Pull-Up Level 4 Overview

Primary Goal of Level

The goal of Level 4 of the Pull-Up Program is to complete 3 sets of 5 reps of 18″ Elevated Straight Leg Assisted Pull-Up. If you are already capable of this, please move to the next level.

Secondary Goals

In Levels 1, 2, and 3 there was a big focus on total volume for the back, biceps, and grip. Much of this was accomplished with the accessory hypertrophy movements. This was done to increase your ability to handle more volume, fatigue, and stress.

In Level 4, we will begin to shift focus a little away from total volume. We will begin increasing our intensity instead.

In addition to the primary goal, we are also focusing on developing the following attributes. These attributes will help with our overall goal of pull-up development.

  • Intensity for pull-up specific movement patterns.
  • General Back strength by using Close Grip Lat Pull-Downs, Face Pulls, and Barbell Curls.

Goal of sub-levels

There are six sub-levels in the Level 4 Pull-Up Program. Each sub-level has a goal. Once that goal is attained you can move to the next sub-level. Please take a look at the goals for each sub-level. You have two options on where you can start. For the first option, you can pick the sub-level that is most difficult for your current strength but you are not able to complete the goal of that sub-level. The second option is to simply start from the beginning and work your way through each level.

  • Level 4.1: 3×5 3″ Elevated Straight Leg Assisted Pull-Ups.
  • Level 4.2: 3×5 6″ Elevated Straight Leg Assisted Pull-Ups.
  • Level 4.3: 3×5 9″ Elevated Straight Leg Assisted Pull-Ups.
  • Level 4.4: 3×5 12″ Elevated Straight Leg Assisted Pull-Ups.
  • Level 4.5: 3×5 15″ Elevated Straight Leg Assisted Pull-Ups.
  • Level 4.6: 3×5 18″ Elevated Straight Leg Assisted Pull-Ups.

Special Note

It may be particularly easy to progress through these levels. If you find them too easy then feel free to skip from 3″ to 12″. What I am looking for most is that by the end of level 4 you are able to perform a 3×5 with an 18″ elevation.

Elevated Straight Leg Assisted Pull-Ups

Proper Starting Position

The starting position for the Elevated Straight Leg Leg Assisted Pull-Up is important to get right. The apparatus should be set at a height so that when your arms are fully extended overhead then your butt should be grazing the ground. You are not sitting. You are almost floating. Yes, your butt is touching the ground but no it is not with your full weight.

We want to get this right because the bottom position in the pull-up is not a resting position. You are still hanging. Your grip and back and arms are still in tension. The bottom position is still an active position with tension. To accomplish this, your butt should only be grazing the floor.

With that said, having the butt fully resting on the ground is a perfectly fine progression. In Level 4, feel free to rest at the bottom when needed in your strength sets so that you are able to get more reps. With that said, when you perform your test sets there shouldn’t be any sitting at the bottom between reps.

What is a pull-up hold?

At this level, we will begin using isometric holds. Isometric is just a fancy word for ‘not moving while flexing’. In fact, let’s do a little exercise science lesson while we are here. There are three types of muscular contractions used in strength training:

  • Eccentric: This is when your muscle is lengthening under tension. Let’s use a bicep curl as an example. Eccentric is when the weight is lowering down and making the muscle longer.
  • Concentric: Still rolling with the bicep curl example. This is when the muscle moves up and makes the muscle shorter.
  • Isometric: Now imagine that on the way up or down you just stopped moving. The muscle is not moving longer or shorter, but it is still under tension and not moving. The portion of the movement where it is not moving is called an isometric contraction.

Look at you! Getting smart and and strong at the same time. Aren’t we fancy?

Now, back to what a leg-assisted pull-up hold is. By now, you already know that the top part of a pull-up is when your chin is over the bar. Right?!?!

Well, the hold is simply staying there with your chin above the bar. Isometrically contracting your arms and back to hold yourself up.

What to elevate on?

Good question. Well, it depends where you are.

If you’re at a gym, I recommend weight plates. The height of each plate is ideal to get the height just right. They are super stable.

If you’re at home, you’ll likely need to get creative. Books. Yoga blocks. The back of your dog (kidding, don’t do that).

If you’re at a park, this gets a little tough. Likely there won’t be a rock or something mobile around so you’ll need to bring something. Foam yoga blocks will likely go up to 9″. After that, they start getting pretty unstable.

Microcycle (i.e. weekly programming ) Design

The Microcycle design is changing in Level 4. As mentioned earlier, we are taking away some volume and adding some intensity. Practically speaking this means less focus on hypertrophy accessory movements and more focus on movements that are more similar to our primary movement (pull-up, duh!).

Each microcycle in Level 4 still has two workouts (Just like in levels 1-3). The difference now is that the volume and intensity will be the same on both days. Optionally, in Level 4, you can repeat one of the workouts of your choice if you feel motivated to do so. If that’s you, I suggest the following cadence for the Microcycle.

  • Day 1: Workout 1.
  • Day 2: Rest.
  • Day 3: Workout 2.
  • Day 4 Rest.
  • Day 5: Repeat 1 or 2.
  • Day 6: Rest.
  • Day 7: Rest.

If you are interested in learning more about the methodology behind these exercise prescription choices, please read the Level Up Periodization article.