The Ultimate 30 Day Pull Up Challenge

October 07, 2021

30 day pull up challenge

Would you like to be able to do more pull ups?

Based on my experience, I can roughly guess that your answer is yes.

That’s because in all of my years of training folks, almost every fitness enthusiast that I‘ve met so far (and I’ve met a lot of them), would be happy if they could do more pull ups regardless of their fitness level.

When I was still a beginner, being able to do more pull ups was always one of my main calisthenics goals, too. Even now, that I am more advanced, increased reps in pull ups is still a good sign of progress.

However, despite being a very popular and respected exercise, there are very few people who are actually good with pull ups. The reason behind this is that pull ups are a hard exercise and if you want to getter better with them, you will have to put a lot of work in.

If I guessed right and you actually want to get better at pull ups, then keep reading cause in this post you are going to learn how to increase your max consecutive pull ups in only 30 days with this 30 Day Pull Up Challenge.

Sounds good, right? 

Download the 30 Day Pull Up Challenge Workout Sheets <=

Benefits Of Pull Ups

There are a tons of benefits to the pull up. Knowing the benefits will help you stay motivated to continue practicing them.

In this section, I made a list of what I consider the most important benefits of pull ups.

Benefit #1: Improve Your Posture

This is the greatest benefit of performing pull ups.

Posture problems are very common in this day and age. The most common causes are excessive sitting and having a weak back.

Pull ups are going to help you build a very strong back and, as a result, your posture is going to improve.

In addition, even if excessive sitting is more of a lifestyle issue, pull ups are going to help you improve your sitting habits by helping you maintain a straight back while sitting down.

Benefit #2: Develop Muscular Back And Arms

Pull ups are one of the best exercises for building muscle in the upper and lower back and your biceps.

In fact, they are so effective that even professional bodybuilders use them regularly in their workouts.

Benefit #3: Improve Your Grip Strength

Grip strength is the most fundamental type of strength.

If your arms are strong yet you have a weak grip, most of your strength is going to be wasted and you will not be able to express it fully.

Benefit #4: Develop Functional Strength

If you want your training to have immediate and transferable benefits to your everyday life, then pull ups are one of the best exercises to perform.

Having a strong back and strong arms is going to help you in almost every physical activity you perform daily, from carrying heavy shopping bags to climbing, etc.

Benefit #5: Opens The Way For Other Advanced Movements

Becoming proficient in pull ups is going to open the way for you to other advanced and awesome calisthenics movements.

Such movements, for example, are:

What Exercises Will Be Performed During The Challenge?

side pull up

In this challenge you are going to perform 3 types of exercises:

  • Vertical pulling exercises
  • Horizontal pulling exercises
  • Hanging work

The different pulling variations are going to help you develop a well-balanced musculature in the back and the hanging work is going to help you strengthen your grip and open your shoulders.

Type 1: Vertical Pulling Exercises

The vertical pulling pattern is trained with regular pull up variations.

The pull up variations that are going to be used are:

Exercise 1: Underhand Pull Ups

Exercise 2: Overhand Pull Ups

Exercise 3: Neutral Grip Pull Ups

Exercise 4: Close Grip Pull Ups

Exercise 5: Wide Grip Pull Ups

Exercise 6: Rope/Towel/Fat Bar Pull Ups

I Can’t Perform Regular Pull Ups Todd. What Should I Do?

Since the exercises are divided into vertical and horizontal pulling exercises, you will have to replace pull ups with an easier vertical pulling variation.

An easy way to manipulate the difficulty of the pull ups is to practice with assistance. You can assist yourself during pull ups by using elastic bands or by using a chair.

If you use the elastic bands for assistance, you should keep the same difficulty for the whole duration of the challenge. Also, you should choose a band that allows you to do 4-6 reps.

If you use a chair, you can adjust the distance of the chair to make the exercise harder or easier.

Type 2: Horizontal Pulling Exercises

To train your horizontal pulling pattern you are going to perform body row variations.

The body row variations that are going to be used are:

Exercise 1: Underhand Body Rows

Exercise 2: Overhand Body Rows

Exercise 3: Neutral Grip Body Rows

(In the video from 00:06 to 00:14.)

Exercise 4: Close/Wide Grip Body Rows

Similar to the close/wide grip pull up.

Exercise 5: False Grip Body Rows

For more information about the false grip, you can check this video.

Exercise 6: Rope/Towel/Fat Bar Body Rows

Exercise 7: Plyometric Body Rows

I Can’t Perform Regular Body Rows Todd. What Should I Do?

You can easily manipulate the difficulty of body rows by changing the height of the bar/rings from which you perform them. The higher the bar/ring the easier body rows are going to be.

You should choose a height that allows you to do 5-10 reps.

Hanging Work For Improving Grip Strength & Opening Your Shoulders

The hanging work is going to help you strengthen your grip and open your shoulders.

For this challenge, only two hanging exercises are going to be used.

Exercise 1: Passive Hanging (Deadhang)

For the purposes of this challenge doing the dead hang in a regular pull up bar is enough.

Exercise 2: Active Hanging

In this 30 Day Pull Up Challenge you are going to perform the hang by holding the top position isometrically and not for reps as in the video.

The Different Types of Workout Days

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In this 30 day challenge, 4 types of workouts are going to be used for the achievement of your goals.

Each day you are going to perform a different workout. Most of these workouts aim at developing your strength and endurance.

The different workouts are:

  • GTG workouts
  • Sub-max workouts
  • Pyramid workouts
  • AMRAP/AFAP workouts

GTG Workouts

GTG stands for Greasing The Groove.

The basic principle behind this method is that gains in strength should be approached like a skill. If you want to become better at doing something, you will have to practice as much as possible.

In this respect, if you want to become better at pull ups, you will have to perform as many pull ups as possible.

To do that you will have to spread out your training sets throughout the whole day by having big breaks for rest between them.

For example, if your goal was to perform 30 pull ups in a day, you could train with 5 sets of 6 reps that have at least an hour of rest between them.

A key component in making this method work is to never go to failure or close to it during a set. If your max consecutive pull ups are 5, your sets should consist of 2-3 reps.

Sub-max Workouts

A sample sub-max workout is going to look like this:

3x (sub-max) pull up variation

Notes

Sub-max means that you are going to perform as many reps as possible without reaching failure. That means that if you continued, you could do at least 1 more rep with good form.

You are going to rest 3 minutes between the sets.

Pyramid Workouts

In a pyramid workout, you are going to start by performing a set of 1 rep and then with very little rest perform another set of 2 reps. You are going to perform more sets by adding 1 rep each time until you reach a set where the reps are close to sub-max, then you are going to perform as many sets are necessary to reach back to one similarly to the way you started.

For example, a workout might look like this:

1-2-3-4-5-4-3-2-1 = 25 reps

This is one pyramid.

During a workout, you may need to do more than one pyramids, if the volume of one pyramid isn’t enough.

Between pyramids, there should be 3-5 minutes rest.

AMRAP/AFAP Workouts

In the AMRAP type workouts, you are going to have a fixed amount of time (20 minutes in this challenge) in which you must do As Many Reps As Possible with good form.

In the AFAP type workouts, you will have to perform a certain number of reps (these number depends on your end goal) As Fast As Possible.

In both of these workouts, you are going to need a timer.

Assessing Yourself & Setting Goals For The 30 Day Challenge

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As I have already mentioned in the “How To Chose The Right Bodyweight Training Plan”, assessments and goal setting are very important processes in the creation of a training plan.

Based on that, you will have to dedicate a week to do the appropriate testing and set your goals before you start the Ultimate Pull Up Challenge.

The 3 Day Assessment

For the assessment, you are going to need 3 days.

In the 1st day, you are going to test your maximum consecutive reps in pull ups. Train with the grip that allows you to perform the most reps.

The 2nd day is a rest day.

In the 3rd day, you are going to test your max consecutive reps in body rows. Similarly to the pull ups, train with the most comfortable grip.

In regards to pull ups:

  • If you can do more than 5 pull ups, you can follow the program as it is.
  • If you max reps are between 1-5 pull ups, you are going to replace the grip challenge days with regular grip pulling work. The rest of the program stays as it is.

In regards to body rows:

  • If you can do 5-10 body rows, you should follow the challenge as it currently is.
  • If you can do more than 10 body rows, you should increase the difficulty of the exercise (such us by elevating your legs) so that your max reps fall in the 5-10 rep range.
  • If you can do can less than 5 reps, you should decrease the difficulty by increasing the height of the bar so that your max reps fall in the 5-10 rep range.

Goal Setting

After you have found what your maximum reps are, you should take some time to figure out what an achievable goal for you might be for the next 30 days.

The goal you choose is going to affect the difficulty of the challenge.

  • If your current max is between 1-5 reps, your goal should be between 10-13 reps.
  • If your current max is between 5-10 reps, your goal should be between 14-17 reps.
  • If your current max is between 11-15 reps, your goal should be between 18-22 reps.

Of course, these numbers are not set in stone and you can set a goal that is harder or easier depending on how easy the challenge seems to you. Keep in mind, however, that a harder goal might not be achievable in a 30 day period.

How To Warm Up For Each Workout

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This warm up is mostly going to be aimed at getting the muscles and joints, that are related to pulling, prepared for the workout.

If you are going to include exercises not related to pulling in a workout, your warm up should be more elaborated.

The Warm Up

A1: 5 min of jump rope

B1: 10 figure 8’s

B2:active to passive hang

B3: 5 push ups

Notes

  • Go from A to B with 60 seconds rest in between.
  • Go from B1 to B3 without rest between the exercises.
  • Rest 60 seconds between the rounds.
  • Perform 3 rounds of the circuit-B

This warm should be performed for all workouts except GTG workouts.

For GTG workouts, warming up isn’t necessary since you are performing only one set at a time. If you find warming up useful, in the GTG days you can do some simple upper body mobility drills (that are not time-consuming) before each GTG set.

How To Cool Down After Each Workout For Faster Recovery

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Spending 5-10 minutes after your workout for cooling down can do miracles in your recovery.

The following cool down is a simple one and it doesn’t take much time. Of course, if you have more time, you can do more exercises at the cool down routine.

The Cool Down Routine

A1: 2x30s per side lat stretch

B1: 2x30s per arm bicep stretch

C1: 1x60s backward roll stretch

D: 5 minutes of upper mobility work

You should perform this cool down routine after all workouts except the GTG ones.

What To Do During The Active Recovery Days

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Every 5th day of the program is going to be an active recovery day and not just a simple rest day.

This is going to help you recover faster from the previous workload.

An active recovery session can last from 30-60 minutes depending on how much available time you’ve got.

This session is going to consist of foam rolling and passive stretching exercises. I consider foam rolling to have priority over the passive stretching.

Foam Rolling

The main foam rolling is going to include 3 muscle groups:

After you have finished massaging these 3 areas, you can massage any other area that may feel sore from the challenge, like the forearm muscles.

In addition to that, if you have the time, you should also massage other muscle groups like the chest muscles.

Equipment

To perform the above massages, you are going to need a foam roller or a pair of tennis balls. Keep in mind that tennis balls can be a little harder and, for this reason, you should be more careful with the intensity of the massage.

Stretching

After you’ve completed the foam rolling session you should practice some passive stretches similar to the cool down routine.

The stretches you should perform are:

The Ultimate 30 Day Pull Up Challenge

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1st Cycle Of The Ultimate Pull Up Challenge

Day 1: Pyramid Workout (Vertical Pulling)

Perform a pyramid workout with the most comfortable grip position.

The total reps of the pyramids should be more than twice the reps of your goal. (If your goal is to do 15 pull ups, you should do the necessary amount of pyramids to reach at least 30 reps.)

Day 2: Sub-max Workout (Horizontal Pulling)

3x(sub-max) body rows.

Use the most comfortable hand position.

Day 3: Grip Challenge (Vertical Pulling)

3x(sub-max) body rows.

Use a rope/towel/fat bar for the pull ups.

Day 4: GTG Workout (Vertical Pulling)

Total amount of reps to perform: 3x reps of your goal

Use the most comfortable hand position.

Day 5: Active Recovery

2nd Cycle Of The Ultimate Pull Up Challenge

Day 6: GTG Workout (Vertical Pulling)

Total amount of reps to perform: 3x reps of your goal

Use the close grip position.

Day 7: Grip Challenge (Horizontal Pulling)

3x(sub-max) body rows.

Use a rope/towel/fat bar for the body rows.

Day 8: GTG Workout (Vertical Pulling)

Total amount of reps to perform: 1x reps of your goal

Use the most comfortable hand position.

For this day, you are going to perform what I like to call “fragmented” pull ups.

To perform “fragmented pull ups” all you have to do is to perform a regular pull up with the only difference being that you are going to pause for 5 seconds at 135, 90, 45 degrees and on the top of the movement. You are going to pause both during the eccentric and concentric phase of the exercise.

Use the most comfortable hand position.

Day 9: Hanging Work

3x(sub-max) seconds active hang

Day 10: Active Recovery

3rd Cycle Of The Ultimate Pull Up Challenge

Day 11: GTG Workout (Horizontal Pulling)

Total amount of reps to perform: 4x reps of your goal

Use the most comfortable grip position.

Day 12: Grip Challenge (Vertical Pulling)

3x(sub-max) body rows.

Use a rope/towel/fat bar for the pull ups.

Day 13: Hanging Work

3x(sub-max) seconds fat grip passive hang

Day 14: GTG Workout (Vertical Pulling)

Total amount of reps to perform: 4x reps of your goal

Use a close grip position.

Day 15: Active recovery

4th Cycle Of The Ultimate Pull Up Challenge

Day 16: AFAP Workout (Vertical Pulling)

Perform 3 times your max rep goal AFAP.

Use a grip of your choice as long as it’s not the most comfortable one.

Keep note of the total time for future reference.

Day 17: GTG Workout (Vertical Pulling)

Total amount of reps to perform: 2x reps of your goal

Use an underhand/overhand grip position (choose the one of the two that you are weaker at).

Day 18: Hanging Work

3x(sub-max) seconds fat grip passive hang

Day 19: AMRAP Workout (Horizontal Pulling)

AMRAP body rows in 20 minutes (wide grip).

Keep note of the total reps for future reference.

Day 20: Active recovery

5th Cycle Of The Ultimate Pull Up Challenge

Day 21: GTG Workout (Vertical Pulling)

Total amount of reps to perform: 4x reps of your goal

Use a wide grip position.

Day 22: GTG Workout (Horizontal Pulling)

Total amount of reps to perform: 5x reps of your goal

Use a close grip position.

Day 23: GTG Workout (Vertical Pulling)

Total amount of reps to perform: 4x reps of your goal

Use an underhand grip position.

Day 24: GTG Workout (Horizontal Pulling)

Total amount of reps to perform: 5x reps of your goal

Use an overhand grip position.

Day 25: Active recovery

6th Cycle Of The Ultimate Pull Up Challenge

Day 26: GTG Workout (Vertical Pulling)

Total amount of reps to perform: 2x reps of your goal

You are going to perform “fragmented” pull ups similar to the 8th Days.

Use the most comfortable hand position.

Day 27: Regular Workout (Horizontal Pulling)

3x(8-12) plyometric body rows

Day 28: GTG Workout (Vertical Pulling)

Total amount of reps to perform: 2x reps of your goal

Use a towel/rope for the pull ups.

Day 29: GTG Workout (Vertical Pulling)

Total amount of reps to perform: 6x reps of your goal

Use the grip that you are the strongest at.

Day 30: Active recovery

Frequently Asked Questions

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Question #1: What should I do if I can’t keep up with the program?

I understand that training for 4 days in a row can be hard for some people.

The best thing you can do is to follow through the challenge to the best of your ability.

If one day you feel very tired and you can’t go through the workout, you can drop the volume or the intensity or take an extra break for that day.

As you keep on with the challenge, you are going to become stronger and you will be able to go through the whole 5-day cycle with no problem.

Question #2: What should I do if I can’t perform some of the variations due to lack of equipment, injury or any other issue?

As far as you are performing the necessary vertical and horizontal pulling motions you are good to go regardless of the variation you are using.

The ideal, of course, is to practice with all the different variations. But you don’t have to be too worried if you aren’t able to perform a certain variation (like, for example, the wide pull ups).

Question #3: What if I miss a workout?

Since it’s very hard to predict the future, you can’t really know beforehand what lies ahead and losing a workout can sometimes be inevitable.

If you lose one workout, you should still keep going on with the challenge as it is, leaving the missed day behind you.

If, for whatever reason, you start to lose more than one workout in a 5-day cycle, you should start the challenge from the beginning. (Depending on which cycle your reached, you should redo the assessment to calculate the new parameters.)

Question #4: Is this a complete program Todd or should I add more exercises?

No. As the name suggests this is just a challenge with the main purpose being to increase your pullings strength and endurance.

During this program, you are going to perform lot’s of pulling. For this reason, I recommend you to practice lots of pushing exercises as well so that you can maintain the balance between the pulling and pushing pattern. You can easily add some pushing exercises during the sub-max workout days.

In addition, adding some leg workouts is a good idea.

Lastly, one thing that you have to consider is your current workout capacity. The Ultimate Pull Up Challenge requires a lot of hard work that needs a lot of recovery for compensation. Adding lots of extra work isn’t always a good idea.

Conclusion

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If you want to increase your reps in pull ups, then following this challenge is really going to help you in the achievement of your goals.

The Ultimate 30 Day Pull Up Challenge might seem to be very hard and… it actually is.

But don’t hesitate!

If it seems too hard for you, just choose an easier goal, so that the challenge becomes easier. You are still going to get better at pull ups.

After you finish the challenge once, even if it is on “easy mode”, the second one is going to be much easier.

Do you have any questions in regards to the Ultimate Pull Up Challenge, that were left unanswered?

Feel free to post them in the comments below.

I would love to help you out!

– Bodyweight Todd

PS: my friend Rob has created a Facebook group for the challenge. If you want to motivate other people and stay motivated yourself, join us here: http://ashotofadrenaline.net/the-ultimate-30-day-pull-up-challenge/.

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Show/Hide Comments (49 comments)
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49 Comments
  1. Viral

    Can I incorporate this with your “The Complete Body weight Training System” program of Body Weight Training Workouts – Workout 1: 3 Month Training Plan?

    Reply
  2. bodhi

    I’m in.

    Reply
    • Todd Kuslikis

      Fantastic, Bodhi. I’m so glad 🙂

      Reply
  3. Alison

    I’m in…can’t wait to get started…. 🙂

    Reply
    • Todd Kuslikis

      That’s great alison. Let me know how it goes.

      Reply
      • Alison

        Thanks for the support Todd, greatly appreciated! I have one question for you regarding this challenge–I tested my max. no. of pullups on Monday, my max. no. of parallel grip pullups is 6 but my max. no. of shoulder width pullups is only 3. My goal for this challenge is to increase the max. number of shoulder width pullups to 10, should I just use the shoulder width pullups using your 30 day plan as is with the exception of replacing the grip challenge days with regular grip pulling work? I personally don’t usually use parallel or underhand grip for pullups to avoid too much internal rotation of the shoulders.

        Reply
  4. Chris

    Hi Todd,
    Due the lack of equipment, I can’t perform the rows,what do you think about Kettlebell renegade row instead?

    Reply
    • Todd Kuslikis

      Hi, Chris. That can work too, just make sure your form is perfect.

      Reply
  5. Jerrry

    Did 5 today

    Reply
    • Todd Kuslikis

      Great start, Jerry!

      Reply
  6. Chris

    my one weak spot is pull ups so I tend to avoid them. I’m in no excuses!

    Reply
    • Todd Kuslikis

      This is your opprotunity to become weak-spotless 🙂

      Reply
  7. Chris M.

    Count me in Brotha

    Reply
  8. Phillip Schlueter

    I’ve been workin’ on pull-ups for 2 years now. It’s hard. Was just in a competition and had to do ’em, only got 3 – chin had to go over the bar or no count. I sure tried.

    Reply
    • Phillip Schlueter

      Oh, forgot to mention, I am going to be 67 in a few weeks. No excuse though :).

      Reply
  9. Robert

    I’m in

    Reply
    • Todd Kuslikis

      Fantastic, Robert.

      Reply
    • Todd Kuslikis

      Hi Rob, thanks a lot for that. I did add it to the post. Hope to see a lot of people over there.

      Reply
  10. Michael mcke

    If its got pull ups in it count me in!!!!!

    Reply
    • Todd Kuslikis

      I like that attitude 🙂

      Reply
  11. Jay

    So in!!

    Reply
    • Todd Kuslikis

      Fantastic, Jay.

      Reply
  12. Sunil

    I’m so in. Sounds like fun.

    Reply
    • Todd Kuslikis

      Great! It is fun!

      Reply
  13. Mohammed (death2012)

    Sorry forgot to tell you this Todd .. 😛
    remember the 3 months program you told me about well I’m almost done with it but you said you will give me a prize for completing it i’m not saying this because i wanna the reward No i mean i love the program it’s just would be great if i got rewarded thanks a lot 😀

    Reply
    • Todd Kuslikis

      That’s fantastic, Mohammed.

      Please send me a reply to where I said that 🙂

      Reply
  14. Mohammed (death2012)

    I’m in 😀
    But Todd about the active recovery part i don’t know what to do exactly i mean i don’t have a job or anything really interesting enough to put the energy on … can you give me some suggestions ? or anyone really i appreciate your replies 😀

    Reply
    • Todd Kuslikis

      Hi Mohammed, I’m happy you’re in.

      Even if you don’t have a job, it’s absolutely essential to rest.

      Reply
  15. Steve

    I’ll be in, as said in previous comment, can we have a quick link set up to get straight to the work outs?

    Reply
  16. Ken

    While this sounds a bit more like work than fun, I do like your format and the challenge. Thank you, I am in.

    Reply
    • Todd Kuslikis

      Great, happy to hear.

      Life becomes a whole lot of better when we learn to enjoy our work, have fun with it. Staying healthy and getting strong can be serious work sometimes, but it should be enjoyed neverthless.

      Reply
  17. Fitness Supermarket

    This sounds like a really great (and difficult!) challenge!

    Reply
    • Todd Kuslikis

      Few good things are easy. I hope you’re in!

      Reply
  18. Kevin Bruton

    I’m in

    Reply
    • Todd Kuslikis

      That’s fantastic, Kevin. I’d love to hear about your progress.

      Reply
  19. Rob

    Hey Todd,

    Quick request. Would you mind making a link that hops to the 30 days of workouts? That way I can visit the page and not have to scroll through the whole thing each day?

    Thanks a ton.

    Best,
    Rob

    Reply
  20. James Marcus

    Hi, I really like this challenge. Specially since I’ve been in a plateau of 8-10 pull ups for some time. One question, in the third day it mentions vertical pulling, but then it says to perform 3x body rows, so I’m a bit confused. Aren’t body rows horizontal?

    All the best.

    Reply
  21. Kevin

    I’m in 🙂

    Reply
    • Todd Kuslikis

      Wonderful Kevin, happy to hear that.

      Reply
  22. Ian

    Loving the sound of this,like your say,more pull ups are always a good thing! Are you working through this yourself Todd?
    I’m wondering if you might consider having a start and finish date for those that are interested in doing it together online? I think you mentioned it somewhere, see who improves the most? Could have a daily blog for people to comment on, send an email out directing people to said blog? Especially if people invited a friend,be more potential people for you! I’m liking the sound of the challenge anyway,so will give it a crack even if you don’t blog it!
    Thanks Todd

    Reply
    • Todd Kuslikis

      Hi Ian,

      Well, a friend of mine has created a facebook group for the challenge: https://www.facebook.com/groups/488876917948473.

      I hope I’ll have time to blog there every once in a while, but if I don’t, I’m relying on you to do so 🙂

      Reply
  23. Duncan

    I’m in Todd. Sounds like fun!

    Reply
    • Todd Kuslikis

      Glad to hear, it is fun.

      Reply
  24. Dudley

    Hi Todd. I love those pull ups so Im defenitly in 🙂

    Reply
    • Todd Kuslikis

      Thanks man. It’s wonderful how varied and fun pull ups can be.

      Reply
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