Okay, so I went off on high-rep-only BW guys who ignore the obvious: that high reps only go so far and aren't the end-all for getting strong and staying there. I said that to get max-strength strong and bigger with BW strength training, we have to do much more difficult exercises. Exercises that make you struggle to get to 20 reps (or less).
I didn't really go into detail about a specific exercise. Instead, I gave ideas on how to take some of Bodyweight's trusted stand-by's a facelift and make them harder, sometimes a lot harder. This time, I'm going to give you a specific exercise. It's one that I've been working with now for a month or so and I've really come to like: The Ladder Pull-up (or chin-up, I just prefer pull-ups).
As usual, I didn't come up with this one. Most of us probably saw it in Ross Enemait's book, "Never Gymless," where he presented it as a progression-type exercise for working your way up to a one arm chin-up. He didn't give it a name though, and for that, I'll take full credit.
I call it that because it resembles the hand positioning that you'll use to climb a ladder: one hand is lower than another. As you lower your hand on the towel, the exercise gets harder. Inches count here, boys and girls. Even a three inch drop of the hand makes things a lot harder. As you bring yourself up to the bar, try to resist the urge to bring your head away from the hand on the bar. If you find yourself bringing your head to the hand on the towel, choke up on the towel some more. As it gets easier, you have two options: drop the hand lower, as discussed, or bring your head over to the hand on the bar. Both work really well.
Also, what you grab onto makes a difference in how easy this exercise is. I normally use towels. I've used synthetic braided rope and my belt. These are harder, and might require you to choke up a little more.
I know what you're thinking now: what's a bad-ass pull-up variation like this without an equally bad-ass pushing exercise to do with them? When I'm at home, I like doing dips on my rings. Otherwise, I'll grab two chairs (or a bench) and do one-arm push-ups with my feet elevated on the chairs.
So, if you're one of those skeptical, ignorant ironheads that thinks that BW can't be as good as weights for building upper body strength... or just someone looking to build some more max strength with very limited access to equipment... then give these two ball-busting exercises a dance and let me know what you think.