Pull Up Progressions for Beginners

Can’t do a pull up yet? Here are 4 progressions for complete beginners who want to develop the strength necessary for doing 1 or more strict pull ups. Let’s go!

If you are overweight, you should trim down to your optimum body weight before you even attempt any pull ups. I recommend running 3-5 times a week for 20-30 minutes with a moderate pace, in addition to eating healthy. Try to cook your own meals and eat as many whole foods as possible.

Once you reach your ideal weight, the first progression you should be doing is the inverted rows, also known as Australian pull ups. Use a low horizontal bar that’s at about the height of your hips.

PROGRESSION 1: Inverted Rows

Progression 1.1
Inverted Rows (underhand grip)
1 set x 12 reps

Progression 1.2
Inverted Rows (overhand grip)
1 set x 12 reps

Progression 1.3
Inverted Rows (wide grip)
1 set x 12 reps

Inverted Rows Demonstration:

PROGRESSION 2: Negative Pull Ups

Use a horizontal bar that you can jump on so your chin goes over the bar, then control the descend. The slower the descend, the more effective the exercise will be. I recommend 3 to 5 seconds descending time.

Progression 2.1
Negative Pull Ups (underhand grip)
1 set x 5 reps

Progression 2.2
Negative Pull Ups (overhand grip)
1 set x 5 reps

Progression 2.3
Negative Pull Ups (wide grip)
1 set x 5 reps

Negative Pull Ups Demonstration:

Please note that I descend quite fast in the demonstration video above. Go slower than that if you can.

PROGRESSION 3: 90° Pull Ups

Progression 3.1
90° Pull Ups (underhand grip)
1 sets x 5 reps

Progression 3.2
90° Pull Ups (overhand grip)
1 sets x 5 reps

Progression 3.3
90° Pull Ups (wide grip)
1 sets x 5 reps

90° Pull Ups Demonstration:

By this stage, it’s highly likely you’ll be able to do at least 1 strict pull up. If this isn’t the case, proceed to the next progression.

PROGRESSION 4: 130° Pull Ups

Progression 4.1
130° Pull Ups (underhand grip)
1 sets x 5 reps

Progression 4.2
130° Pull Ups (overhand grip)
1 sets x 5 reps

Progression 4.3
130° Pull Ups (wide grip)
1 sets x 5 reps

130° Pull Ups Demonstration:

Please note that in the above images and demo, I’ve gone a little over 130° angle in the elbows. You only have to go down just past a 90-degree pull up and your arms shouldn’t come close to being fully extended.

PROGRESSION 5: Pull Up Holds (Optional)

The following holds can be performed on both a low and high horizontal bar.

Progression 5.1
Pull Up Hold (underhand grip)
20-30 seconds

Progression 5.2
Pull Up Hold (overhand grip)
20-30 seconds

Progression 5.3
Wide Pull Up Hold (wide grip)
20-30 seconds

Pull Up Holds Demonstration:

I hope this information has been useful. Please keep me updated on your progress!

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