The Marine Corps is the only service that uses the pullup as part of its physical fitness testing, but PT guru Army Capt. Lee Kind says everyone should be sure to incorporate the exercise into their regular workout program.
“It’s a terrific exercise we should all do anyway,” says Kind, author of “MAX Out the Army, Navy, Marine, and Air Force Physical Fitness and Combat Fitness Tests.”
Kind was our go-to expert for this week’s OFFduty workout feature “Don’t be a PT fail.”
While Marines are allowed to do pullups with palms facing in – what some call chin-ups – or out during their test, everyone should train both ways, Kind says. On test day, however, Marines should to do them with palms facing in, which can boost your count by two to four reps.
For those just starting out, there’s no shame in struggling.
“At first, most people have trouble knocking out even one,” Kind says.
To get going, he recommends installing a pullup bar inside a door that you pass through on a regular basis. Every time you pass through, do whatever you can. Or, if you have pullup bar at your unit, do a set every day when you start work and then again at the end of work.
No matter what, just be sure to maintain good form. That means no leg and body swinging – a.k.a. kipping – to cheat out more reps. The reason the Corps has banned kipping: It leads to injuries.
Once you can do a few, Kind suggests adding a weight vest to really kick-start gains.
“Let’s say your current max is about 10 reps,” Kind says. “Start by doing five reps three times a week with 20 pounds in the vest. The next week, increase the weight by two to five pounds and add one rep. Keep adding like that every week. Even after a few weeks, you’ll be blown away at how many more you can do without the vest. You will see explosive gains.”
Jon Anderson is a staff writer for OFFduty. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.