The Silverback Pull Up Protocol

*Disclaimer: This protocol is for someone who can do 6 or more strict bodyweight pull ups. I will be writing an article for those who aren’t yet proficient in bodyweight pull ups in the future.

I’ve personally tried dozens of pull up routines. Most were great for a short period, but few offered a long term progression. Though it may be boring to follow a linear progression with the same exercise for weeks, months, or a year on end, an effective one can yield much greater results than any movement/exercise rotation can offer.

I have tested this protocol on myself and clients over the last few years, as well as other variations. From members of the special forces to combat athletes, each one improved dramatically in their pull up strength. Many able to execute 10 strict pull ups with 40 pounds and 1 even able to do 15 pull ups with 60 pounds. 

But before diving into the protocol, I think it’s highly important that I define what a “strict” pull up actually is:

Phase 1: Hang

Phase 2: Pull sternum to bar explosively with chin over bar

Phase 3: Lower with no swinging or swaying to hang

Got it? K, good. If your pull up doesn’t meet the standard above, then you need to reconsider your ability progression (as seen below).

The Protocol

This progression is straight forward: progressive overload through increased volume. This is also known as escalating density.

When looking at choosing where you should start on this progression, you need to know what you are able to do 6 or 10 pull ups with. If it’s just bodyweight, you’ll start with the bodyweight progression that suits your ability. If you can get 6 or 10 pull ups with 20 pounds, you will do the first weighted progression. If you can get 6 or 10 pull ups with 40 pounds, you will do the second pull up progression. Needless to say, if you can execute 10 perfect pull ups with 40 pounds attached, I can guarantee you have some pretty impressive back development. Based off this progression, you can go from 6 pull ups at bodyweight to 10 pull ups with 40 pounds in 18 months. Sure, this sounds like a long time. But imagine the difference in strength and muscular density you’ve built without spending a year or more spinning your wheels!

Now let’s get to it break it down:

Splits That Work

Recovery plays a large role. I don’t like training a pull exercise 4x a week as it will somewhat inhibit your recovery in between pull up work. This is why I like to program all pulling exercises on the same day. Here are two effective training splits that work well with incorporating the Silverback Pull Up Protocol.

1) Upper/Lower Body Split (4x/week)

This is my favorite and most effective training split. Two upper body days and two lower body days. You can also do 3x a week consisting of two upper body days and one lower body day. Just be sure to get in the needed volume on your single lower body day.

Here is what the upper body workouts might look like:


The main concern here is doing The Silverback Pull Up Protocol first and to execute a horizontal row along with a 2/4 of a: horizontal push, vertical push, upwards push, and downwards push. The order after pull ups doesn’t necessarily matter. Just be sure to do heavier and/or most important exercises first. Auxiliary movements optional but can include bicep work, tricep work, and possibly delt work.

2) Full Body Split- Push/Pull Focus (4x/week)

This split works well for those who wish to do lower body more frequently or who prefer a more “functional body building” style training split. Two days will focus on upper and lower body pull movements while the other two days will focus on upper and lower body push movements.

Here is what the pull focus workouts might look like:


The main concern here is doing The Silverback Pull Up Protocol first and to execute a horizontal row along with 1-2 hip dominant exercises (1 bent leg, 1 straight leg). The order after pull ups doesn’t necessarily matter. Just be sure to do heavier and/or most important exercises first. Auxiliary movements (biceps, rear delts, traps, glutes, trunk work, etc) optional.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What if I miss a week?

A. Don’t skip. Resume at the week you left off on.

Q. What if I can get 6 reps with 30 lbs but not 40 lbs yet?

A. Follow the same progression with 30 lbs. Then go for 50 lbs on testing day. If still not there, use 40’s for the next progression.

Q. Can I do any other additional lat work?

A. You can if really want to. Just know that based off the volume and time under tension you are getting the necessary amount to stimulate muscular hypertrophy and illicit strength gains.

Q. Can I use a traditional bodybuilding split?

A. No.

Q. What if pull ups using an overhand grip hurt my shoulder?

A. Use a medium width neutral grip. Use a closer width neutral grip for the sets to failure. Same applies to overhead athletes.

Q. What if I am already able to 6 reps with 60 pounds?

A. First, congrats. That’s awesome. Second, you can follow the same progression starting with 60 pounds.

Q. What if it isn’t working for me and/or I’m not getting stronger.

A. It’s your recovery. Manage your sleep and nutrition better and ensure you aren’t doing an excess of volume that’s inhibiting you recovery.

Final Thoughts

Well there we have it. My “Silverback Pull Up Protocol”. Nothing fancy, nothing overly complicated…just straight forward progressive overload that will help you build a bigger and stronger back.

Questions? Comments? Drop one below!


Your Fad Diet Is Limiting Your Progress

Training for a performance based goal should not imply that one is opting for their health and body composition to slip for the sake of reaching that goal. This seems to be a misunderstanding amongst entry level to seasoned trainees and it is the fear of having a negative impact on health for the sake of improved performance, or vice versa, that is holding many people back from getting to their long term goal.

I have seen it time and time again: people puzzled as to why they see no change in their physique or why they can’t seem to conquer a particular weight or break past a desired race time. At the beginning stages of training, poor nutrition habits will have little to no effect on performance or body composition so long they are training consistently and somehow eating in a calorie deficit. However, this is often attributed to the simple fact that they are doing more than they were before: the new and progressive stimulus equates to a new adaptation. However, at some point when one crosses the bridge from beginner to intermediate, progress comes to a halt and the frustration settles in. They push harder and add an additional stimulus (more cardio, extra core work, two-a-days, etc) yet are never able to satisfy their need to match that initial drastic transformation.

Though we can identify the issue at hand by taking a look into their training, intensity, etc…I’d like to keep it short and stay within the realm of nutrition. We are all well aware of the handful of fad diets out there that promise magical shifts in body composition and overall health. So long adherence to the diet is in place, these usually succeed in serving their purpose: shed pounds and improve health. And for that very reason, I applaud the system for making a positive impact. Where the issue lies is when the trainee begins to develop in their knowledge in training, venturing further into the many avenues of fitness. It is at this point that their former restrictive diet is no longer able to serve it’s purpose for the individual. Simply, the food they eat is not fueling them efficiently for their activity.

I feel the need to harp on this subject as this is the majority of people who work me. Being around for a while as a coach, most of my people aren’t on their first rodeo. Whether they have worked with a trainer before who guided them for a short season or have tried numerous angles to reach their goal themselves, these people want to finally cross that bridge from beginner to intermediate or intermediate to advanced. A great challenge for me as a coach is helping them let go of the idea that what formerly helped them succeed will not play much of a role this time around…

The zone diet, Paleo, Atkins, whole 30, etc…they are all generally good diets. Most people who truly follow them lose the weight and notice remarkable changes in their overall health. But it is the realization that the dietary restrictions aren’t sustainable long term that leads many to plummet and feel lost at sea once again. Cutting sugars is an easy way to noticeably eat less calories. Increasing the volume of vegetables or animal fats will certainly help with satiety. Withholding gluten and dairy products can aid in ruling out what may be causing indigestion or inflammation (though this is often due to the fact it had been taken in excess or combined with items that amplify the issue at hand).

So if restrictive diets are so great at improving health, why are they not carrying over to elevating one’s level of performance? The answer is simple: lack of carbohydrates. Adding additional training or cranking up the intensity (a new stimulus/more energy burned) equates to a higher demand in energy. This energy is replenished through carbohydrates and will be broken down and utilized no matter it’s form, glycemic index, etc. I have met hundreds of people who train at the frequency (not to be mistaken for intensity) of a D1 athlete yet have nothing to show for it simply because they are not:

1) sufficiently fueled for the training at hand


2) not able to recover and adapt from the training stimulus.

This is not to say that you cannot succeed at the highest levels of performance following
the aforementioned diets. However, you are making it much harder by limiting the resources you are able to pull from. When you reach a certain level, you will be training at different intensities throughout the week. This means that your eating needs to match your training. This may also mean that you will have seasons in which your nutrition will shift for the sake of adaptation. For example: if you want to get stronger over the long term, you will at some point (probably two to three times a year) want to hit a hypertrophy phase to build size. Your nutrition will change as your training and seasonal goal changes. The fad diet and it’s many restrictions is limited in it’s ability to adapt to your training. If you want to cross that bridge, you will at some point need to start fueling like an athlete.

Here is a rough example of a nutrition plan I wrote for an MMA fighter losing weight during fight camp:

Two A Day

6:00 AM- Strength & Conditioning

7:00 AM (Post-Workout)- 25g whey protein + 50g dextrose powder

9:00 AM (Breakfast)- 1 cup oatmeal with 1/2 cup blueberries & 1 tbsp brown sugar, 1 cup greek yogurt

12:00 PM (Pre-workout)- Peanut butter jelly sandwich, 1 large orange

1:00 PM- Skill-work, low intensity training

2:30 PM (Post-Workout)- 32 oz gatorade

3:00 PM (Lunch)- 1 cup pasta with parmesan cheese + condiments of choice + mixed sauteed vegetables + 4 oz italian seasoned grilled chicken breast, 1 large apple

8:00 PM (Dinner)- 4 oz salmon, 1 cup quinoa, 2 servings sauteed vegetables

Regular Training Day

8:00 AM (Breakfast)- Large bagel with cream cheese, 1 cup mixed fruit, 1 cup egg whites

12:00 PM (Pre-workout)- Peanut butter jelly sandwich, 1 large orange

1:00 PM- Sparring, high intensity training

2:30 PM (Post-Workout)- 32 oz gatorade, banana

3:00 PM (Lunch)- 1 cup fried rice+ stir fry vegetables + 4 oz teriyaki marinated grilled chicken breast, 1 cup pineapple

8:00 PM (Dinner)- 4 oz skirt steak, 1 large baked sweet potato, medium salad with mixed vegetables + condiments of choice


If your goal is performance driven, an adequate carb intake will help you train at the intensities needed to get to that next level while also recover in between sessions. Even if your goal is just aesthetically based, a moderate intake won’t do you harm so long you stay within the necessary calorie deficit to put you on a thermogenic state. If anything, it will help you train harder, not feel so sluggish, and keep you from hitting the wall mid workout. With all that said, eat your carbs and keep training hard!

Interested in online coaching and a custom designed program specific to your performance goals? VISIT HERE !

The Three Components of an Efficient Warm Up

Working with clients and being a member myself to a myriad of gyms and training facilities, I’ve seen just about every type of warm up imaginable. Some dragged out to take up more time than the actual workout, others executed so poorly that the participant may have been better off skipping it entirely. It seems that understanding how to come up with a purposeful warm up is something that many people in the gym can benefit from.

Why You Should Warm Up

If your warm up is not prepping you mechanically and mentally to attain the maximal stimulus from your training session, you are wasting valuable time that could be spent doing something more productive for your training goal.

Hopefully anyone reading this has a stimulus they are looking to attain from their time spent training. For some it may be muscle growth while for others it may be power development. Maybe it’s to train a particular energy system, or it’s to just simply burn a set number of calories. Neither stimulus can be attained to its maximal potential by going in unprepared.

Being a hobbyist musician, I’ve grown to understand the importance of connecting my fingers and brain to my playing ability before pushing my limits. Now if I’m just going to jam out and play for fun, warming up with scales and more difficult finger positions isn’t a necessity. But if want to pick up a new skill that is going to push me beyond my playing ability, it’s completely necessary to “grease the groove” before just picking up the guitar and diving right into it. 

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Can’t hit those damn jazz chords without a proper warm up.

The same goes for training. Most people in the gym have been stuck in the “playing around & jamming out” phase of training for years. Though they may get after it, they lack purpose, direction, and a strategic progression. These folks wouldn’t benefit from a specific warm up as their training has no specificity. But for those who have a goal for each training session, it’s incredibly important to connect their muscles to their mind before stretching their skillset and pushing themselves beyond their training ability.


No matter your weekly training split or daily training focus, each session should start with a warm up that includes FAS: facilitation, activation, and stimulation. There’s no reason why combining the three components should eat up anymore than 10% of your time in the gym if planned out properly. But before diving into what it should look like, let’s define each component first:


Facilitation includes your self myofascial release, trigger point work, and mobility. Some foam rolling and a few mobility exercises that address weak points and prep you for the movements to be performed for the day should do. I try not to exceed 4-5 mobility exercises with my clients.

Bad hips? Work your way up from the ankle to the knee to the hip. Heavy deadlift day? Make sure your t-spine is opened up and that your erector spinae doesn’t feel like a PVC pipe.


You could look at this as pre-hab or as a means to activate stabilizing muscle groups specific to the movements to be performed for the day. Wrecked shoulders? This is where the stability aspect comes into play with building your rotator cuff and everything else around the scapula.

Heavy bench day? Getting some blood flow to the mid back and traps with pull aparts and face pulls do the trick for getting you ready to retract that scapula for better stability when you start working up to your heavier sets. Both approaches (prehab or activation) usually end up including the same exercises.


Many don’t feel the necessity for this part of the warm up. But I do! Here’s why…

If you’re just getting off a long day of work, struggling to get into the gym and executing a few mobility exercises and light band work isn’t going to get your mind right for a heavy squat workout. This is just as important for athletes who spend all day sitting in class. Because the central nervous system is taxed from higher intensity training, it’s incredibly important to “wake up the CNS” before diving into your first lift. Explosive movements that don’t require much resistance are what you want to work with: plyometrics, medicine ball work, etc. It’s key that you stay in the 3-5 rep range to keep max power at the forefront while also not letting fatigue settle in. You should feel sharp and alert before even touching heavier weights.


Here are some examples of what your warm up should look based off what your daily training focus is:

Heavy Squat Day

F: Foam roll glute/piriformis, dive bomber push up x10, world’s greatest stretch x0:30/s, half kneeling psoas stretch x0:30/s, cossack squat x10/s

A: 2 sets of: Lateral band walk x15/s + feet elevated hip bridge x15

S: 3 sets of: Vertical jump x5

Heavy Bench Day

F: Foam roll lats/upper back, iron cross stretch x10/s, quadruped thoracic rotation x10/s, cat cow x10

A: 2 sets of: Band pull apart x15 + cable face pulls x15

S: 3 sets of: Kneeling medicine ball slam x5

Bum Knee

F: Foam roll glute/piriformis, supine glute + piriformis stretch x0:30/s, supine psoas stretch x0:30/s, yoga push up x10, split stance kneeling adductor mobilization x10/s

A: 2 sets of: Donkey calf raises x15 + lying hamstring curl x15 + reverse hyperextension x15

S: 3 sets of: Single arm kb swing x5/s

Full Body MMA Conditioning Day

F: Foam roll whatever hurts, dynamic stretching (6 exercises x15yd each)

A: 2 sets of: Lateral band walk x15/s + band pull apart x15

S: 3 sets of: Sledgehammer swings x5/s

Final Thoughts

Hopefully this has shed some light on what a direct warm up ought to look like once you are sure of the purpose and direction of your training. Execute these three components with poise and you’ll be opening the door for exceeding your daily potential and getting the most out of your time invested in the gym.