2013-02-01 The 1-Arm Pull-Up Plan

I write a lot of articles about getting yourself to the gym, about losing a few pounds, or about basic health. Here’s one on the other side of the spectrum… How about getting really strong?
This plan is built around getting an athlete to be able to do a one-arm pull-up. Although this program works well for this purpose, we have also used variations of this program to develop big strength gains in single-leg squats, one-arm push-ups, and other exercises. We’ve modified parts of an old Alwyn Cosgrove chin-up program for this, and the results are awesome.

There are two requirements of this program:
1. You must be willing to prioritize this program until completion. Trying to do this program in conjunction with another plan will not lead to success…in either plan. It is possible to train other movements and to do some other activity while going through this plan, but the priority has always got to be to do your pull-up workouts fresh.

2. You have to be able to do at least 8 strict (straight-arm to chest touching the bar) pull-ups. If this is not within your ability, this program can still help you improve, it just might not get you to a one-arm the first time around.
Weeks 1-4 – Diminished-Rest Intervals
Start by figuring out how many perfect pull-ups you can do. Don’t BS this one, either. It’s for your information only and if you fudge the numbers, you’ll only hose yourself when the workloads go up. Take your max number, and divide it in half. If you can do 10 pull-ups, your starting number is five.
Week 1. Three times this week, you’ll do three sets of pull-ups at your starting number (5 in our example) with 60 seconds between sets.
Week 2. Three times this week, you’ll do 3 sets of pull-ups at your starting number (5 in our example) with 45 seconds between sets.
Week 3. You’ll do 4 workouts this week. 2 times this week, do 3 sets with just 30 seconds between. The second two workouts are 3 sets with 15 seconds between.
Week 4. This week you’ll do pull-ups for three workouts. Do three sets of as many pull-ups as you can do for each workout.
Weeks 5-8 Loaded Pull-Ups
Week 5. Three times this week, you’ll wear a weight belt to do your pull-ups. Add as much weight as you can while still maintaining perfect form for the prescribed number of reps. This week you do 6 sets in the following rep configuration: 8-6-4-8-6-4. Obviously you’ll add more weight as the reps decrease.
Week 6. 3x per week, 6 sets, 7-5-3-7-5-3. Add two one-arm negatives on each arm at the end of the sixth set.
Week 7. 3x per week, 6 sets, 6-4-2-6-4-2. Add three one-arm negatives at the end of the sixth set.
Week 8. 3x per week, 6 sets. 5-3-1-5-3-1. Add a one arm negative on each arm after sets 2, 4, and 6.
Weeks 9-12 One Arm Training
Week 9. Three times per week, do three sets of two offset pull-ups. The offset is best done with a 24” long sling girth hitched around the bar. Grasp the bar with one hand and the sling with the other.
Week 10. 3x per week, 3 sets of 2 offset pull-ups plus 3 sets of 1 negative, done as slowly as possible.
Week 11. 3x per week, 3 sets of 2 offset pull-ups with minimal help from the low hand plus 5 sets of 1 negative, done as slowly as possible.
Week 12. Get good and warm, then go for it. If you don’t quite make it, take a week off from pulls, then start in again at week 5 for another build.