Insights and Training Tips from Tactical Arts


How to get your First Pullup

How to get your First Pullup

So you want to be able to do a pull-up. Great! We have a plan for you. The goal is to get 1 full range of motion pull-up with good form. Once you can do that we can set a new goal to do more.


Getting Started 
Getting started, one of the best things you can do is make sure you are eating quality foods and, if appropriate, lose some body fat.  The lighter you are, the easier it will be to do a pull-up.  If you are currently too heavy to even attempt hanging from the pull-up bar, you can focus on strengthening your back.
Strengthen Your Back
To strengthen your back, do 3 sets of 8 repetitions of bent over rows with a barbell or dumbbells.  Use a weight that is challenging but does not cause you to lose form.  Work your way up to using 25 - 45 pounds.  Do this 3x per week.
pull-back1    pull-hang
Static Holds
As you get stronger, start working on static hangs from the pull-up bar to develop your grip strength and shoulder strength.  Hang from the bar and pull your shoulder blades down, squeeze your abs and your butt.  Hold yourself for as long as you can before releasing the bar.  This will prepare you to work on the following progressions.
Pull-up Progressions
Once you are ready to start working the pull-up itself, alternate among the 3 methods (A, B and C) listed below.  Do only 1 method per workout and give yourself a day of rest after each one before going to the next method.  Try to do each of the 3 methods once a week.  
A. Negatives and Bottom Pulls
     1. Pull attempt at bottom - From a static hang, pull your shoulder blades down then pull yourself as high as you can get.
     2. Jump up or climb up to the bar and pause at top for 1 second.
     3. Slowly lower yourself down at a steady tempo. Keep an even speed throughout the movement.  Don’t hold it so long near the top so that you cannot keep the tempo the same as you pass through the middle and to the bottom of the movement.  The goal is to get equal effort at the top, middle and bottom of the descent. 
  • Do 3 sets to failure at a maximum of 5 repetitions per set.
  • Try to get 3-5 seconds per repetition.
  • Take a 2 minute break between sets.
  • Beware of dropping hard into the bottom of the hang.  It’s bad for your shoulders.
 pull-bottom  pull-top
B. Assisted Pull-ups
     1. Using your feet - Do a pull-up using your feet on a box to assist. 
  • Minimize the amount of assistance you get from your feet. 
  • Start with 2 feet, then reduce to 1.
  • Make sure you do the full range of motion - arms straight at the bottom and chin over bar.
     2. Bands - Do a pull-up using a rubber band for assistance.
  • Go slowly, no bouncing or kipping.
  • After 3 sets of 8 are possible, reduce the band to a smaller one.
 pull-feet    pull-band
C. Body Rows and Australian Pullups
     1. Body row - Using gymnastic rings or a barbell placed a chest height on a squat rack. 
  • Do 3 sets of 8 repetitions.
  • Keep your body in a rigid plank position - pinch your shoulder blades back and pull them down, contract your abs, and squeeze your butt.
  • Start at an angle that is about 45 degrees from the floor. As you get stronger, reduce the angle so that you are more an more horizontal at the bottom of the row.  You can do this by lowering the rings or bar as well as adjusting the placement of your feet. 
     2. Australian pull-ups - Once you can do the body rows in a horizontal position, start working on "Australian” pull-ups.  You do this by getting "down under."   Hang from rings or a bar on a squat rack like the rows above, but this time bend at the hips so that your torso is vertical and you are hanging under the rings or bar.  Position the height of the rings or bar so that your butt is almost on the floor when your arms are straight.
  • Start with your knees bent and feet on the floor
  • Make it a little harder by keeping your knees straight.  
  • Make it even more challenging by putting your feet up on a box.
 pull-row    pull-austrailia
Make sure you are keeping up with your mobility training to ensure you can get into a safe position when working on your pull-ups.   You will want to be sure to attend to your shoulders, chest and back in particular.  I recommend that you stretch after each session.  Foam rolling will also help you recover.  If you are unable to get into a healthy position before stretching, then make sure you stretch and foam roll prior to training as well as after.  This is something you should start with on day 1.  Don’t wait until you are hurting to start.
Final Notes
After a few sessions of working through the progressions above, keep trying to get your first pull-up.  The secret is just to keep working on it.  You will reach your goals if you simply keep trying. 
If you want some help getting your first pullup and taking your overall fitness to a new level, consider joining our Tactical Arts Academy Athlete Program.  Not only can we can help you in class with the progressions above and other options that may be best for you, but we can get you in great shape. Click the button below to learn more.


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