Your First Pull Up

  1. Ring Rows

Ring Rows or Supine Rows are great for developing raw pulling power in the biceps and lats. These can be tailored to any fitness level by adjusting the angle at which it is performed, if you move your feet further back and become more upright the pull will be easier, and if you move your feet really far forward and get closer to parallel with the ground the pull will be much harder. We recommend all beginners start with rows so they feel what its like to pull themselves up. While the plane is different (you are pulling from in front of yourself as opposed to above yourself in a real pull up), rows will still work the important pulling muscles. Keep your core tight (don’t let your hips sink back), start from a fully extended arm and pull the rings or bar to your chest. Squeeze the biceps and lats at the top and then return to an extended arm position UNDER CONTROL. Go slow and maintain perfect form.

2. Scap Pull Ups

Next we need to develop strength for you to actually be able to safely hang from a bar. In order to do a pull up (and to do them without injury), you need to be able to activate your lats and scaps to keep your shoulder in the correct position. Scapular pull ups train you to do just that – you will not need to do any pulling with your biceps, but instead you are training your back to activate and stay engaged.

3. Self Assisted Pull Ups

Once you’re very comfortable with ring rows and can safely hang from a bar with active scaps and lats, you should move on to self-assisted pull ups. This is how we start pulling vertically, which will help to develop lat strength. Tuck your feet underneath you and assist the pull up using your legs as little as possible. Return on a slow count. These should be done slowly and not in a “for time” conditioning or CrossFit workout.

4. Jumping Pull Ups With Slow Negative

The prerequisite for this exercise is that you must be strong enough to hold your chin above the bar and slowly lower yourself down to an extended arm position. If you cannot control your descent, then perform exercises 1, 2, and 3 until you are able to. The jumping pull up with slow negative (called the eccentric portion of the movement) is a very potent movement and should not be done at high reps. Keep sets small (3-5) and rest an adequate amount between sets. One of the biggest mistakes with the negative pull up is that people will lower themselves slowly but then touch their feet on the ground before their arms reach full extension. In order to strengthen the muscles through the entire pull up range of motion, you must slowly lower yourself down all the way until you are at a full dead hang, THEN touch your feet to the ground.

5. Rope Climbs

You might be thinking “If I can’t do a pull up, how on Earth am I supposed to do a rope climb?!” The fact of the matter is that climbing a rope using the j-hook foot technique actually requires less strength than a strict pull up does. Rope climbs are EXTREMELY beneficial in developing upper body and grip strength. With proper technique we see a lot of members learn how to rope climb before they finally get a pull up, so incorporating rope climbs into your routine will help you quickly develop upper body pulling strength.

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PS: A personal training session 1x a month with specific homework goes a LONG WAY. We are happy to help.


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