How to get pull-ups…


How to get pull-ups…

The dreaded pull up…. People love to hate this exercise. Even with the deep hatred for this exercise there is a substantial amount of people that want to be able to do them or do them again. The Pull-up is one of those exercises that people either use it or lose it.

I am gonna break down here for you the ways I have had success getting people to do their first pull-up and the way I can and will help you get yours!


Sometimes a fix for people to get their first pull-up or getting better at them is simply doing them more. At my gym (CrossFit Seven Cities) we make it a point to do them 2-3 times per week.

Practicing an exercise more is almost always a sure fire way to increase your strength and efficiency in it.

Like most things in life the more you do them the better you get at them. This happens because your body learns to utilize the muscles required to perform the activity you are asking of it.

When an athlete comes to me and wants to do pull-ups or get better the first place I have them go is to doing them more land! More frequency is often a great way to get better at them. Usually 2-3 day is best for people and works really really well.

Train weak points

More often then not increasing frequency works well. If it doesn’t then the trouble shooting process begins. Trouble shooting the pull-up can be tricky because there is so many muscles and factors that are involved.

When you do a pull-up the Lats are involved, your biceps are involved, mobility is at play, rear delts are there, and even your upper back and traps.

Sometimes some good ol’ fashion body building will help! Yep this means doing bicep curls, rear delt raises, and face pulls.

Weak points have to be targeted with specific exercises because all though they are part of most exercises when the big muscles take over the little ones (aka your weak points) get neglected.

Thats right I said it…. If you want to get good at pull-ups…..get good at bicep curls too!

Use compound lifts to help

One of my favorite ways and one that I have had a lot of success with is giving and selecting compound movements like Bent over rows, pendlay rows, and T-Bar rows to help the pull-ups journey move along.

These lifts require the muscle to work very very hard and provide overload on the muscles. Helping you to get stronger is always a good way to help you get there.

If you are afraid of lifting heavy in these exercises, yet you still want to do your first pull-up or get better than expect your journey there to get much much longer.

Decrease body fat

Doing a pull-up is your muscles overcoming your bodyweight. This is what I call “Relative Strength”. When I think of Relative strength I think and explain is in the simplest form as the strength you have compared to how heavy you are.

That being said the more body fat you have, you more strength and muscle you need to overcome your bodyweight and move your chin over that pull-up bar.

If you want pull-ups to get better or get your first one then you better pay attention to your diet.

Vary your training

When I say vary your training I mean do as many different variations as possible. You have to hit the pull-up muscles from as many angles as possible.

This means varying your grips by going supinated, pronated, mixed, and neutral with you grips.

This means varying the tempos, doing controlled reps such as negatives, and isometric holds at the top of the pull-up. Varying your training in specifically the pull-up itself is a great way to figure this pull-up thing out!

Putting this all together

Now I want to lay out a sample of programs that I have used with personal training clients and remote clients to get them their first pull-up.

Everyone is highly individual so If you want something specifically for you shoot me a message here.

I use all of the principles highlighted above to get People there.

Sample Program (4-weeks):

Day one:

A) Assisted/Banded Strict Pull-ups 4 x 8 reps (use the smallest band possible and do a 5 sec descent each rep) *Rest 2 min between

B1) Supinated Barbell Bent Over Row 3 x 10 reps (1 sec pause at the top)

B2) Rear Delt Raises 3 x 12 reps (rest 90 sec after the superset)

C) DB Hammer Curls 3 x 8 reps (alternating arms)

Day two:

A) Assisted/Banded Chin Ups 4 x 8 reps (use the smallest band possible and do a 5 sec descent each rep) *Rest 2 min between

B) KB Power Row 3 x 10 reps *Rest 90 sec

C) Max Chin Over Bar Hold for 2 sets: *Rest 3 min between sets

Day three:

A) Assisted/Banded Pull-up 3 x max reps *Rest 3 min between sets. Use same assistance as Day one from each week.

B) Bent Over Barbell Row 3 x 10 reps (3 sec down each rep) *Rest 90 sec

C) EZ-Bar/Barbell Curl 3 x 8 reps *Rest 2 min

This is just an example of things I have used in the past with a lot of success. You can see all the principles at play. Feel Free to try this out or reach out to me if you need help!

Written By:

Cody Smith

[email protected]