The Pull Up Progression: How to Improve Your Pull Up

Performance & Sport

So, you want to improve your pull up? Whether you can perform 30 reps or you are just beginning and aren’t able to do any, you should be including pull ups in your training program and working to consistently improve the movement.

Pull ups are arguably one of the best exercises for increasing back strength. It is a compound movement, meaning it works multiple muscle groups at one time, including your back, traps, biceps, and forearms. In order to improve the movement, you must strengthen all of these muscles by performing exercises such as the deadlift, lat pull downs, and farmer carries. But that’s not all. The best way to get better at pull ups is to do more pulls ups.

Here are some pull up progression exercises that you can perform in order to improve your pull up. Start at the beginning and work your way through the progressions. Once you are able to complete the requirement of each exercise, you can move on to the next progression.

1. Dead Hang

To perform, all you have to do is grab onto a pull up bar and hang with your arms fully extended. The goal of this exercises is to build grip strength and practise your full body tension. Brace your core as if you were about to perform an actual pull up. This will help get your body used to the pull up body positioning.

Start with 10-15 second holds and work your way up to 30 seconds.

2. Flexed Hang

This movement is similar to the dead hang, except that you will now be drawing your shoulder blades together and holding your back in a flexed position. Do not draw your body upwards, just flex your back and hold.

During a pull up, the major muscle being worked is your back. Throughout the movement, the tension will remain on your back. This movement is helping to prepare your back for a pull up.

Again, you can begin with 10-15 second holds and work your way up to 30 seconds before moving on.

3. Static Holds

For this movement you can use a box to get yourself into position or jump if you are tall enough.

Begin the movement in the top position of a pull up, with your chin over the bar. Hold this position for as long as you can before slowly and controllably lowering yourself down.

Once you are able to hold for 30 seconds you are ready to move on to the next exercise.

4. Negative Pull Ups

To perform a negative pull up, you will begin in the top position. Ensure your chin is over the bar when you begin. Slowly begin lowering yourself back to the bottom position.

When first performing this movement, take 3-5 seconds to lower yourself. Work up to a 10 second lowering movement.

5. Pull Ups

Now you should be ready to perform a pull up. Continue working on your pull ups, striving to complete an extra rep each week. Don’t be afraid to continue to use the progression exercises to help strengthen your pull up.

Once you can perform 3-5 pull ups, try out the next progression to help increase your reps.

6. Ladders

Perform 2 reps, take a 15 second rest.

Perform 3 reps, take a 15 second rest.

Perform 4 reps, take a 15 second rest.

Perform 5 reps, take a 15 second rest.

Keep performing your pull ups in the ladder format, as well as regular sets, until you are able to do 10 consecutive reps without rest.

7. Weighted Pull Ups

Once you are able to complete 10 consecutive pull ups, you should be able to add 25 pounds to the movement. This will inevitably reduce the amount that you are able to perform. It may knock you down to 2-5 reps, but don’t be discouraged. You can return to the ladder format (with the weight) in order to increase your reps again.

The pull up is an important movement for strengthening and building your back muscles. Its great to work hard to achieve your first pull up and then progress all the way to weighted pull ups, but don’t forget to incorporate pushing movements into your workout as well to prevent muscle imbalances.

Once you have mastered the weighted pull ups there are several other variations of pull ups that are increasingly difficult that you can try to work towards, such as a muscle up and a one-arm pull up. With these exercises in your pocket, you’ll be performing them in no time!