You Can Do Pull Ups! – Step by Step Guide

pull-up is an upper-body strength exercise. The pull-up is a closed-chain movement where the body is suspended by the hands and pulls up. As this happens, the elbows flex and the shoulders adduct and extend to bring the elbows to the torso.

It is also a prerequisite for a lot of Calisthenics skills such as the handstandplanchefront lever, back lever, human flag or muscle up.

Pull-ups use many different muscles of the upper body, including the latissimus dorsi and the biceps brachii.

Besides being a great exercise, the pull-up is a fundamental movement of the human body, which is built to hang and climb.

But, if you can’t do pull-ups yet don’t get disappointed. The reason is because you probably never taught how to build up to it.

You need to start with easier progressions and things you can easily do, until you are strong enough to move on.

Just like you, there are some very strong people now, who once couldn’t do a single pull-up. So just find a pull up variation that you can do and work it hard once or twice a week until you hit a certain standard of sets and reps. When that happens, you know you are strong enough to move to the next – harder progression.

That being sed, lets start with the easiest possible pull up exercise:

1. scapular pull up

Scapula Pull ups are extremely beneficial for shoulder health, scapular strength, improving pull up form and helping progress to more difficult Calisthenics skills such as the handstandplanchefront lever, back lever, human flag or muscle up.

Start by hanging from the bar, with relaxed shoulders.

Then, without bending your arms or swinging, perform a reverse shrug to depress your shoulder blades. Pause for a second at the bottom, then return your shoulders to the starting position.

You need to be able to do at least 10-15 reps in one set, before moving to the next progression.

2. horizontal pull up (INVERTED ROW)

The Horizontal Pull up is one of the best, simple and most effective exercises you can do to build the pulling strength required for counting in the next progressions.

In order to perform it, you need to set the bar, or rings, around waist height (the lower – the more difficult the movement). Then, lie on the floor underneath it and pull yourself up until your chest touches the bar/rings. Finally, come back down slowly in a controlled manner.

Don’t forget to keep your core tightengaging your quads, glutes and abs, so that your body is in a straight line.

You need to be able to do at least 10-15 reps in one set, before moving to the next progression.

3. jackknife pull-up

The next progression is the Jackknife Pull up. For this one, you are going to change your body position, in order to reduce the weight you are pulling.

Start grasping the bar, while keeping your body in a 90 degrees angle. Use a box or chair to support your legs.

Then, pull yourself up until your body forms a straight line and your chest touches the bar.

Don’t forget to engage your quads, glutes and abs, during the whole movement.

You need to be able to do at least 10-15 reps in one set, before moving to the next progression.

4. assisted pull up

The best way to perform the assisted pull up, is using a resistance band. This will reduce the weight you are pulling and help your body get used to the actual movement.

So, tie the band around the bar and stretch it, in order to pass it under your feet.

Proceed with pulling as hight as you can, until the bar touches your chest. Then start descending slowly, until you lock yourself into the bottom position.

Make sure you don’t enter in an arch position and keep your core engaged during the hole movement.

This exercise is the most efficient way to practice and get stronger, in order to unlock the pull up.

You need to be able to do at least 10-15 reps in one set, before moving to the next progression.

5. negative pull up

When you start feeling stronger and more confident, you can remove the resistance band and practice the eccentric part of the pull up, or in other words the negative pull up.

Use a box or chair to grasp the bar with an overhand grip. Position yourself near the bar, so that your chest is touching it.

Then, start lowering yourself down, slowly in a controlled manner, until you reach the dead hang position.

You need to be able to do at least 10-15 reps in one set, before moving to the next progression.

6. regular pull up

bar pull up
Photo by Murilo Botelho on Pexels.com

Congratulations! You made it to your first pull up!

You are not done yet thought… You need to keep in ming the following elements, in order to perform the pull up correctly and get the most out of your training :

  • You should always aim for full range of motion. Do not only use the upper or lower part of the movement and make sure you go into full extension of your arms at the bottom.
  • Avoid any form of kicking and swinging! A pull up should be performed with strength and not with momentum.
  • Control the movement the whole time. Don’t let yourself fall into your joints during the eccentric part of the pull up. 
  • You should pull with both sides evenly, in order to avoid imbalances.

Keep up the good work!

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