How Often Should You Do Pullups?

Pullups, a basic movement using multiple muscle groups, require you to stabilize your body in space. Because pullups usually use your entire body weight, their intensity varies with your size and strength. How often you perform pullups depends on both your fitness level and your goals, but two to three sessions per week is safe and effective for most people.

Performing pullups two to three times per week is optimal for most people. (Image: FtLaudGirl/iStock/Getty Images)

Body-Weight Exercise Myths

Body-weight exercises often introduce novices into the world of training. Because they are used by beginners, some experienced athletes think body-weight activities are easier than weighted ones. This may lead to the idea that you can do this type of activity every day, even if you normally take rest days between weight-training sessions. However, your muscle cells treat all resistance exercises as the same; therefore, you need at least 48 hours of rest after pullups, just as with weighted exercises.

Experience Level and Intensity

Unmodified pullups require you to support and move your entire body weight a distance equal to the length of your arms. If you are experienced in activities that require a large amount of pulling, such as rock climbing or rowing, pullups may be a low-intensity exercise for you. If you are a novice athlete, performing a single pullup with your full weight will be a high-intensity exercise. Higher-intensity exercises require you to allow more time for recovery.

Recovery and Frequency

Training at very high intensities can require a week of full recovery. This may apply if you perform many sets of pullups or perform low repetitions with additional weight. If you use an assisted pullup machine to bear some of your body weight, recovery time may decrease. Highly capable athletes often train using low-intensity, high-skill exercises daily. This is only recommended if you are an experienced athlete who easily performs pullups, writes Christopher Sommer in "Building the Gymnastic Body."

Greasing the Groove

"Greasing the groove" is a technique used to practice a high volume of strength movements without requiring a long recovery period. If you are new to pullups, greasing the groove allows you to practice them often, teaching your central nervous system to perform the movement more efficiently. In greasing the groove, you perform as few as one pullup at a time, several times throughout the day. This allows you a lot of practice without accumulating fatigue, notes the Human Machine website.

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