Being able to do twenty or thirty pull-ups in a row is the ultimate workout flex and will be sure to help you toward your fitness goals and impress your gym friends.
Going from not being able to do a pull-up at all to ripping through dozens takes lots of time, patience and practice, and lots of hard work.
Before you invest all of that hard work, it’s best to start with a plan!
Doing the perfect pull-up and flexing on everyone at the gym with how awesome you are, takes time. As a beginner, it can be hard to know where to start to achieve that goal.
We’ve got a beginner pull-ups workout for you that will have you flexing and showing off that form in no time.
Getting Started: The Pull-Up Bar Workout
Pull-ups have long-lasting benefits that go beyond just weight lifting.
Anyone who wants to improve their overall fitness and reach their health goals should start incorporating pull-ups into their workout routine.
This move has long been considered an expert exercise and it does take a lot of strength to accomplish. But by starting small and incorporating regressions and different moves into your routine, you’ll soon be using the pull-up bar all the time during your workout.
Each of the first pull-ups variations is different but they all help you build up toward doing a traditional move in a relatively short amount of time.
Pull-ups workouts like this are great for every type of fitness routine and can help you tone muscles and build strength in areas that you weren’t even sure you had!
Pull-ups benefit your body in several ways. They’re the most effective way to strengthen and build your back muscles as well as your biceps, forearms, and shoulders.
While the pull-up is difficult to accomplish if you’ve had major injuries to your shoulders, it can build up your shoulder stability and core strength to help prevent injuries in the future.
If you’re an athlete or you just want to be better at workouts and increase your overall fitness, pull-ups help develop upper-body explosiveness.
Using this bodyweight exercise also burns tons of calories and gets your heart pumping.
When you’ve built up past the beginner stage and pull-ups alone feel a little too easy, it’s simple to add more reps or some weight to your body to increase the difficulty.
Pull-ups are also much easier on your joints and system than other exercises you could do at the gym like squats or deadlifts. This is one of the few exercises in the arsenal that is a high reward and low risk for anyone wanting to try it out.
But starting by pushing your body too hard too fast can result in injuries and burn you out on the pull-ups in general!
To get started on the right foot, we’re going to walk you through some simple first pull-ups variations for the move so you can ease yourself into it and start shredding these pull-ups.
These pull-ups work by breaking down the pull-ups into two distinct parts: the upward pulling motion and the downward lowering one.
The negative pull-up focuses on teaching your body the movement for lowering yourself down after you’ve completed the pull-up.
You’ll start with your chin above the bar and stand on any secure object or work with a trusted spotter who can hold and balance you until the right time.
Once you’re in position, pull your shoulder blades together and lift yourself off the step.
Slow and controlled, you’ll lower yourself down from the bar, keeping careful control on the descent so your resistance is maximized.
When you’re finished, you’ll be in a dead hang with your arms fully extended over your head and your feet touching the floor or the object from which you started.
You can then repeat the negative to keep working on the muscle groups or switch over to another pull-up progression.
If you’ve already mastered this version of the pull-up, you can make it more difficult by introducing a pause in the middle as you’re lowering yourself down to the ground or starting position.
This pause increases your resistance and builds up the muscles you’ll need to complete a full pull-up.
One of the biggest reasons to do negatives is to begin increasing your grip strength with each first pull.
Doing a full pull-up does require a lot of muscle but one key thing that many struggles with is the grip on the bar.
Taking the time to build this grip as well as concentrate on the muscles needed for the full move and complete pull gives you time to let your body adjust and grow.
Wide Grip Pull-Ups
Not every pull-up is created equal and the wide-grip pull-up has its benefits that you won’t necessarily see when you’re doing a traditional pull-up.
You’ll not only see your back, chest, shoulders, and arms targeted but your core muscles get a great workout as well.
This pull-up progression will also help you become better at the lat pulldown and the shoulder press by increasing the muscle strength of the groups needed.
To start, you’ll reach up and grab the bar with each hand, thumbs facing toward each other and your grip wider than your body.
Your grip should have your arms and torso forming a Y with each arm at a 30-45 degree angle from your body.
Next, you’ll look straight ahead rather than up at the bar and pull your body upwards toward the bar without jumping or jerking as you pull up.
Once you’re up in the air and have reached the bar, pause, then lower yourself back down to the original position before repeating the pull-ups.
Moving the grip on the bar itself changes the muscles that are worked when you do the move.
Close-grip or traditional pull-ups use your biceps and chest muscles more intensely than the wide grip so you can complete more reps each time you do the workout.
The wide grip pull-ups use your shoulder joints more acutely as well as the back and chest muscles.
Doing a slightly more challenging move like the wide grip pull-ups will help you build muscles that will help you complete more traditional pull-ups each time you add it to your workout.
Our friends from Down Under have put together pull-ups variations that work the muscles without making you leave the ground!
The Australian pull-up, also known as the body row, helps the beginner learn the best basic grip and pull strength to do complete traditional pull-ups.
You will need some specialized equipment or need to complete this exercise at a gym!
You’ll start with a bar locked in place or a solid exercise bar or machine above you.
The bar should ideally be set at waist height so with your heels in contact with the ground, you’ll be at an angle that’s almost like an upside-down push-up.
Start this move with your hand’s shoulder-width apart like a normal move!
Once you’re in position, you’ll brace your body as you pull your chest in toward the bar without bending your hips or shrugging your shoulders.
Pause your pull when your chest is about an inch or two from the bar then, with control, lower yourself back from the bar. Being “down under” when doing this exercise works your muscles from a completely different angle.
This new angle engages the mid-back as well as the biceps, abs, and upper-back when you’re working out.
The higher the bar, the better the leverage for your pull!
The recommended height for the bar during an Australian pull-up is waist height but if you’re struggling to get 3 sets of 10 reps done at this angle move the bar up to about chest height and work your way down.
Use this exercise as a counter to the push-up. It works the opposite set of muscle groups and gets your heart rate up when you’re engaged with the motion.
While you’re doing the push-ups, the muscles used during the pull-up are resting and when the muscles used during the push-up are resting, you’re engaging the muscle groups in the pull-up.
Neutral Grip Pull-Ups
As a beginner, you need to let your body learn to adjust to the new motion and neutral grip pull-ups are a great starting point before moving up to the traditional style.
The neutral grip is similar to a hammer curl grip which allows you to do more reps before moving on to the more complex traditional pull-up.
Your hands and palms face each other in this grip with your arms shoulder-width apart.
You’ll need to use the parallel pull-up bars and start by hanging freely with your arms extended.
Keep your head up and facing forward with your core tight. Breath out and pull up by flexing your elbows to keep them from sprawling out as you pull up.
As you move into the first pull up, don’t stop until your chin reaches the height of the bar, pause, inhale then lower yourself back down to the starting position.
Repeat this pull as many times as possible with your form held correctly. Just like with any exercise, your form is so important and is what makes or breaks the exercise.
Practicing this form over and overdoing 2-3 sets of 7-10 reps each will build up your muscle memory and teach your body to use the form correctly.
Every different pull-up progression of grip engages different muscles and this move is no exception.
This grip improves your forearm and wrist strength which helps you with other lifts and moves like deadlifts and barbell rows.
These first pull-up variations engage and work a lot of your upper body including your biceps and pectorals.
The neutral grip is easier on your shoulders with your hands facing inwards toward each other.
It also engages your core quite a bit as it keeps your body still as you run through these pull-ups.
If you’ve mastered some of the first pull-up variations and you’re ready for some more resistance, you can add weighted plates, a weighted vest, or a weight belt.
It’s used a lot with weightlifters as it still engages a wide range of muscle groups without putting more stress on the body and joints.
Start slow when you begin adding weights to your pull-ups and pull-up variations!
The form will stay the same as any of the pull-up variations or traditional pull-ups but you’ll add the weight to give more resistance to your bodyweight workout.
There are a lot of different ways to go about doing a weighted pull-up. Start with the weight belt on and loop the chain through the weight before you pull yourself off the ground.
Instead of using a belt or vest, you can also add the weight to a backpack to make it simple for you to use!
This works great if you’re doing pull-ups at home and don’t have all the equipment like plates, belts, and vests.
Once you have the weight set up, just go through your regular set of pull-ups to get in the recommended workout.
Always test out the weight with a couple of reps before you go through a full workout with the added weight.
Start with low weight and work your way up from there engaging the upper body muscle groups as you go!
30 Day Pull-Up Challenge
Now that you’ve got an idea of the best way to work up to a full traditional pull-up, there’s nothing to do but get started!
Rather than jumping in, working out every day, and hoping for the best, we’ve put together a 30-day pull-up challenge that will have you flexing over the pull-up bar at your next gym workout.
The program outlined is 30 days long with workouts happening and scheduled three days each week.
You’ll build upon each exercise until you’re able to do a full, traditional pull-up with ease!
The pull-up is the ultimate show of functional movement since you need to be strong, stable, and able to pull up your body weight to accomplish the move.
It takes a lot of practice and a good dose of sweat but if you put in the time, you’ll see the results!
Start with a dead hang. You’ll do 4 sets of 30 seconds with at least 45 seconds between sets.
If you’re more accomplished and you want, you can add weight with a belt to give yourself more resistance.
Switch over to an isometric pull-up hold doing 4 sets of 10 seconds with at least 60 seconds of rest between each set. You’ll also do a 10-second hold at the top of the pull-up!
Next, you’ll move to the Australian pull-up or inverted barbell row for 4 sets of 5 reps each with a 60-90 second rest between sets using a pronated grip and slightly wider grip to accomplish the move.
If you’re a fitness fanatic, this is a great move that you can add extra weight and max out your resistance!
Lat pulldowns are next up on the agenda! Go through 4 sets of these at 6-8 reps each with a 60-90 second rest between each set.
Here we go!
You’re probably a little bit sore still from the first day but there’s no time like the present when you’re striving for a fitness goal like accomplishing a pull-up.
Start your day two session with towel-grip dead hangs, 4 sets of 30 seconds, and a 45-60 second rest between each set.
This is a great move to attempt to add weight if you can so your resistance is increased slightly.
Move into eccentric pull-ups doing 4 sets of 5 reps each and a 60-90 second rest between each set. You’ll lower yourself with a count of 3-5 seconds during the lowered time.
Band assisted pull-ups are next! Do 4 sets of 5 reps each with the same 60-90 second rest between sets.
When doing these band pull-ups, use a band that will make you reach down deep and struggle to accomplish the last rep.
When you’re struggling, really focus on your form and making sure it’s precise each time you go through the motion. Resist the urge to use the momentum from the band to push yourself up.
Push yourself by switching over to a supinated-grip dumbbell bench supported row and go through 4 sets of 8-10 reps each with a 60-90 second rest between each set.
Keep your palms facing away from you as you grow and go through the movements for the exercise.
If you’re not feeling the burn yet, today will give you a good workout! Make sure that you don’t do your workouts back to back.
Your body and muscles need time to rest, relax, and repair between workouts.
As you lift, your muscles undergo tiny micro-tears which need time to heal before you move on to the next workout.
Today you’ll start with fat-grip dead hangs doing 4 sets of 30 seconds each with a 45-60 second rest between each one.
During this first week, you can start with no weight as the resistance from your body weight will be enough but after week one, switch over to adding weight to your dead hangs to engage your muscles more deeply and efficiently.
Move into band-assisted 1 ½ pull-ups where you’ll go through 4 sets of 3-5 reps and rest for 60-90 seconds between each set.
Start these at the bottom of the motion, pull your chin up and over the bar, pause slightly which will engage your back muscles then go down halfway to keep your elbows in line with your eyes. Then pull yourself back up to repeat the motion.
Lat pulldowns are a great way to build up and engage the muscles you’ll need to accomplish the full pull-ups. Go through 4 sets of these with 8-10 reps in each one and a 60-90 second rest between each set.
This is another one that you can add weight to and push yourself more and more with each week!
Finish the third day of workouts with seal rows.
This is another move where you’ll do 4 sets of 8-10 reps each and a 60-90 second rest between each set.
Practice makes perfect!
Go through this set of workouts each week for a month and by the end of the 30 days, you’ll see a great improvement in your pull-up movements!
Keep practicing and building up these muscles that will assist when you attempt the traditional exercise and soon, you’ll be showing off all over the gym.
There are a few things you want to keep in mind when you’re working on your pull-up form. Just like with any exercise, the form is extremely important when you’re trying to get stronger or perfect your previous workouts.
Start by finding the right grip.
The traditional grip is to grab hold of the bar with both hands set just a tiny bit wider than your shoulders. Your palms should face away from you and you can make this wider or more narrow based on the type of motion you want to perform.
Get as much of your palm on top of the bar as possible before you start moving and put as much pressure into your pinky on the pull-up bar as you can.
This tiny motion engages your lats more so you can engage more muscle groups with each exercise.
Always start your move from a dead hang unless you’re doing a different version like the negative or Australian version of the move.
Your arms should be fully extended in this position and your feet on the ground or the assisted step or stool.
The core is key!
Stabilize your core and set your shoulders by drawing your belly button inwards and brace the core.
You’ll pull your shoulders down and away from your ears which then ensures you’re pulling up with your lats and not your traps or arms. While these moves will engage your arms and forearms, you don’t want to use only those muscles.
By tightening your core and setting your shoulders the way they need to be, you’ll make sure you engage the muscle groups needed without overworking the arms.
Keep your knuckles on top of the bar and put pressure on the bar through your pinkies with continues to engage your lats.
Your knuckles should stay on top of the bar and imagine pressing your elbows into your hips to keep your muscles engaged each time you’re going through the movement.
Pause at the top of the movement by leaning back just slightly and holding yourself still by bracing your back muscles.
After you’ve paused, lower yourself slowly and by keeping your entire body under control to successfully engage every part of the body.
This is known as the eccentric phase of training and increases your muscle growth by leaps and bounds!
Doing pull-ups at the gym in front of all of your friends is the ultimate flex!
Being able to do them successfully whether your friends are there is not is a great way to benefit your overall health and fitness and will help you be able to become more successful at any number of other exercises.
Jumping straight into doing pull-ups on your own can be a little daunting. But there are lots of different ways to train your pull-up muscles without spending hours dangling from the bar!
Starting with these early pull-up progressions and working your way up to the pull-up is the best way to train your body without overstressing it.
The deadlift is known as the ultimate show of strength while the pull-up is the ultimate show of functional movement.
After all, hoisting a bar up to your chest isn’t worth much in the real world while being able to pull up your bodyweight might come in handy!
Starting slow and working your way up to the pull-up is the best way to get the job done.
And once you’ve taught your body the right way to get the job done, there’s no stopping your exercise routine!