I still recall struggling to do my first clean chin up on the monkey bars in elementary school. I was one of the "skinny-fat" kids that just couldn't seem to put on any muscle no matter how much I ate or how hard I train.
That all changed when I made a personal challenge to myself to get fitter. Cut to a decade later, when I heard about the 20 pull ups a day challenge from my coach, I decided to give it a shot.
For those unfamiliar with the challenge, the premise is simple: do 20 pull ups every day for 30 days straight. No days off, no cheat reps, no exceptions.
In this article, I will share my experience with this challenge and reveal the amazing changes that I experienced with it.
20 Pull Ups a Day Program
Have you ever tried adding several reps to your pull-ups, only to find that you can’t push yourself past 1, or 3, or even none at all? You’re not alone, it happens all the time. Thankfully, that is where the 20 pull-ups program comes in.
The idea here is to enable you to hit quick and rather easy sets a few times each week to nudge up your max slowly over time – hitting 20+ max a day is the target. Consider using the same bar throughout this journey to keep things consistent, and maintain a pronated grip (palms facing forward) all through.
What is this program all about? Here, let me break it down for you.
First, shoot to test your max pull-ups on day 1 of your weekly cycle at the gym.
Next, maintain the tempo at hitting 8 sets of that max for not less than 3x within the week. This should be your bare minimum, but you can bump it up to 4 or 5 times for the week depending on how fast you feel gassed out. However, 5 times is the absolute threshold for this one, so anything between 3x and 5x is good enough. It all depends on how frequently you go to the gym.
Do note that this shouldn’t get in your way when doing other workouts. If you are checking in for the leg day, chest days, or any other workout, just squeeze in a few of those sets somewhere in between. Like this…
If your max is 1, 2 pull-ups; do weekly reps of 8 sets - do 1 rep negative; jump up until your head rises above the pull-up bar, and then slowly lower yourself. That counts as one rep.
- At 3, 4 pull-ups max; do 8 sets – 1 rep sets first, and then do the negatives if you begin to gas out
- At 5 pull-ups max; keep the 8 sets - 2 reps
- At 6, 7 pull-ups max; Keep the 8 sets - 3 reps
- At 8, 9 pull-ups max; keep the 8 sets - 4 reps
- At 10 pull-ups max; do 8 sets - 5 reps
- At 11, 12 pull-ups max; do 8 sets - 6 reps
- At 13, 14 pull-ups max; do 8 sets – 7 reps
- At 15, 16 pull-ups max; do 8 sets – 8 reps
- At 16, 17, 18 pull-ups max; do 8 sets 9 reps
- At 19, 20 pull-ups; do 8 sets – 10 reps
This is no mean feat, you will grind it out, sweat, struggle, feel like throwing in the towel, and hate your pull-up bar for it. But if you keep at it, you will eventually nail it. The benefits are remarkable; you will realize massive gains in hands, chest, shoulders, and back. And of course, the feeling of accomplishment will make you want to push for more, but that’s for another day.
Chalk up! Get on that bar and give me 20!
How does 20 doing pull ups a day transform your body?
The Pull up is a fundamental movement that works nearly every muscle in your upper body. When done properly, it is an incredibly effective exercise for building strength, size and definition in your back, shoulders, arms and core.
The 20 pull ups a day challenge will help you to:
- Improve your posture
- Build muscle definition in your back, shoulders and arms
- Strengthen your grip and improve your forearm strength
- Enhance your performance in other exercises such as the bench press and overhead press
- Improve your body composition by adding muscle and losing fat
- Boost your confidence and make you feel great!
The challenge is simple, but it is not easy. It requires dedication, commitment and perseverance. But if you are willing to put in the work, I guarantee that you will see amazing results.
You can start with easier exercises like the Australian pull up and then move on to doing regular pull ups when you are ready.
How many calories do you burn doing 20 pull ups?
The number of calories a person burns with any exercise depends on a multitude of factors, including their weight, intensity level and muscle mass.
However, we can estimate that a person burns approximately 9.5 calories per minute when doing pull ups. This means that a person of average weight would burn approximately 100 calories a day with 20 pull ups.
Can you get ripped doing only 20 pull ups a day?
If getting ripped stands for having defined muscles, then the answer is yes.
The 20 pull ups a day challenge will help you to build muscle and lose some bit of body fat, which will result in a more ripped and defined physique.
Additionally, the challenge will help to improve your posture, which can make you look taller and more confident. But, if you are carrying a lot of body fat to begin with, then doing pull ups alone, regardless of the number, will not be enough to get you ripped. You will need to focus on your diet and nutrition as well.
What Happens when you do 20 pull ups a day for a month?
20 Pull Ups every day is a lot, even for people who are already in good shape. This is why the challenge is so effective. It forces your body to adapt and make changes in order to accommodate the new stress demands being placed on it.
This results in a whole host of amazing changes beginning with an increase in muscle mass in your upper body. You see the pull up is a compound exercise that works nearly every muscle in your upper body. This means that when you do the challenge, you are essentially giving your entire upper body a workout each day.
Since the challenge works so many muscles, it also helps to improve your strength and endurance. Not only will you be able to do more pull ups, but you will also find that other exercises such as the bench press and overhead press become easier.
This is called the 'carry over' effect and it is one of the main benefits of doing compound exercises.
Another benefit of the challenge is that it helps to improve your posture. Blame it on our addiction to gadgets, but most of us have terrible posture these days. The problem is that bad posture not only makes us look slouchy and unattractive, but it can also lead to pain in the neck, shoulders and back.
The 20 pull ups a day challenge helps to correct poor posture by strengthening the muscles in the back and shoulders. This keeps the spine aligned and takes the strain off of the neck and shoulders.
How soon should you see results with 20 pull ups a day?
That depends largely on your starting point. How strong are you? How much body fat do you have to lose? Are you committed to eating a healthy diet?
If you are already in good shape, then you may see results within the first week. However, if you are starting from scratch, then it may take a bit longer to see results.
Also, don’t discount the fact that you might find it tough to get to 20 pull ups a day to begin with. This is perfectly normal and to be expected. Just start slow and increase the number of pull ups each day as you gain strength.
In either case, you should start to see some changes within 3-4 weeks. This is when your body will begin to adapt to the new demands being placed on it and you will start to see some real results.
What results not to expect from 20 pull ups a day?
While the pull ups are one of the best exercises for building upper body strength, they are not a miracle exercise. This means that there are certain things that will not change no matter how many pull ups you do each day.
That's why its important to have realistic expectations when starting the challenge.
Don’t expect to lose a ton of fat
I have heard from some people who were disappointed that they did not lose a lot of weight when doing the challenge. While it is true that you will burn some fat, the main goal of the challenge is to build upper body strength and muscle, not to lose weight.
So, if your main goal is to lose weight, then you will need to focus on your diet and nutrition as well.
Don’t expect Greek god aesthetics
Another common misconception is that you can get beefed up just by doing pull ups. This is simply not true. If your goal is to get an aesthetic physique, then you will need to do more than just pull ups.
You need a well-rounded workout routine that includes exercises for all of the major muscle groups. This means compound exercises like the squat and deadlift, in addition to isolation exercises like bicep curls and triceps extensions.
Don’t neglect your diet
Pull ups, Push ups, sit ups and squats are all great exercises, but they will not do much for you if you are eating junk food all day. If you want to see results, then you need to be eating a healthy diet.
This means plenty of lean protein, fresh fruits and vegetables, and complex carbs.
Don’t expect overnight results
The 20 pull ups a day challenge is not a quick fix. It will take some time and effort to see results. So, don’t expect to see results overnight.
Start slowly and increase the number of pull ups each day as you gain strength. Within a few weeks, you should start to see some real results.
You don't need to cap your reps at 20, you can start doing 50 pull ups a day, 100 pull ups, or even more, if you feel 20 isn't giving you tangible gains any more.
What are the benefits of doing 20 pull ups a day?
Doing any compound exercise repeatedly is going to offer some benefits. But doing 20 pull ups a day will offer some specific benefits that other exercises cannot match.
Here are some of them.
One of the benefits of doing 20 pull ups a day is that it will help to improve your grip strength. This is because you are using your hands and fingers to grip the bar for the entire set.
Over time, this will lead to stronger hands and fingers, which has a strong carryover effect that will help you in other exercises and activities.
Increased Upper Body Strength
Another benefit of doing 20 pull ups a day is that it will help to increase your upper body strength. This is because the pull up is a compound exercise that works multiple muscle groups in the upper body.
By doing this exercise regularly, you will be able to build strength in your arms, shoulders, back and core.
Another benefit of doing 20 pull ups a day is that it can help to improve your posture. This is because the pull up works all of the muscles in the upper back.
These muscles are responsible for holding up the head and keeping the shoulders back. So, by doing this exercise regularly, you will be able to improve your posture and reduce the risk of developing chronic back pain.
You can do easier exercises like wall angels to improve your posture if you find pull ups hard.
The Core is the group of muscles in the center of the body that includes the abs, obliques and lower back. These muscles are responsible for stabilizing the spine and keeping the body upright.
One of the benefits of doing 20 pull ups a day is that it can help to improve core strength. This is because you recruit every muscle in your core to stabilize your body during the exercise.
So if you are looking to get better abs, pull ups work the abs alongside your shoulders and arms. If you want to work your core more you can try adding double crunches, cable crunches, or standing oblique crunches to your workout routine.
Over time, this will lead to a stronger and more resilient core that can help to protect your spine and reduce the risk of injuries.
Upper body hypertrophy
Hypertrophy requires two elements:
- Mechanical tension
- Muscle damage
Mechanical tension is created when a muscle is forced to contract against a resistance, such as when you lift a weight. This type of tension is necessary for muscle growth.
Muscle damage occurs when the muscles develop micro-tears from the strain of lifting weights. This is also necessary for muscle growth.
One of the benefits of doing 20 pull ups a day is that it can help to create both of these elements. This is because the pull up is a compound exercise that puts a lot of strain on the muscles in the upper body.
Besides, there's always the option to add weights to the pull up to increase the amount of mechanical tension and muscle damage.
FAQ about Doing 20 pull ups a day results
Q. How many pull ups should i do a day to see results?
A. That depends on what results you are aiming for. Are you looking to improve your grip strength? Increase your upper body strength?
If so, then doing 20 pull ups a day is a good place to start. If you are looking to build muscle, then you will need to increase the amount of weight you are lifting. So, you will eventually have to progress to weighted pull ups.
Q. Is 20 Pull Ups a lot?
A. Again, that depends on your starting point. For someone who struggles to do 1 pull up, 20 is a lot. But for someone who can do multiple sets of 10, 20 is not a lot.
Q. Do 20 pull ups give you big arms?
A. The Pull Ups are not the best exercise for building arms. Depending on the grip, that is pronated vs supinated, you will either be working the biceps or the lats more.
For bigger arms, you want to focus on exercises that target the biceps directly, such as curls, or compounds like rows.
Q. Can you get a six pack from doing 20 pull ups a day?
A. Realistically, you cannot. There's a saying that abs are made in the kitchen, meaning that you cannot out-exercise a bad diet. The pull ups are a great exercise for building muscles in your upper body.
But they will do little to help you lose the fat that is covering your abs. For that, you need to focus on getting into a calorie deficit by eating less than you are burning.
Q. Do 20 pull ups a day flatten your stomach?
A. 20 Pull ups will add more definition to your core, including the oblique muscles. But it will not help you to lose the fat that is covering your stomach.
To do that, you need to focus on getting into a calorie deficit by eating less than you are burning.
Q. Is it bad to do 20 pull ups every day?
A. There are two theories when it comes to exercising. One states that no matter the stress, the body will adapt and become stronger. The other theory is that you need to allow the body time to recover between workouts, or you risk overtraining and injury.
The answer is probably a bit of both. It is important to listen to your body and give it the rest it needs. But, if you are feeling good and recovered, then there is no reason why you cannot do 20 pull ups every day.
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Hi there! I'm Ben, main author and chief editor at Fitlifefanatics.com. I have been obsessed with Strength Training and Fitness for 16 years now.
My passion for living a happy fit lifestyle is what made me realize that fitness is what I wanted for my future.
I went on to earn my Masters in Sports Training & Biomechanics.
My passion for Strength training & fitness and my love of helping others is what made me start Fitlifefanatics.
Here, myself, and a team of specialist aim to provide the most accurate, and actionable information possible in hopes to help foster the fitness community forward.
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