Pull ups are an awesome compound exercise that I recommend to everyone.
It’s a great way to work a huge number of muscles in your upper body, both those directly involved in the pulling and those involved in stabilizing your body.
I promise that if you work pull ups into your routine you’ll love the results.
They don’t just work your biceps; they work a host of muscles across your back and even involve your shoulders in the movement.
On top of that your core will be engaged to add stability throughout the exercise adding even more benefit to it.
The only problem is that doing pull ups can be difficult for someone who is just starting out.
Lifting your whole body off of the floor for the first time can be intimidating but I say that that makes doing pull ups even a better goal as it can give you even more confidence and control over your body.
In this guide I’ve put together a steady progression for helping you be able to do your first pull up and eventually many more.
I’ve started with the easiest exercises first and steadily moved on to the more difficult phases until you reach your goal.
If step number one isn’t challenging enough then just skip ahead until you reach the appropriate difficulty:
How to do Your First Pull Up
1) Rows With Free Weights:
The first step in training your body to be able to do a pull up is getting it used to pulling.
Both of the exercises for step one and two are similar to a pull up but are a little easier.
They both engage your back muscles and biceps simultaneously to pull either yourself or another object.
In order to do rows you’re going to need something, either a bench or chair, to rest one knee on that will allow you to bend over forward with the weight hanging below you.
Your arm should be pointed straight down and perpendicular to your body at the beginning of the exercise.
You then want to lift the weight in your hand up to your chest until your upper arm is parallel with your body.
Then lower the weight back down again.
This is a good way to develop your pulling strength and the ability to choose the weight that is most appropriate for you individual strength makes it the best way to begin preparing for your pull up.
However, once your strong enough you should move on to step number two.
2) Horizontal Bodyweight Rows:
For step two you are going to start using your own bodyweight to pull.
In order to do this you can use any heavy table around your home or the bars at a playground.
You just have to be able to reach the object while lying on your back.
To start you want to be lying down.
Next, reach up and grab the table with both hands.
Now, pull your chest up to the table or bar while keeping your feet planted on the ground.
Just think of it as a kind of reverse pushup.
It’s the closest you can get to the motion of doing a pull up with your feet still on the ground and will be your foundational exercise until you are capable of doing a full up.
3) Hanging From the Bar With Your Arms Straight:
For this step all I want you to do is to hang from a bar without even trying to lift yourself up.
Just reach up and grasp the bar with a firm grip and then lift your feet off of the ground.
Let yourself hang free from the bar for as long as you can before you have to let go.
This will serve two main purposes;
First, it will help to improve your grip strength so that you can hold onto the bar safely throughout the pull up;
And second, it will actually help to stretch out your back and spine.
That might not be directly related to being able to do a pull up but it is tremendously healthy and feels incredibly good.
In fact, you’ll probably find yourself doing it regularly just because of that reason alone.
Also, if you don’t have a pull up bar you can still find many places around the house where you can practice without one.
4) Use a Chair or Stool to Start at the Top of the Pull Up Position and Then Slowly Lower Yourself Back Down:
By this point your grip is strong and your back and arms are getting used to pulling but you may not quite be ready to pull up your whole bodyweight yet.
In order to help you progress to the next stage I want you to try moving a chair or stool over by your pull up bar and gripping the bar as if you were at the top of a pull up with your head above the bar.
Now, lift up your legs and see how long you can hold this position.
Once you get comfortable with this try to lower yourself down to the ground in a controlled manner.
This will be slightly easier than pulling yourself up but will further strengthen your body and prepare it for the real thing.
Also, for both stages 2 and 3 I want you to keep doing the bodyweight rows as it is the best exercise for targeting the muscles used for doing a pull up.
5) Jumping Pull Ups:
That’s right, I want you try and cheat a little bit for this step.
Go ahead and jump up when you try to do a pull up and see if you can lift yourself the rest of the way up.
Then lower yourself back down in a controlled manner.
By now you’ll be right on the verge of being able to do your first un-assisted pull up.
It’ll be so close you’ll be having dreams about doing pull ups while you sleep!
Do Your First Pull Up
You’ve done it! Congratulations!
Your body now feels lighter than it’s ever been before and you’ve now entered a whole new stage of fitness.
In order to keep progressing just keep practicing.
Continue to do the jumping pull ups after the first rep if you’re having trouble.
Once you can do about four pull ups in a row un-assisted then you’ll be on your way and won’t have to do anymore of the exercises above (except maybe the hanging exercise as it feels so good).
Congratulations! You now know how to do your first pull up with many more to come.
I guarantee that if you practice what I’ve talked about in this article that you’ll be able to do this.
Just start with free weights to do rows before moving on to use your own bodyweight for upside down rows under a table or bar.
Then move on to practice hanging from a bar in order to develop your grip and supporting muscles.
Next, practice starting at the top of the pull up position and lowering yourself back down again before moving on to doing “jumping” pull ups to help you reach the top.
For all of those steps continue to practice doing the bodyweight rows until you reach your goal of doing your first pull up.
If you have any questions or comments just put them below and I’ll get back to you.
Until next time; stay healthy, strong, and happy.