Pull-Ups for Beginners: Easy as 1-2-3
1. Develop the Right Strength
2. Move to Assisted Pull-Ups
3. Do a Pull-Up
A pull-up is a hard exercise but worth doing. Here's why.
Pull-ups are the ultimate test of strength to weight ratio. A few benefits of a high strength to weight ratio are being able to sprint faster, run up hills faster and pull water to make your kayak go faster. Also, no exercise develops your back like the pull-up, and your upper arms, shoulders, forearms, abs, and grip strength will all be attended to as well.
You say, “Well, that's all great but what if I can't do even one pull up?” No worries. I wrote this article specifically to help you jump-start your personal fitness program and get you in shape for pull-ups.
When you want to get better at something you make a commitment to do whatever it takes to accomplish your goal. If you really want to a pull-up, then for the next five weeks, beginning today, train specifically for pull-ups. Nothing else. However, if you enjoy aerobic activities include them in your pull-up training. Cardio work will help your strength to weight ratio.
Keep these three things in mind:
First: Attitude is everything. That is the secret, by the way, for anything you want to accomplish. As you follow the five-week training program described below just relax and visualize yourself doing a pull-up. I believe you will do it!
Second: If weight loss needs to be a part of your personal fitness program, then begin increasing your calorie output and decreasing your food intake. That is the simple secret to losing weight...period, end of story.
Third: Think upper body strength. The five-week program below includes a few good, common exercises for the upper body.
Let’s Get Started
The following is my suggested program. I know it works and that you will get out of it what you put into it. You don't need a gym or a coach (although both are nice). All you need - attitude.
Step 1: Developing the Right Kind of Strength
Basic Exercises: Bench press, shoulder press, push-ups, elevated feet push-ups, dips or chair dips and sit-ups. Pull-ups are a back exercise; on the presses concentrate on the muscles in your back by returning the weight slowly to your chest and return slowly to the ground during your push-ups.
Equipment: You will need a pull-up bar. Presses can be done with a rock if you don’t have a barbell.
Week One: Do one set only of each of the basic exercises every other day (three days total). Complete 20-24 reps…not quite to failure but close. After you complete the basic exercises rest a few minutes and then get ready for negative pull-ups. Use a chair (or jump up) so that your chin is over the bar. Lower yourself very, very slowly. Do 2 to 4 reps. Note: Always do double sessions of the sit-ups, one session of sit-ups in the morning and one in the evening.
Week Two: Do the basic exercises every day (six days total) again with 20-24 reps. One set of each exercise equals one routine. Do two routines each day. Do not rest between routines. Rest only after you complete the exercise session and then do the negative pull-ups. Do 4 to 6 reps. Take two days off and rest.
Week Three: This is going to be a tough week but worth the effort if you really want to do pull-ups. Do the basic exercises six days, two sessions a day, 20 to 24 reps, and do two (but do three if you can) routines. Do 6 to 8 reps after each session of the negative pull-ups. Take two days off – rest. I know this was a tough week but now you are tougher. After the two days of rest you will be stronger with the right kind of strength.
Step 2: Move to Assisted Pull-Ups
Week Four: This is the Assisted Pull Up Week. Scroll down this page to learn how to set up your Assisted Pull Up System equipment.
You are going to train six days. Train just once a day. Do one routine of the basic exercises with only 8 to 12 reps. Do another routine of 12 to 16 reps. Rest for 20 minutes. Then do Assisted Pull Ups.
- Days 1 and 2: Do one set of 4 to 6 reps of Assisted Pull Ups with high assistance.
- Days 3 and 4: Do two sets of 6 to 8 reps of Assisted Pull Ups; one with high assistance and one with low.
- Days 5 and 6: Do three sets of Assisted Pull Ups, as many as you can, using low assistance.
Take a few days off.
Step 3: Do a Pull-Up
Week Five: You made it! This is Pull Up Week.
You are going to train just 3 days, every other day, one session a day. Each day do one routine of the basic exercises with only 8 to 12 reps followed by one set of Assisted Pull Ups using low assistance. Now, do a pull-up. If you can't do a pull-up, rest 20 minutes and then do one set of Assisted Pull Ups using low assistance. Do a pull-up. If you can't do a pull-up rest for 50 minutes followed by one set of Assisted Pull Ups using low assistance. Now, do a pull-up.
Continue with this 5th Week Program until you are successful.
Setting Up Your Assisted Pull Up System:
Equipment: You'll need a pull-up bar (duh), two loops of 3/8 inch bungee cords, two carabiners and one rope about 8 feet long.
Set up: Set it up just as you see in the pictures.
Often you will only be able to find bungee cords with hooks. Find a 3 to 4 foot bungee, cut off the hooks with a hot knife, and tie them into loops.
To vary the assistance: The further a bungee stretches the more assistance it will give you. So, the shorter you make the rope loop, the higher you have to step up to get into the system and the more assistance it will give you. Either make the rope loop so that you can untie it easily in order to shorten or lengthen it OR have a couple of rope loops, one short and one long.
Using Your Assisted Pull Up System:
Hang it on the bar, step into it, do a pull up.
Keep your feet in the rope, going both up and down, otherwise it can snap up and get you.
The bungee is the most stretched out (and therefore most liable to really snap you) when all of your weight is on the system. For example, when you are hanging low.
Remove your feet only when you have taken some of your weight off of the system. For example, when your chin is close to the bar.
With your feet out, continue lowering as a negative pull up.
Note: The most difficult part of a pull up is initiating the pull when you are at the bottom of your hang and that is where the bungee will assist you the most.