How to do your first Pull-Up: Part 2

Before you start to pull, you need to know how to hang. I recommend starting here with How to do your first Pull-Up: Part 1 and working through the progressions.

 

Once you are comfortable hanging from the bar, and you have adequate scapular strength, mobility, and control, you can move on to the Pull-Up. If you have followed the hanging progressions, chances are very good you can already struggle your way up to the bar. It might not be perfect, but it is a start. The purpose of Part 1 was to develop the proper starting position and kinesthetic awareness (i.e. body awareness) required to build a strong pull. In Part 2 we are focusing on the actual pull. I still recommend your continue your hanging training, in order to maintain your shoulder health.

 

 

Step 1: Bent Arm Hang

I know, I know... more hanging.... but the good news is, you don't need to stay on this step forever. You can train your Bent Arm Hang simultaneously while training.

The Bent Arm Hang is an isometric exercise, in which you hold the top position of a Chin-Up. Keep a Supinated Grip and tray and maintain contact between your chest and the bar. You may need to support some of your body weight with a chair or a bench. As you get stronger, try and support less and less of your body weight until you are free-hanging. Your goal should be to build a 60s hang for 5 sets, but a 30s hang for 4 sets will be enough strength for the sake of your first Pull-Up.

Progress as follows:

  • Week 1: 10s Supinated Bent Arm Hang x 3
  • Week 2: 10s Supinated Bent Arm Hang x4
  • Week 3: 15s Supinated Bent Arm Hang x 3
  • Week 4: 15s Supinated Bent Arm Hang x4
  • Week 5: 20s Supinated Bent Arm Hang x3
  • Week 6: 20s Supinated Bent Arm Hang x4
  • Week 7: 20s Supinated Bent Arm Hang x4
  • Week 8: 25s Supinated Bent Arm Hang x4
  • Week 9: 25s Supinated Bent Arm Hang x5
  • Week 10: 30s Supinated Bent Arm Hang x5

 

 

Steps 2A&B: Eccentrics

Eccentrics are one of the quickest ways to develop strength and muscle mass, but they can leave you very sore. That being said, they are worth the pain, as long as you don't over do it.

For every week, perform Step 2A on one day of training, and Step 2B on another (e.g. Monday: Eccentric Chin-Ups x5 reps x5 sets, 5s/rep; Wednesday: Eccentric Pull-Ups x5 reps x4 sets, 5s/rep). You may not progress at the same rate for Chin-Ups and Pull-Ups.

Step 2A: Eccentric Chin-Ups

To perform Eccentric Chin-Ups, you will need something to step up to the bar with to get into position. Start at the top of the bar in the Bent Arm Hanging position. Slowly lower yourself down until you are in a straight arm Active Hang Position. Each rep should take 3-5 seconds.

Progress as follows:

  • Week 1: 3 reps x 5 sets
  • Week 2: 5 reps x 4 sets
  • Week 3: 5 reps x 5 sets
  • Week 4: 8 reps x 4 sets
  • Week 5: 8 reps x 5 sets
  • Week 6: 10 reps x 4 sets
  • Week 7: 10 reps x 5 sets
  • Week 8: 12 reps x 5 reps

 

Step 2B: Eccentric Pull-Ups

To perform Eccentric Pull-Ups, you will need something to step up to the bar with to get into position. Start with your chest touching the bar in the Supinated Grip position. Slowly lower yourself down until you are in a straight arm Active Hang Position. Each rep should take 3-5 seconds. You may need to play with your grip width, but generally just wider than shoulder width is the most comfortable.

Progress as follows:

  • Week 1: 3 reps x 5 sets
  • Week 2: 5 reps x 4 sets
  • Week 3: 5 reps x 5 sets
  • Week 4: 8 reps x 4 sets
  • Week 5: 8 reps x 5 sets
  • Week 6: 10 reps x 4 sets
  • Week 7: 10 reps x 5 sets
  • Week 8: 12 reps x 5 reps

**NOTE: If you plateau, add in rope pulls. Rope pulls increase your Lat activation, which are highly involved in the Pull-Up.

 

Step 3: Pull-Up

At this point, you should be able to do your first Pull-Up. Congratulations! If you can't don't be discouraged. The most effective thing to do now, is to take a step back and repeat Week 10 of Step 1, and Weeks 8 of Step 2A&B.

Once you have your first, unassisted, dead-hang, chest-to-bar pull up, it is time to work on mastering it. For women, 5 repetitions is a solid set, however 10 and 15 reps is definitely possible, it will just take consistent hard work. For men, a solid 15 repetitions is solid, but 25 is more than reasonable.

 

If your goal is 5 repetitions, follow this program:

  • Week 1: 3 x 1r
  • Week 2: 5 x 1r
  • Week 3: 3 x 2r
  • Week 4: 3 x 3r
  • Week 5: 4 x 4r
  • Week 6: 5 x 4r
  • Week 7: 4 x 5r
  • Week 8: 5 x 5r
  • Week 9: TEST: max reps in a single set

 

If your goal is 15 repetitions, follow this program:

  • Week 1: 3 x 3r
  • Week 2: 5 x 3r
  • Week 3: 3 x 6r
  • Week 4: DELOAD - 3 x 3r
  • Week 5: 4 x 6r
  • Week 6: 4 x 9r
  • Week 7: 5 x 9r
  • Week 8: DELOAD - 5 x 5r
  • Week 9: 4 x 12
  • Week 10: 4 x 15
  • Week 11: 5 x 15
  • Week 12: TEST: max reps in a single set.

 

Mastering the Pull-Up is one of the most beneficial things you can do for your physical fitness. It gives you better control over your whole body, and a sense of freedom that you can't know unless you train for it.

If you are really ambitious, start training with your vest and belt on. You may be surprised how many reps you can do, even with the added weight after following this program.

-Mark

B.Kin, Canadian Society of Exercise Physiology CPT

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Author: Mark Murdoch, Kinesiologist, Chiropractic Student. Have questions? Email me. I want to help! mark@leofitness.ca