Last updated on August 6th, 2021 at 12:10 pm
The Russian Fighter Pull Up Program is something that I have both used and loved.
I personally saw some fantastic results the first time I tried the program, going from a 14-rep max to 22 reps.
Okay, admittedly this probably isn’t as good as many others.
I know some people have literally doubled (or more) their maximum pull up reps within a month.
However, I was extremely happy with my progress.
I’ll admit I didn’t really get involved in forum conversations around the Russian Pull Up Program, but I was an avid reader.
That being said, I often saw the same questions being asked over-and-over again.
So, after a quick introduction to the Russian Pull Up Program, I’ll give you my view on some of the most frequently asked questions.
The Russian Fighter Pull Up Program
The Russian Fighter Pull Up Program is a plan by an unknown Russian author. It was re-popularized by Pavel Tsatsouline in the early-2000s. The program involves performing strict-form pull ups in 5 sets, gradually increasing your reps every day. You should perform pull ups for 30 days, taking a day’s rest every 6th day.
The Russian Fighter Pull Up Program Explained
The person most commonly associated with the Russian Pull Up Program is Pavel Tsatsouline.
Pavel is a fitness instructor and founder of StrongFirst.
He is a former Soviet Special Forces physical training instructor.
Pavel is best-known for introducing the Russian kettlebell to the West in 1998.
However, in more recent years his introduction of the Russian Fighter Pull Program has proven to be extremely popular.
Pavel admits that the program isn’t actually his invention, although the identity of the original author is shrouded in mystery.
How to do The Russian Pull Up Program
The program involves performing pull ups, multiple times a day, using a very specific rep scheme, over a 30-day period.
The idea is to perform very strict-form pull ups.
At the top of the movement your neck or the top of your chest should touch the bar to ensure that you have definitely completed a rep.
You should then lower yourself under complete control.
At the bottom of the movement you should pause for a moment, with your arms fully extended, before performing your next rep.
This ensures that there is no use of momentum while completing your reps.
Pavel’s introduction to the program is focused on those who have a 5-rep max of pull ups, but it is adaptable to any level of ability.
The aim of the program is to increase your strength, and therefore your maximum number of reps per set, over a 30-day period.
You should take a couple of days off after the 30 days and then retest your maximum number of pull ups.
As I’ve mentioned, many people have literally doubled their max reps, if not more.
The 5-rep Max Program
Here’s how the Russian Pull Program looks for a 5-rep max:
|1||5, 4, 3, 2, 1|
|2||5, 4, 3, 2, 2|
|3||5, 4, 3, 3, 2|
|4||5, 4, 4, 3, 2|
|5||5, 5, 4, 3, 2|
|7||6, 5, 4, 3, 2|
|8||6, 5, 4, 3, 3|
|9||6, 5, 4, 4, 3|
|10||6, 5, 5, 4, 3|
|11||6, 6, 5, 4, 3|
|13||7, 6, 5, 4, 3|
|14||7, 6, 5, 4, 4|
|15||7, 6, 5, 5, 4|
|16||7, 6, 6, 5, 4|
|17||7, 7, 6, 5, 4|
|19||8, 7, 6, 5, 4|
|20||8, 7, 6, 5, 5|
|21||8, 7, 6, 6, 5|
|22||8, 7, 7, 6, 5|
|23||8, 8, 7, 6, 5|
|25||9, 8, 7, 6, 5|
|26||9, 8, 7, 6, 6|
|27||9, 8, 7, 7, 6|
|28||9, 8, 8, 7, 6|
|29||9, 9, 8, 7, 6|
So, based on these figures, you will perform 5 sets of pull ups in a descending ladder on day one.
The next day you add a rep to the last set.
The following day you add a rep to the 4th set.
On day 4 you add a rep to the 3rd set.
And on day 5 you add a rep to the 2nd set.
This means that by day 5 you should be performing the first two sets at your 5-rep max.
On day 6 and every 6th day thereafter, you take a day’s rest.
Following your day’s rest your first set will be performed at your “new” max-rep number, e.g. 6, 7, 8, etc.
Russian Fighter Pull Up Program Results
What is the Rest Time for the Russian Fighter Pull Up Program?
The most commonly asked question about the Russian Pull Up Program was around the specific rest time between sets.
I think this is possibly where many people (myself included) go wrong with the program.
I initially looked upon this as a pull up workout.
Admittedly, I started at a higher number of reps, which I’ll cover in a moment.
However, I saw this as a 5-set workout to be completed all in one go.
I don’t think I’m wrong in saying that this is how many of you view the program.
With that being said, I have checked over at the StrongFirst website, and the forum, to see what Pavel himself has said.
I guess the main issue is that “rest between sets” is not specified anywhere.
The main purpose is to be completely rested and perform each subsequent set completely fresh.
A similar program created by Pavel is Grease the Groove, which specifies 15 minutes rest between sets.
My take on the Russian Pull Up Program is that you should be taking similar rest (if not longer), or as close as possible, between sets.
In fact, the ideal way to complete your 5 sets is to do them throughout the day.
So, in effect, you could have a good 2-3 hours between sets.
What About When You’re At The Gym?
This is all well-and-good if you have access to a pull up bar, but not so great in a gym environment.
If you are working out in the gym, or you don’t have access to a bar at home, I would suggest turning this into a full-body workout.
Complete one set of pull ups every 10 minutes, but during your “rest” between sets perform other exercises.
However, you should avoid any pulling exercises, and preferably have a focus on the lower body.
That being said, as you’re going for 5 days straight it would help to mix it up a little with some push-based exercises too.
Remember, you’re only doing the Russian Pull Up Program for 30 days.
So, you can return to a more “normal” training schedule, which includes pull exercises, after the 30 days.
How Does Grease The Groove Work?
Can You Use The Russian Fighter Pull Up Program For Dips?
As the name suggests, this is a pull up program, but I often found people on various forums asking about using this protocol for “push” exercises.
More specifically for dips.
Pavel hasn’t spoken of using the Russian Pull Program for dips, but I think it’s certainly possible.
In most cases, you’ll probably be able to do far more dips than you can pull ups.
That being said, performing a “push” exercise, such as the dip, on a daily basis, can lead to joint issues.
I know the same can be said for “pull” exercises, but for most people the joint problems tend to come from pushing.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m someone who performs literally hundreds of push ups, pretty much on a daily basis.
However, this has taken a long time to build up to, plus I’ve had my fair share of elbow issues along the way.
RELATED====>Can I Do 100 Push Ups Throughout The Day?
So, keep in mind that performing dips will be harder than doing push ups.
After further investigation, I found an interesting article by Stefan Hedengren.
Stefan is personal trainer and also an author at StrongFirst.
Stefan used what he termed an “intensity block” in order to build mass with chins and dips.
He performed each exercise weighted, but used a very similar training protocol to the Russian Fighter Pull Up Program.
However, this involved figuring out your 3-rep max, doing your reps, and adding weight after the 6th day, as opposed to increasing reps.
Check out Stefan’s article on How to Train for Mass with Chins and Dips.
More Results From The Russian Fighter Pull Up Program
Where Do You Start The Program if You Have a 10-rep Max?
Now, Dan John over at T-Nation has his own method for completing the Russian Fighter Pull Up Program if you can do more than 5 reps.
Much like Stefan above, this involves adding weight.
So, you’ll start off with a weight that has you performing your pull ups with your 5-rep max.
However, Pavel has a slightly different method.
Pavel explained that the Russian Pull Up Program can be adapted to any level of ability.
If your max reps of pull ups falls between 6-12 then you start the program on the first day that your PR shows up.
So, based on the above figures, if your pull up maximum is 7 reps, you start the program on Day 13 and continue from there.
If your maximum is 9 pull ups, you start from Day 25 and continue in the same vein until you have accomplished 30 days in total (including rest days).
Pavel has outlined a pull up program for those who have a max rep of 15 or 25 pulls, but there is nothing specific aimed at the Russian Pull Up Program with a 10-rep max.
However, you could use the same training protocol.
You should start off just below your maximum repetitions and continue from there.
My suggestion would be to start from Day 25 yet again.
So, your first day would involve performing five sets at 9,8,7,6,5 reps respectively.
This means that by the final day you should be completing 13,13,12,11,10 reps of pull ups.
Take a few days rest and then test your maximum number of pull ups.
I will say that the more reps you are able to perform when you start the program, the less percentage increase you should expect.
It probably is possible in some cases to double your numbers after 30 days, but in the majority of cases you won’t.
Personally, I increased my numbers by just over 50%, and I think this is a great goal.
So, if you’re currently performing 10 pull ups per set, then by the end of the program if you’re doing 15-16 reps, you can view this as a success.
RELATED====>How to Do 10 Pull Ups
Can You Do The Russian Fighter Pull Up Program With Weights?
You certainly can complete the program with weights.
In fact, if you’re currently performing 10 or more reps of pull ups per set I highly advise it.
I’d suggest (much the same as Dan John) to use the exact same training protocol as the 5-rep max program.
So, find your 5-rep max for pull ups with weights and work your way through the program.
However, you can go one of two ways.
You can complete the “original” program, so by the 30th day you will be performing 9,9,8,7,6 reps.
This will mean that you will be using the same weight throughout the program.
With that being said, you can also increase the weight after each rest day so you are never completing more than 5 reps in any set.
Look to add 1.5-3kg after every rest day.
Training the program with weights will definitely help you get much stronger.
Plus, you can expect to increase your maximum pull ups significantly, both weighted and unweighted.
RELATED====>When to Add Weight to Pull Ups
So, there you have it.
These are the most commonly asked questions I have seen about the Russian Pull Up Program.
Hopefully, all this makes sense, as I realise there’s a lot of facts and figures to take on board here.
However, I will say that if you follow the program through, and stick to the protocols, you will definitely get stronger and better at pull ups.
RELATED====>The Pull Up Solution
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.
8 thoughts on “The Russian Fighter Pull Up Program – Frequently Asked Questions”
Hey, Partha! Thanks for sharing this post. I actually heard about the Russian fighter pull-up program a few years ago when I was developing an interest in bodyweight training, but I never took the time to read what it is about. Until now that is 🙂
Seems like a great program to increase your performance and pull-up for as well. I hate to see when people are doing pull-ups like the bar is going to run away or something. In my opinion, this program is perfect for those who need to develop a proper form and to get the maximum from each rep.
I personally like the idea of slowly increasing your reps and even adding weight when you reach a higher level of potential. The Russian pullup fits perfectly into the saying “slow is smooth and smooth is fast.” When working out like this, I’m sure anyone will see huge progress in just 30 days.
Anyways, I just wanted to say thanks for sharing this post. As always, I learned a lot from you and will try the Russian pull up at home.
Always good to hear from you.
I agree, I really like the Russian Fighter Pull Up Program, mostly because of its simplicity.
I’m a stickler for perfect form, and I hate seeing people perform any exercise with bad form. You’re not really getting the full benefit of the exercise, plus there’s a higher chance of injury.
I personally believe that this is the perfect way to maintain great form, while also getting stronger and better at pull ups. How simple is it to just spread 5 sets throughout the day? What a great idea!
I actually do various exercises throughout the day anyway, e.g. bodyweight squats, push ups, pull ups, etc. all the time. It’s become a habit for me now.
It allows me to get a lot of volume in, keeps me active (rather than constantly being stuck in a sitting position), and it ensures that every single rep and every single set is done with great form.
By following the same principle with the Russian Fighter Pull Up Program you get all the benefits of strength and rep improvements within the space of a month. I love it.
Please do let me know how get on.
Seems like a nice challenge, so I might as well give it a try.
I’ve been feeling lazy these past couple of weeks and haven’t been working out that much. On top of that,I had a one weeks layoff this last week and it unqestionably affected my pullup performance.
I want to focus more attention on my back this month, so I might as well try the Russian Fighter Pullup Program and see how it goes.
Thanks for the lovely review, by the way. I had a blast reading it!
Always good to hear from you.
I get you, I think we all go through stages where we lack motivation every now and then.
But at least, you’re ready to get back to it now.
Yep, I love the Russian Fighter Pull Up Program, but mainly because it’s so simple in nature.
All you have to do is 5 sets throughout the day, that’s it.
I think this allows for perfect form with every single rep and every single set, which in turn means better strength improvements.
It’s not overly taxing, but you should see a fair increase in reps over the 30 days.
Please do give it a go, and also let me know how you get on.
Thank you for writing this great review about the Russian Fighter Pull Up Program. It’s filled with valuable information for someone looking to start! Your clear explanation of the program will be very helpful for me, and I like that you talked about your true results and answered commonly asked questions as well. This seems like a great program to try if you’re looking to improve your ability to do pull-ups—and increase your overall body strength too. I look forward to trying it out.
Thanks for sharing!
Thanks for you comments.
Yes, The Russian Fighter Pull Up Program is certainly a fantastic way to increase your pull up numbers.
I always like to check online and see other people who have tried the same program have to say.
And as I’ve mentioned here, I always seem to see the same questions asked about the Russian Fighter Pull Up Program.
I’m certainly no expert, but I’ve learned to use the technique and it’s taught me many lessons along the way.
So, I thought it only seemed right to share my experiences.
Thanks for sharing, nice summary.
So, in general it’s ok to just repeat this program if you have completed the first 30 days? And in this case adding some weight and just starting at the beginning is probably a safe way of going about it?
Yep, sounds good to me.
What I’d usually do when I’ve done some type of specialization training (focusing on one exercise or one body part on a daily basis) is to have one complete week off from performing that exercise (or body part if you’ve been training most days with various exercises).
Remember, that you actually build muscle when you’re resting, as opposed to when you’re exercising.
So, once you’ve performed the 30 days, take a week off, and then come back to it.
Plus, I really like that you’ve mentioned about adding weight – perfect.
For me, getting stronger at performing exercises is the most important training factor.
If you initially focus on getting as strong as possible, everthing else, e.g. building muscle, conditioning, etc. will fall into place afterwards.
So realistically, you could repeat this program all year round, just adding more weight after every 30-day period (and one week’s rest in-between).