Worrying about your pullups? Can’t do too many? In the DEP and stressing about the pullup portion of the USMC IST?
I was the same way and was oh so very bad at pullups. But I did find a way to increase my pullups after several attempts to increase them. Trust me I know exactly what you are going through if you are stressing out about pullups. I tried many different ways to try increase my pullups and most didn’t work. Actually, only one way worked. I will tell you what ways I tried to increase my pullups, and which actually worked.
Different Ways I Tried
So, a little info before so you can understand the pullup situation, I was in. So, I started out doing zero, yep zero, pullups. I also did not improve my pullups for a long time, but it was not for a lack of trying. For the first three months I was in the DEP, I kept getting a big zero written out on the back of my hand when my DEP would do the IST. Was it embarrassing? Yes, yes it was. But I will also tell you I did end up leaving the for bootcamp doing 17 pullups. Which is a big freaking difference from not even passing the Marine physical requirements to almost having a perfect score. This was back when the max score on pullups was 20.
First Plan to Increase Pullups
My first idea to increase my pullups was simply going to the DEP workouts. I don’t know how your DEP worked but at mine, the recruiters conducted PT 3 times a week Monday-Wednesday at 5. So, when I found out I needed to work on my pullups my plan to improve was simple. Go to the DEP workouts, don’t mess around, work hard, and my pullups will increase. Yeah if you were to guess if this helped, it did not. At least not for me. I honestly felt embarrassed because I was that one poolee who went to mostly all the DEP workouts and usually did well during the DEP workouts. I was pretty fit, but I just couldn’t do pullups. (To be fair, I was never strong to begin with) So this method did not work for me. Small note- the DEP workout did help get more fit, but I just struggled personally with pullups more than most.
Second Plan to Increase Pullups
So, after about two months of just going to the DEP workouts I had to do something different to help my pullups. So, my next idea was, “oh I will just do a lot of pushups, and my pullups will go up since they are both bodyweight exercises”. I thought it was a logical solution. So, I was doing pushups usually at night and was still going to the DEP workouts.
Yeah this didn’t work for me either. I’m not kidding I may increase to doing 1 pullup, but it was barely a pullup.
At this point I will admit I hated pullups and I even hated even going on a pullup bar. I really did. My pushup idea was not working out either so I figured I should try something else. My next idea was assisted pullups. At the time I had a gym membership and there is a machine where you can do assisted pullups. I did this for around 4-6 weeks. But I was using this machine to help me increase my pullups. This helped a little bit, but not much. I believe I finally got to 2 pullups. But at this point I was still was failing the IST. Was I discouraged…yep. Embarrassed….yep. I frequently went to the DEP workouts and would usually be second in the 1.5 mile run, but still would fail this portion of the IST. So, I was very embarrassed.
Fourth Plan That Worked
At this point a couple months had passed since I first DEP’d in. I had just graduated high school and was still failing the IST. My ship date was around five months from graduating high school and I was still struggling with pullups.
After summer the recruiters at the recruiting station told the poolees that we could come in the morning to workout for the recent high school graduates. They were also having the evening PT’s too. I was not going to school since I graduated, and I decided to go to the morning workouts too plus the time was ticking for me and I needed to pass my IST.
The morning workouts were just pyramid pullups with 15 pushups in between. The way we started was we do 1 pullup, 15 pushups, then do 2 pullups, 15 pushups until we got to 5. Then go back down with 15 pushups in between. So, once we hit 5 and did the 15 pullups, do 4 pullups the 15 pushups, going down until 0.
Right off the bat I hated this workout. Because well I could not do pullups, I mean I could barely do 2 pullups. The way I completed this workout and mostly everyone was the person behind waiting to do pullups would spot you. By spotting a buddy would pretty much place their hand on your back and help you up. This was the only way I could do this workout. I will admit I was kind of embarrassed because there was usually only 3 other poolees at this DEP workout and I always needed someone to spot me.
The next day I came again to the morning DEP workout and this time we were to do the same thing, pyramid pullups. But this time we had to go up to 6. Same thing happened. I needed a spotter most of the time.
Third day same thing, except we were to again increase by one. So, we would do pyramid pullups going to 7. So, Monday through Wednesday I would do this for I don’t know how long. I will admit I did miss some workouts because it was a bit hard for me, but I did end up continuing doing the morning PT’s.
I eventually and proudly do pyramid pullups going up to 10 with 15 pushups in between all by myself, with no help from a spotter. Yeah that is right. I was even impressed with myself when I did this.
So How Did I Do Pyramid Pullups
Let me tell you it was not easy. And I did so many pullups I actually popped a callus (might have been a weird blister) on the pullup bar. Gross? Kind of, was I proud though…yes. So what I am basically saying was that it was not easy.
I caught on pretty quick on what the morning DEP workouts we going to be. Which were just pyramid pullups. I decided to keep going to them even when I did feel embarrassed that I always needed a spotter. So I pretty much left my ego and pride freaking somewhere. Where? I don’t know.
However, what I also did to try to help my pullups was this workout program: USMC
This program does not cost anything, and I think it really helped. Trust me I was a recent high school grad so I couldn’t pay for anything. It’s also easy to do and it helped me get results. Also at the time the max pullups that were needed was 20, so I thought this was perfect. It was almost like a sign, haha.
I did the initial test, bought a pullup bar from Walmart and did this program.
The combination of the pyramid pullups and this program helped me to eventually get to 17 pullups before heading to bootcamp.
My Tip To Get Better At Pullups and Pass the USMC IST
To get better at pullups, you will simply have to do pullups. Get on the bar and do them. If you need someone to spot you do that.
All of the other ways I tried to help with pullups didn’t work. What helped was when I got on the bar and tried to do it myself.
I really do believe this would work for anyone. If you have a buddy I would recommend to spot each other on pullups similar to the way I did. If you don’t have a buddy or want to do more. I would suggest doing the 20 pullup program in 6 weeks.
Also this is how I thought about pullups once I could do 6. Once I was able to do 6 pullups I realized it was all mental. For example, when I was able to max out on pullups at 6. I thought’ “Huh, I am pretty sure I can do just 1 more next time, it’s just one more”. So that’s the way I thought. Like just give me time and a bit more training and I can get to 7. Then with continuing with my training and I ended up leaving the DEP doing 17 pullups.