Maxing on the Pull – Up

Marine doing pull ups

Many programs do not max on the pull – up or any type of pulling exercise other than the clean dead lift. However, if the shoulder is not developed fully and equally, then the front side musculature tends to dominate and anterior dislocations and/or posterior labrum injuries can occur. Maxing on the pull – up can be somewhat controversial as is the athlete allowed to kip and if so, how much? Are they required to pause at the bottom? Is the grip over or under hand? How wide is the grip? In my experience, the grip is overhand and slightly wider than shoulder grip or analogous to the bench press grip. Now, for the key concept that makes the pull – up work as a part of the max testing battery for the athlete.

Just as in estimating a max in any lift, the formula will apply. The formula is as follows:

Max reps – 1 (multiplied by .03) = X. Then, (X is multiplied by the body weight of the athlete + any additional load such as a weight vest or plates hung off of a belt) = Y. Y is the amount of load represented by each rep above one executed by the athlete. Y is then added back to the body weight of the athlete.

For example:

A 200 pound athlete does 4 reps in the pull – up test. 4 – 3 = 3. 3 x .03 = 9%. .09 x 200 equals 18. 200 + 18 equals 218. Round up and the max is 220.


This max should be near the bench press max. If it is more than 10% off, then more emphasis should be placed on the pulling exercises.

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