out when you are done, and head to the bar.  Not the pub, the bar.  Big difference.

One ladder to 3 rungs is commonly known as 3 sets of 1, 2, 3 reps.  You will complete this ladder of 3 rungs in 3 minutes, including your rest time of a full minute & thirty seconds, before repeating.  In your rest time, perform shake out drills and vibrations that unravel your tissue, preventing residual tightness and reduced joint mobility.  You may perform this initial workout as many times as you like before adding another ladder, but once you add another ladder, it may be wise to reduce other movements in your weight training arsenal.  When you are ready to advance, check back to this group for further text tutelage, or email me.  My online programming is only as good as your technique, be advised.

The Trinity: 
1 pull up, rest :30
2 pull ups, rest :45
3 pull ups, rest 1:30
    This is one LADDER of three RUNGS.  Perform three ladders, and you have nailed 18 pull ups.  If you had tried for 18 pull ups without getting of the bar, you may be in trouble.  You may be humbled the way a fat, beer bellied Eric Williams Jr. was in ’97 before he emerged from recruit training as his alter ego, Big Willy.
    For the first 5 sessions, this is all you will do.  On the sixth day, you will gain a ladder.  The documented version of a 4 ladder, 3 rung session would look like this: 
1 pull up, rest :30
2 pull ups, rest :45
3 pull ups, rest 1:30

1 pull up, rest :30
2 pull ups, rest :45
3 pull ups, rest 1:30

1 pull up, rest :30
2 pull ups, rest :45
3 pull ups, rest 1:30

1 pull up, rest :30
2 pull ups, rest :45
3 pull ups, done.  24 Pull ups total.

    After 8 session of four ladders, you will test your one-set max.  If it is ten reps or higher, add a fifth ladder and blast off.  Stay tuned for more from this online user group created by Sandy Sommer RKC, and in due time you will know how to program yourself all the way to 20 reps.

Semper Fidelis,
Will Williams, Senior Instructor
Russian Kettlebell Challenge


Tactical Pull Up & Squat workshop, February 21. Contact christina@synergyfitnessvt.com


Tactical Pull Up & Squat workshop, February 28. Contact karen@kettlebell-elite.com
Tactical Pull Up and Kettlebell workshops, March 7. Contact mabodywork@yahoo.com 
Tactical Pull Up and C&J workshop, March 20. Contact steve.arjan@academyfivepoints.com
Tactical Pull Up and Snatch workshop, March 28. Contact donbdc1960108@gmail.com