Even though they can be tough to master, pull-ups are an excellent exercise for building strength and muscle size in the upper body. You can do pull-ups at varying speeds based on how experienced you are and what your training goals are.
Is it better to do pull-ups fast or slow? If you’re working towards your first pull-up, recovering from an upper body injury, or can’t do more than 3-5 strict pull-ups in a row, slow pull-ups are better as they can help you build more shoulder and lat strength. Fast pull-ups are better for developing more power in the upper body, but they aren’t for beginners.
To help you decide whether you should do fast or slow pull-ups, I’ll discuss the following in this article:
- What it means to do pull-ups fast
- What it means to do pull-ups slow
- The pros and cons of fast and slow pull-ups
- Whether or not slow pull-ups are harder
- Who should do fast or slow pull-ups
What Does It Mean To Do Pull-Ups Fast?
Doing pull-ups fast means completing a full rep within 1-2 seconds. Instead of grinding it out, you use as much power as you can to get your chin over the bar quickly while still controlling your body.
Two of the most common ways to do fast pull-ups are kipping and butterfly pull-ups. People like to criticize them, but they do have their place in fitness, especially for CrossFitters. However, because of the extra demands they put on the upper body and the shoulder strength required to do them properly, kipping and butterfly pull-ups are not for beginners.
Many people also use resistance bands to work on their pull-up speed. But instead of looping a band around the bar so you can put your foot through the other end for an assisted pull-up, you attach a band to a belt around your waist and loop the other end around a heavy dumbbell or kettlebell on the floor.
The band’s tension reduces at the bottom of the pull-up but increases as you get closer to the bar, which forces you to have to be more explosive at the top of the movement.
3 Reasons To Do Pull-Ups Fast
1. You’re Trying To Develop More Explosive Power in Your Upper Body
If you participate in swimming, martial arts, rock climbing, gymnastics, or any other sport that requires upper body power, fast pull-ups can help you develop more explosiveness in your upper body.
2. You’re Already Proficient at Pull-Ups and Want To Progress to Muscle-Ups
Increasing the speed with which you perform pull-ups can help you develop the power you need for muscle-ups by teaching you to get your chest up to the bar as fast as possible. The band-resisted pull-ups I spoke about earlier are a common progression for muscle-ups.
3. You’re Trying To Improve Your Stamina and Muscular Endurance
Fast pull-ups are an excellent way to build your work capacity. And since you’ll likely be doing more reps in each set, increasing your pull-up speed adds a cardiovascular element that can help get your heart beating faster.
3 Drawbacks of Doing Pull-Ups Fast
1. Fast Pull-Ups Are Not for Beginners
Because you need good shoulder health and excellent upper body strength in order to do pull-ups for speed, you shouldn’t attempt them until you can do multiple slow, controlled pull-ups with proper form.
2. They’re Difficult To Control
When you’re still working on improving your pull-up speed, you may be cheating your reps without realizing it. You may fail to get your chin all the way over the bar or you may not straighten your arms all the way at the bottom. Even kipping and butterfly pull-ups require a certain amount of control so you’re not just flailing around on the bar.
3. Trying To Increase Your Pull-Up Speed Too Soon Can Result in Injuries
After you’ve achieved your first pull-up, you still need to work on stringing together multiple reps before you start trying to do them quickly. If you try to use too much power or speed before your muscles can handle it, you can injure your shoulders (particularly your rotator cuff), biceps, elbows, or upper back.
Related Article: The Most Effective Pull-Up Warm Up (Science Backed)
What Does It Mean To Do Pull-Ups Slow?
Doing slow pull-ups means it takes more than 3-5 seconds to complete one rep. It involves slow and controlled movements during both the concentric — upward — part of the movement and the eccentric — downward — portion.
If you’re having trouble intentionally slowing down your pull-up speed, you can do pauses at specific intervals, such as halfway up and halfway down.
Another way to incorporate slow pull-ups into your routine is to do tempo pull-ups.
Tempo movements are typically written as a series of four numbers such as 3130. The numbers refer to how long it should take for the concentric motion, a pause at the top, the eccentric portion, and a pause (or no pause) at the bottom before starting your next rep.
3 Reasons To Do Pull-Ups Slow
1. There’s More Time Under Tension
Time under tension means your muscles spend more time under strain.
Some research suggests that longer repetition duration isn’t necessarily more effective. But other studies show that six seconds of concentric and eccentric actions elicit a greater electromyography (EMG) response, which results in increased hypertrophy.
2. It Helps Improve Your Grip Strength
Slowing down your pull-ups means you’re holding onto the bar for a longer period of time, which challenges your grip and helps improve your forearm strength.
3. Doing Slow Negatives Can Help You Achieve Your First Pull-Up
Doing negatives refers to starting with your chin already over the bar and slowly lowering yourself back down. Many trainers consider them to be more effective at building pull-up strength than band-assisted pull-ups.
By placing more emphasis on the eccentric portion of the movement, negatives lengthen the muscles that are under tension during a pull-up. This is what contributes to the muscle fiber damage that allows your muscles to grow bigger and stronger.
Can't feel your lats in the pull-up? Check out my article on How To Activate Your Lats More In The Pull-Up.
2 Drawbacks of Doing Pull-Ups Slow
1. Your Grip May Give Out Faster Than the Rest of Your Body
Because slow pull-ups take longer to complete, you’re spending more time hanging onto the bar. You may notice that your grip starts to fail long before the rest of your body gets tired.
2. It Takes More Time To Complete
Doing sets of 8-10+ slow pull-up reps increases the total amount of time for your workout, which can be a deterrent to people who don’t have a lot of time to spend in the gym.
Is It Harder To Do Pull-Ups Fast or Slow?
Slow pull-ups are harder to execute because they require more time under tension, which challenges your grip and can fatigue your upper body more than cycling through them quickly.
But with that said, fast pull-ups are also difficult because you need to concentrate on completing quality reps and not losing control as you lower yourself back down quickly. Furthermore, kipping and butterfly pull-ups are an advanced movement that require a lot of skill and should only be done by advanced trainees.
Related Article: Close vs Wide Grip Lat Pulldown: Which Is Better?
Who Should Do Pull-Ups Fast or Slow?
Do Fast Pull-Ups If
- You’re a CrossFitter.
- You can already do 3-5 strict pull-ups in a row and want to increase your work capacity.
- You participate in a sport that requires explosive upper body power such as swimming, martial arts, bouldering, or gymnastics.
Do Slow Pull-Ups If
- You’re still trying to get your first strict pull-up, or you can’t yet do 3-5 pull-ups in a row.
- You’re coming back from a shoulder or other upper body injury.
- You’re trying to increase upper body strength and muscle size.
Do Both Fast and Slow Pull-Ups If
- You’re proficient at pull-ups but you want to continue training the basics.
- You’re working on increasing the amount of unbroken strict pull-ups you can do but also want to work on getting more reps done in a shorter amount of time.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Are Explosive Pull-Ups Better?
Explosive pull-ups are better for certain types of athletes such as CrossFitters, obstacle course racers, and rock climbers who need explosive upper body strength. They can also help you progress to muscle-ups. However, you should only attempt explosive pull-ups if you’re already proficient at regular pull-ups.
What Do Negative Pull-Ups Do?
Negatives help build strength in the upper body muscles that are involved in a pull-up, including the lats and biceps. Negatives also help teach you control on the eccentric portion of a pull-up so you don’t just drop to the bottom after you get your chin over the bar, which can lead to injuries.
Additional Pull-Up Resources
- 7 Best Pull-Up Gloves in 2021 (Prevent Calluses)
- Do Pull-Ups Help Deadlifts? (Yes, Here’s How)
- Are Pull-Ups & Rows Enough For Back & Biceps?
- Lat Pulldown vs Pull-Up: Differences, Pros, Cons
If you’re still working on getting your first pull-up or you can’t yet do sets of 3-5 unbroken strict pull-ups, you should continue to work on doing slow pull-ups or negatives. This will help you build the upper body strength you need to execute quality pull-up reps and help reduce your risk of injury.
Athletes who participate in sports that require upper body power can benefit from incorporating fast pull-ups into their routines. Increasing your pull-up speed will allow you to develop more explosiveness in your upper body and can also help you progress towards more advanced movements such as muscle-ups.
About The Author
Amanda is a writer and editor in the fitness and nutrition industries. Growing up in a family that loved sports, she learned the importance of staying active from a young age. She started CrossFit in 2015, which led to her interest in powerlifting and weightlifting. She's passionate about helping women overcome their fear of lifting weights and teaching them how to fuel their bodies properly. When she's not training in her garage gym or working, you can find her drinking coffee, walking her dog, or indulging in one too many pieces of chocolate.