Who else wants to know, “How Long Should You Rest Between Pull Up Sets?”
I think we can all agree that irrespective of your body composition goals, pull ups are a fantastic exercise, and we should all be doing them.
With that being said, pull ups are an extremely difficult exercise.
Plus, I’m sure I’m not the only person to find that my 2nd and subsequent sets typically involve me doing far less pull ups.
This begs the question of how much rest we should take between sets.
So, let’s find out.
How Long Should You Rest Between Pull Up Sets?
The most common reason to train pull ups is for muscle and strength gains. So, you should rest anywhere between 90-180 seconds between sets. However, this will depend on how many pull ups you can perform in a set. Your aim is to stop 2-3 reps short of failure, take adequate rest so that your muscles are no longer fatigued. This will ensure that you can achieve maximum performance on each subsequent set.
1. Why Are You Training Pull Ups?
How long you should rest between sets typically has a “standard” protocol irrespective of the exercise.
In the main, you will either be training for muscular endurance, hypertrophy, or strength.
When you’re training for muscular endurance it’s all about volume.
Realistically you’re trying to get in as many reps as you can.
An exercise, pull ups or otherwise, would generally be classed in the muscular endurance range if you were performing 15+ reps per set.
Your aim should be to rest only between 30-60 seconds between sets.
With that being said, I have often performed bodyweight exercises, such as push ups, dips, and pull ups with a specific number of reps in mind, e.g 100 reps.
And my aim is to get these reps completed as quickly as possible.
I know for a fact that I could adhere to the 15+ reps per set, and the strict 30-60 seconds rest, for the push-based exercises.
However, with pull ups it’s just that bit harder.
So, I would still stick to the 30-60 seconds rest between sets, but my total reps per set of pull ups could be slightly less than 15.
I would ensure that I never go to failure for a set, but my rest periods would need to be very strict.
When it comes to hypertrophy you’re really trying to achieve that “pump” in the target muscles.
Your reps per set would typically be in the 8-12 range.
However, to ensure that you maintained that pump in the muscles you would need to keep your rest to 1-2 minutes.
As for strength training, I would class this as 1-6 reps of an exercise.
Plus, I am aiming to lift as heavy a weight as possible.
So, this would usually involve weighted pull ups for me.
Your rest periods could be anywhere from 3-5 minutes.
Basically, you want to ensure that your muscles are well-rested before you “lift” a heavy load for each subsequent set.
I would hazard a guess that most people are looking to train pull ups for muscle and strength.
Therefore, the best rest period would usually fall between 90-180 seconds.
However, this very much depends on your powers of recovery.
RELATED====>The Pull Up Solution Workout Program
2. How Many Pull Ups Can You Do?
The number of pull ups you are able to achieve will also have a bearing on your rest periods.
If you’re someone who could crank out 20 reps of pull ups a set, then training four sets of 15 reps with 45 seconds rest between sets should be achievable.
Obviously, this would fall into the endurance category.
If you’re someone who can just about hit 10 reps before failure, then 3-4 sets of 8 reps with 90 seconds rest between sets should give you a great pump.
However, if you;re struggling to hit 5 reps a set, you may be better off training 8 sets of 3 reps, while ensuring you get a good 3-4 minutes rest between sets.
Basically, it’s all relative.
I would also say that if you are at the higher end of the scale in terms of reps then I would recommend that you add weight to your pull ups.
Therefore, you could in effect turn a muscle endurance workout into either a hypertrophy or strength-based session.
Once again, this comes down to your reason for training pull ups.
Are you looking to improve your maximum number of reps per set?
Would you like to build muscle from performing pull ups?
Or are you trying to get as strong as possible?
3. Are You Adding Weight to Your Pull Ups?
I’ve already mentioned about adding weight to your pull ups.
This could involve wearing a weighted vest, having a dip belt around your waist, or even a heavy dumbbell between your feet.
RELATED====>When to Add Weight to Pull Ups?
Realistically, you shouldn’t be adding weight to pull ups until you can perform 10 perfect reps of paused pull ups.
This would involve pausing for 2 seconds with your chin above the bar, another 2 second pause as you lower yourself until your elbows are at 90 degrees, and finally pausing for 2 seconds in the full-hang position.
How much weight you’re adding and how many reps you’re performing will have a factor in how much rest you should take between sets.
Basically, stick to the above rest protocols based on whether your reps are in the muscle endurance, hypertrophy, or strength range.
Weighted Pull Ups Progression 0-60KG
4. Grease the Groove & Russian Fighter Pull Ups
Another method of training pull ups actually takes “rest between sets” completely out of the equation.
“Grease the Groove” in its simplest form involves doing an exercise regularly, typically throughout the day, in order to gain strength and improve your ability to do a certain exercise.
The person who first coined the phrase is Pavel Tsatsouline, fitness instructor and founder of StrongFirst.
Pavel came up with the Russian Fighter Pull Up Program as a way to increase your max rep number of pull ups.
The basic premise involves performing 5 sets of pull ups during the day.
You should choose to perform a number of pull ups that is below your maximum reps per set.
So, as an example if your maximum number of pull ups is 8 reps, you would initially start out performing 5 reps five times a day.
The aim is to add one additional rep each day and to rest every sixth day.
You follow this protocol for 30 days and by the end you should have increased your maximum number of pull up reps per set.
Due to the fact that you should never get to failure for any set, and that you are getting a good few hours rest between sets, you will be able to perform very strict form pull ups.
You can read more about this training protocol in my article – The Russian Fighter Pull Up Program – Frequently Asked Questions.
If you are training pull ups for muscular endurance you should rest 30-60 seconds between sets. In the case of hypertrophy, rest 1-2 minutes between sets, and to train for improved strength you should rest 3-5 minutes between sets. If you want to increase your overall maximum number of pull ups per set you can follow the Grease the Groove method of the Russian Fighter Pull Up Program. This involves performing 5 sets of pull ups, at below maximal effort, throughout the day.
Hi, I’m Partha, owner and founder of My Bodyweight Exercises. I am a Level 3 Personal Trainer and Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist through the Register of Exercise Professionals, United Kingdom. I have been a regular gym-goer since 2000 and coaching clients since 2012. My aim is to help you achieve your body composition goals.