Performing your first set of pull ups can be a tricky task, so how do you get there in the shortest possible time frame? We asked some leading personal trainers to explain.
Andre Murrell is a Personal Trainer, Premier Global NASM Certified Nutrition Coach and WBFF PRO bodybuilder.
Murrell says: “Love them or hate them, pull ups are one of the most intense and rewarding exercises you can do either at the gym, at home or even in the park.”
Pull ups work your lats, biceps, forearms and core – making them one of the most potent upper body muscle builders around.
Getting better at pull ups will also improve your performance on a whole host of other lifts, too.
Andre’s key tips for getting better at pull ups are:
Start with negatives
“When you are starting out, you might not be able to do any pull ups, and this is normal. The best way to get going is to get assistance to boost yourself up to the bar.
“This could be help from the assisted pull up machine in a gym. If your gym does not have an assisted pull up machine you could use a bench, step or a partner to help you up to the height of the bar.
“Then without any help, slowly lower yourself down. This is called the eccentric / negative phase of the movement. It will see your strength surge.”
Vary your approach
“By changing your hand positioning you will be able to slightly shift the focus and bring more muscles into play.
“A very wide overhand grip will make pull ups harder than a more normal, shoulder-width grip as this will incorporate more of your bicep muscle – as well as your back.”
Mix up your exercises
“The main muscles used in a pull up are the back and biceps. Therefore, by doing exercises such as barbell bent over row, dead hang, lat pull down and bicep curls, you will build your overall strength and pull up ability.”
Rest and recover
“Just like any exercise, it is important to get as much rest as you can to allow your muscles to recover, especially when you are aiming to build strength.
How to perform 10+ pull ups in just a few weeks
The following is a pull up progression programme put together by Nathan Kennedy, personal trainer and Bio-Synergy ambassador.
This programme is split across three days.
By following this plan, someone with a degree of previous training history should be able to achieve 10 pull ups in two to three weeks.
Don’t worry if you’re a complete beginner. This programme will still have you smashing out your first solid set of pull ups.
- Dead Hang: 3-4 sets of 30 seconds, resting 60 seconds in between sets.
- Isometric Pull-Up Hold: 3 sets of 10 seconds, resting 90 seconds between sets (Perform 10 second hold at top of the pull-up, chin over bar, elbows down)
- Inverted barbell row: 3-4 sets of 5 reps, resting 90 seconds between sets (Use a pronated grip, slightly wider than shoulders.(Ideally add some weight and go heavy)
- Lat Pulldown: 4 sets of 6-8 reps, resting 90 seconds between sets (Add increasing weight and go heavy, perform controlled eccentric and get a full lat stretch between reps by elongating the arms at top)
- Towel-Grip Dead Hang: 4 sets of 30 seconds, resting 60 seconds between sets (Add weight if can, using a belt)
- Eccentric Pull-Up: 4 sets of 5 reps (each rep is 3-5 seconds negative), resting 60-90 seconds between sets (Start at top of barbell with chin over bar, and perform a three-five second negative, focusing on feeling the back muscles stretch and lengthen smoothly as you descend by allowing the elbows to straighten)
- Band Assisted Pull Up: 4 sets of 5 reps, resting 60-90 seconds between sets (Use a pronated grip). Choose a band that will make you struggle for your last rep, yet still maintain good form. Be sure to perform a slight one second pause at the top and bottom of every rep)
- Supinated-Grip Dumbbell Bench Supported Row: 4 sets of 8-10 reps, resting 90 seconds between sets (Be sure to have palms facing away from you as you row, with your shoulder blades down the back and your elbows going towards your hips BEFORE they go up. This motion is not a straight up pulling row, more like a back and up motion)
- Fat-Grip Dead Hang: 4 sets of 30 seconds, resting 45-60 seconds in between sets (Add weight if can, using a belt and weight around hips)
- Band Assisted 1 ½ Pull-Ups: 4 sets of 3-5 reps, resting 60-90 seconds between sets (Start at the bottom of the pull-up. Pull your chin over the bar, and perform a slight pause to engage the back muscles. Go down about halfway, so that your elbows are in line with your eye, which is about 4-6 inches from the top. From here, go back up to the bar so that you chin is over it again. That is a 1 ½ pull-up. Repeat for 3-5 total reps; so perform three-five, 1 ½ pull-ups)
- Lat Pulldown: 4 sets of 8-10 reps, resting 60 seconds between sets (Add weight and go heavy, perform controlled eccentric and get stretch between reps by elongating the arms at top)
- Seal Row: 4 sets of 8-10 reps, resting 60-90 seconds between sets (Make sure your shoulder blades stay down the back and your elbows go back towards your hips BEFORE the go up. This motion is not a straight up pulling row, more like a back and up motion)