How To Get Your First Pull-Up (4 Steps)

I’m going to share with you the most effective pull up progression routine to master the exercise. First we’ll cover the science behind the 5 key muscles that make mastering the pull up so difficult, then we’ll increase your pullup strength by going through the best exercises that’ll strengthen these muscles by about 56% faster than normal. By the end of this video, you’ll know exactly how to do a pull up, and also know the exact steps needed to get your pull ups from beginner, to novice, to master.

Pull ups can be very difficult to master for two main reasons. First, they require a certain amount of strength in several key muscles (i.e., the core, the lats, the mid and lower traps, and the biceps) that tend to be weak. Second, they require your body to use these several muscles to work together. Your mid traps, lower traps and your core muscles have to keep your body stable while your lats and biceps pull your body up. To solve this, we’ll use a 4 step plan.

Step 1 of your 4-step pull up progression routine: we’ll use 3 different pull-up variations to accelerate strength gains by about 56% (vs. only practicing it once per week). To further accelerate your strength gains by another 20% or so, we’ll perform these 3 variations with a method called daily undulating periodization. Variation 1 is the kneeling lat pulldown. Variation 2, negative pull ups, will be your “secret weapon” in gaining the strength you need. Variation 3, banded pull ups, when properly setup will be the closest thing to performing a standard pull-up.

Here’s what your schedule should currently look like:

Session 1:
Kneeling Lat-Pulldown: 3 sets of 5 reps (heavy enough to slightly bring your knees off the ground

Session 2:
Negative Pull-ups: 5 sets of 1 rep (as slow as possible)

Session 3:
Banded Pull-ups: 3 sets of 4-8 reps

In step 2, we’ll increase your pullup strength by adding 4 accessory movements. The first movement, activated hangs, will help with improving your grip strength and the endurance of your back and core muscles. The second movement (Australian pull ups) will be added to session 1 of your routine. This movement teaches your body how to control itself as you pull, and will continue to strengthen the important core and back muscles used in the pull-up. The third exercise is the lat pulldown help add more overall pulling volume to your routine. We’ll use an overhand wide grip in one of our weekly sessions and an underhand close grip in the other session.

Your weekly pull up training should now look like this:

Session 1

Activated Hangs: 3 x 10s
Kneeling Pulldown: 3 x 5
Australian Pull-ups: 3 x 8-12

Session 2

Activated Hangs: 3 x 10s
Negative Pull-ups: 5 x 1
Overhand Lat-Pulldown: 3 x 8-12

Session 3

Activated Hangs: 3 x 10s
Banded Pull-ups: 3 x 4-8
Underhand Pulldown: 3 x 8-12

Now let’s go through how to build your strength in each of the exercises in your routine. For the kneeling lat pull-down, you primarily want to focus on increasing the weight. For the negative pull-ups, every week you’ll want to increase the time it takes you to descend from the top position. For your banded pull ups, start with a band that allows you to do 3 sets of 4 reps. Continue using this band until you can do 3 sets of 8 reps. One you can do that, drop to the next smaller band you have to make it more difficult. For your Australian pull-ups, you want to aim to do 3 sets of 10 reps. Once you can do that, you can make this harder by reducing the height of the bar. For your holds, simply attempt to increase the time you can hold. For the seated lat pulldowns, simply increase the weight every time you can successfully do 3 sets of 12 reps.

First off, to use this routine for the best results, replace all of your current back training with these 3 weekly sessions and do them consistently. It would also be a good idea to reduce the number of sets you do by about 10-20% for your other upper body muscles. Then, after a week or two of this, before each of these 3 weekly sessions start your session by attempting to do a chin-up. Once you can do a few chin-ups in a row, you’ll likely not only know just how to do a pull up, but also have the strength needed to master your first solid pull up and can build from there.

Within our Built With Science programs, we take care of all the guesswork in your routines by crafting a weekly program that caters to your specific body and fitness goals. To find out which of our programs are best suited for you, you can take the analysis quiz to discover which science-based program would be best for you and where your body is currently at below:

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