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Getting That First Pull Up

Updated: Jan 16, 2021

Many people feel that pull ups are the hardest exercise to learn how to do and perform. This is said because it takes so much upper body strength to pull your entire body from a dead hang all the way up until your chin is over a bar.

A lot of people get stuck trying to do a single pull up. People will work to get their first pull up for years and never hit it.

Some will get their first pull up and never be able to perform more than one.

Everyone who wants to do their first pull up needs to understand, it could take around 1-2 years to perform your first pull up. Sometimes less time, sometimes more time, it depends on starting strength and commitment.

If you are struggling with hitting your first pull up here are a few exercises that will help you break that plateau.

Inverted rows

This exercise and suspension rows should be a staple in all training programs. This is a great upper back strengthening exercise, and everyone can perform this exercise.

Pull ups are a back exercise, inverted rows help get your back strong for pull ups. You also get the added benefit of core strengthening at the same time.

Assisted pull ups

This is the next area you need to work on. Assisted pull ups are great because they will strengthen the muscles you need in order to perform a pull up.

You also get to practice the movement you want to get better at.

It’s like this, if you want to do a pull up, you need to practice pull ups.

You can use either bands or the assistance machine. You want to get to the point where you are loading the machine with about 30% of your body weight before you move to bands.

If bands are your only means of assistance, slowly remove resistance as you get better at pull ups.

Jumping pull ups

Jumping pull ups with a 3-5 second lower is the next exercise in getting to that pull up. During the eccentric or negative phase we are at our strongest when performing an exercise.

We can use this part of the exercise to add time under tension allowing us to get even stronger in the movement.

Accessory movements

Here are a few movements that you can use to help strengthen your pull up muscles.

Pull downs: Pull downs strengthen your upper back, biceps, and shoulders, all used in pull ups. You also work the same motion as a pull up.

Bicep curls: Biceps do not play a giant roll in pull ups, however they may be the deciding factor of doing or not doing a pull up.

Hollow holds: Very little people know of this gem of an accessory exercise. When properly performing a pull up you will be working your abs, and the way you hold your body is a hollow hold. Learning to do a hollow hold on the ground will benefit your core strength and your pull up game.

Grip strength: It takes time to do pull ups for reps, this time will tax your grip. You need to be able to hold on to the bar for 10-60 seconds per set. If you cannot grip and hold a pull up bar then you cannot perform a pull up.

Even though pull ups are the hardest exercise to perform, they are very beneficial for everyone. Assisted pull ups, jumping pull ups, and inverted rows are not all of the movements you can do to learn how to do a pull up. They are definite movements you need in your tool box to get that first pull up.

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