Michael Eckert, who recently left the US Marine Corps as a Sergeant, holds the Guinness World Record holder for most pull-ups in one minute: 50.
Shortly before he left the Marines, he broke his wrist while competing for American Ninja Warrior.
But even after two surgeries (one which was to put a metal plate in his arm) and physical therapy—Eckert is still training, though starting over 10 pull-ups at a time.
Need to get your mental game in gear so you can crush your goals?
How is Eckert getting back on top? “All the recommendations I’ve given everybody else for pull-ups, I’m going back and taking those steps myself.”
If you’ve hit a plateau of how many pull-ups you can knock out, here are Eckert’s top tips:
1) Remember to work finger strength
“The first thing I tell everyone is you’ve got to work from the fingertips, back. Everyone tries to just slam out their back muscles — working out their lats — or working out their biceps, triceps,” Eckart says.
“They try to slam all the big muscle groups first, but they neglect all the small muscle groups in your forearms and fingertips. [But] your hand strength and grip strength [are] huge in pull-ups. Grip strength and pull-ups go hand-in-hand, 100%.”
2) Build your muscles in the right way/order
“I do a super set between bicep curls and weighted dumbbell walks. Just take 70% of your max curl weight, and do about 20 reps of that.”
After that, Eckart suggests putting the weights down, go for a 50-foot walk, down and back. “It’ll burn out your biceps and work its way down to the forearms, as well. It’s a good way to fatigue your arms as much as possible and does a lot of what the pull-ups will do.”
3) Factor in ledge pull-ups
Any ledge will do—like a door or window frame.
“I recommend doing ledge pull-ups, or at least hanging on flat ledge,” Eckert says.
“It’s best to do this after you’ve already worked out the larger muscle groups—that way they’re not overcompensating.”
The quickest way to pull-up failure is a lack of hand, finger and wrist strength.
“You really want to work fingertips, then hand strength, then forearms, biceps, rear deltoids, and back.”
Other ways you can train your grip strength are bar and towel hangs until failure.
4) Use ab straps to help train your core
“A lot of people don’t stress core when they’re doing pull-ups, but it has a huge role when you’re actually performing them. It’s going to stabilize your body so you’re not swinging. If you train three days a week on those things, you’ll be doing more pull-ups in no time.”
“The secret weapon when it comes to pull-ups is ab straps,” Eckert says. “While you’re hanging in those things and doing a core workout, [you’re] working the exact muscles you’re going to want to work when you’re doing pull-ups.”
Once again, it’s about hitting the smaller muscle groups people don’t realize play a huge role in pull-ups. “It’s going to be working those inner lats and a little bit of your obliques.”
5) Keep your legs uncrossed
“For me, people could say it’s a mental thing, but I never cross my legs when training for doing pull-ups.” However, when he’s going for a record, he may cross them as that helps keep his body tight. “At that point it’s about doing whatever it takes to get the amount you need.”
While training, you want to keep your body “nice and loose” as well as evenly-balanced.
Crossing your feet will raise one hip higher than the other, which can cause you to over-compensate.
6) When you’re finished with morning PT, add on another mini-workout
If you want to blast your previous pull-up PRs, you have to make training for that part of your daily workout routine.
This goes back to Tips #1, #2 and #3.
“Take 20 or 30 minutes out of your day to go do some fingertip and forearm strength training after morning PT,” Eckert suggests. “Maybe even just 15 minutes, just something that’ll add on to your workout that’ll give you that strength training you need for your pull-ups.”
7) But train smart and don’t overdo it
If you’re conditioned to train every day (or almost every day), that’s one thing. But if you’re not, you’re more likely to wind up setting yourself back. Work on getting to that point of conditioning. “you really want to feel out how your body is feeling,” Eckert says.
This is why he’s beginning with 10 pull-ups and working on reconditioning himself back to where he could train daily and with more pull-ups.
“Do something every other day,” he suggests. “Break it down, so one day is finger-strength training,” Eckert says. “Another day might be back and biceps, and maybe the next day is going to be core. That way, it’s a cycle.”
QUESTION: Coach, I’m working on my pull-ups but my hands get real tired. What can I do to get them stronger?
ANSWER: Check out this article: 10 Tips to Increase Grip Strength.
QUESTION: Do you have any tips on how I can get better at pull-ups? I’m totally new to them.
ANSWER: Check out this article: How to Use Negatives to Improve Pull-Ups.
QUESTION: How can I find out more information about becoming a Navy SEAL?
ANSWER: Check out the Navy website here:
Tips for Advanced Pull-Ups