20 sets of 5 for pullups, why did this work so well? 20 sets of 5 for pullups, why did this work so well?

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Thread: 20 sets of 5 for pullups, why did this work so well?

  1. #1
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    Default 20 sets of 5 for pullups, why did this work so well?

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    I experienced something last year but I can't explain it (and haven't tried to duplicate it).

    Last year when doing crossfit I was exposed to the "murph" memorial day workout. (1 mile run, 100 pullups, 200 pushups, 300 air squats, 1 mile run (in 20 lb vest) I trained for it and did it.

    Before training for it I could get maybe 9 pullups in a row, then 7 or less for additional sets. I've always sucked at pull ups.

    In training for the murph I did 4 workouts: 25 sets of 4, then 20 sets of 5, then 25 sets of 4 (weighted), then 20 sets of 5 (weighted) over the course of a couple weeks. I used a timer and did a new set every 2 minutes (on the minute).

    I noticed my pullup strength went up dramatically. After doing the murph I was able to do 15 pullups in a row. I had been dragging along slowly before then, maybe going up one pullup a week.

    Is there a rationale' / case for sub-maximal loads lifted for sub-maximal reps but for many sets? Was it something special or was I simply so untrained that anything would have helped me?

  2. #2
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    Interesting question. I think the answer is obvious, but we'll ask the board and see what everybody thinks.

  3. #3
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    My first thought is that 2 minutes is not a very long rest time for weighted sets of 5.

  4. #4
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    Hmm, hard to say. Had you done weighted sets before this? What were you doing to train pull ups before? When you say four workouts, do you mean four in total before attempting this "murph" (why do all these weird crossfit routines have these funny names?), or four a week, structured like a four day lifting program? My guess is the combination of weighted versions of the exercise and simply just getting so much practice doing it really made the difference. In the past I found bodyweight exercise improvement falls off dramatically as the reps go up. When I was in high school, my pushups stopped increasing my ability to do pushups entirely once I got to 30 reps. If you were able to load and thus increment the movement for a while, that will bump your strength in the movement up way more than just tacking on reps, I'd wager.

  5. #5
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    Looks almost like the SS method for getting stronger. So....

  6. #6
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    What is your bodyweight?
    How strong are your major lifts?
    Pullups are easy for guys with a relatively light bodyweight.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by bikesandcars View Post
    Is there a rationale' / case for sub-maximal loads lifted for sub-maximal reps but for many sets? Was it something special or was I simply so untrained that anything would have helped me?
    I have experienced the same results with pull-ups using a similar program. However this only works when you are under-trained at body weight pull-ups. This will not work for weighted movements if your goal is to lift heavy weights. In other words 20 sets of 5 reps of 200lb squats will not get you to a 315lb squat.

  8. #8
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    My first thought is that 2 minutes is not a very long rest time for weighted sets of 5.
    Since I was doing 10 pushups and 15 air squats immediately following in a circuit that's especially true. The weight was just 20 lbs. I think I could do a set of 4 with 45 lbs at the time. I was in OK shape but not strong. I was sore the next day.

    Had you done weighted sets before this? What were you doing to train pull ups before? When you say four workouts, do you mean four in total before attempting this "murph" (why do all these weird crossfit routines have these funny names?), or four a week, structured like a four day lifting program?
    I had done weighted sets occasionally but not regularly or on a progression. I was doing crossfit 4/5 days a week which was 15 minutes of a targeted lift (squats for example) followed by 35 minutes of the usual painful thrashing about which often included a pull of some kind. I was just doing pullups as programmed by my gym and occasionally at home if I missed the day they did them. I did those 4 prep workouts over almost 3 weeks, inbetween doing crossfit and some sets of 5 pullups at home. I did those "cindy" type workouts to see if I could even do the quantities required by murph, turns out it's aggravating but not that bad. By the end I was struggling to get the reps and sometimes needed a longer rest.

    What is your bodyweight? How strong are your major lifts? Pullups are easy for guys with a relatively light bodyweight.
    Back then I was 170, 15%-ish body fat, squat = 175x5, Bench = 155x5 (we never benched), Press = 120x1, Deadlift = 165 x 1. (I'm a bit stronger now).

    Obviously the volume was huge, and as I got tired (toward the end) I was pretty much all I could do to make reps, so at that point I guess I was at max effort. All I can think of is the volume was a huge stimulus and for whatever reason I didn't go backwards from it.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by bikesandcars View Post
    Since I was doing 10 pushups and 15 air squats immediately following in a circuit that's especially true. The weight was just 20 lbs. I think I could do a set of 4 with 45 lbs at the time. I was in OK shape but not strong. I was sore the next day.
    My meaning was more that, because 2 min rest isn't very long, the energy systems were tailored to the higher end of rep ranges. When the time came to do 15+ reps, you were already adapted for that kind of activity from an energy systems stand point.

  10. #10
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    starting strength coach development program
    Quote Originally Posted by bikesandcars View Post
    I had done weighted sets occasionally but not regularly or on a progression. I was doing crossfit 4/5 days a week which was 15 minutes of a targeted lift (squats for example) followed by 35 minutes of the usual painful thrashing about which often included a pull of some kind. I was just doing pullups as programmed by my gym and occasionally at home if I missed the day they did them. I did those 4 prep workouts over almost 3 weeks, inbetween doing crossfit and some sets of 5 pullups at home. I did those "cindy" type workouts to see if I could even do the quantities required by murph, turns out it's aggravating but not that bad. By the end I was struggling to get the reps and sometimes needed a longer rest.
    Dude, I don't know anyone named Cindy. But training with added weight on the movement probably drove up your strength in that movement, thus making the unweighted version more submaximal (and thus expanding your maximum reps at that submaximal weight). Kind of like how a deadlift drives up a power clean. Or bringing up your 5rm deadlift brings up your 10rm deadlift too. That is my guess at the answer, anyways. I'll wait for Professor Rip to reveal the correct answer.

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