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You Can Progress to a Pull Up

Reach Your Fitness Goals!

-- By Jason Anderson and Nicole Nichols, Certified Fitness Professionals
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If you are alone, you can still work on strengthening your pull up muscles, even without a spot. To do so, stand on a box, grab the bar, take a little jump to the "up" position. Lower yourself down as slowly as possible. This “negative phase” of the exercise will still strengthen the muscles to help you with pulling up. Try to do 2-3 sets of as many reps as you can, assisted or unassisted, 3-4 times each week and you'll be doing the real ones on your own in no time!

General Training Tips
  • Be sure to rest these muscle groups for 1-2 days after each of your training sessions. Resting is just as important as training, because recovery is what will help you repair, rebuild and get stronger.
     
  • Eat right. You can't make muscles out of just any old food—you need to fuel them properly before and after each workout to ensure you're getting the most of your workouts.
     
  • Don't neglect your other muscles. A sound strength training program, which targets each of your major muscle groups, is important for avoiding injury and creating balance.
     
  • Mix it up. It will take several weeks to master pull ups if you're starting from square one, and you're sure to reach a few plateaus along the way. If you experience several weeks of stagnant progress, change things up.
     
  • Keep at it. If you don't continue to practice your pull ups, you'll lose the strength that took you weeks to build up. Practice your pull ups on a regular basis, aiming for 2 training sessions each week to maintain your newfound strength and skills.
Good luck reaching your goals!

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About The Author

Jason Anderson Jason Anderson
Jason loves to see people realize the benefits of a healthy, active lifestyle. He is a certified personal trainer and enjoys running races--from 5Ks to 50K ultramarathons. See all of Jason's articles.

Member Comments

  • I know of two other ways to build up to a full pull up, which are used in my CrossFit gym.

    1. Use a giant elastic band to assist with the up portion of the movement.
    This is more advanced than option #2, but so much fun. the band should be looped around the pullup bar and extend to the level or your knee or so. Stretch the band and place one foot in the bottom end. Let your body hang from the bar, supported by the band. You're now ready to try an assisted pullup. If you have the band strength right, your muscles plus the pull of the elastic will allow you to do it exactly as if you had the strength to do it on your own.

    2. Ring rows are an easier option. This also work for people with at-home bars for their doorway. Some gyms have rings hanging from the ceiling. They should be adjusted to about shoulder height. At home, attach a sheet, towel, or strapping to your pullup bar, or trap a knotted sheet above a closed door. Grasp the rings/sheet/towel
    /straps near the level of your armpits, lean back, and then pull up (using your back and shoulders only). Make it easier: step back. Make it harder: step forward.

    Ring rows are also excellent training for progression to full pullup - 10/27/2013 1:02:22 PM
  • i've had unassisted chinup/pullup on my bucket list for years. it's time to scratch it off! thanks for this article! - 9/2/2013 7:27:08 PM
  • I think it will take months not weeks for me. I started with negative chin ups (b/c it is easier) and am working on negative pull ups after a month. My goal is to do a pull-up on my own for Christmas. - 8/26/2013 11:55:53 AM
  • This sounds like my next big goal. - 6/28/2013 10:42:02 PM
  • My hnand I got a pull up bar for Christmas and I, having never been able to do a pull up EVER, I am going to do it :) - 1/2/2013 4:06:37 PM
  • I can do this!

    Spark Cheers
    - 10/11/2012 7:36:06 AM
  • This almost sounds like I could work at doing it! LOL--maybe I will!! - 3/16/2012 6:28:50 PM
  • I have one of those over the door frame bars, but I wasn't able to do a single pullup so I put it aside. I had never thought of the Negative technique. Thanks Jason. I"m going to start working on that tonight! - 3/16/2012 1:38:07 PM
  • MXVPE92
    step by step bring it on!!! - 1/16/2012 9:57:54 AM
  • I dont hsve easy access to either - is there a way to develop this with free weights? - 3/13/2011 2:47:10 PM
  • I like that this has gym and non gym options. I am comfortable in the gym but not when trying a pull-up. I can't wait to try it at home. - 2/17/2010 8:36:33 AM
  • DILET2E
    Just what I needed! I've been learning parkour, but I can't do a single pull-up... which is a basic parkour warmup! - 12/31/2009 9:23:46 AM
  • I'm working on pull ups now as my next goal after losing 100 lbs in one year. I can get 1/2 up on my own after 2 months of my trainer using the "negative" technique as described in this article. We work out in my home. We initially began with a wide resistance band to give me momentum to get up and then did a very slow count down. I have now "graduated" to no band at all with the trainer helping me. I consider this a major opportunity of accomplishment and hope to give myself this as a Christmas present. - 9/12/2009 8:31:46 AM
  • I've never been able to do a proper pull-up and look forward to getting to that point. - 5/15/2008 6:00:56 PM
  • Great article. Dr. Oz says we should be able to do 20 chin-ups in order to be fit. I'm sure my arms would break off. (LOL) - 4/27/2008 2:45:38 AM
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