How to Master the Pull-Up



The Pull-Up is a basic exercise and one of the most effective for building upper-body strength. Any male athlete should be able to knock out at least 10 strict Pull-Ups. And, girls, you don’t get a free pass; I am setting the bar at a minimum of 3-4 strict Pull-Ups for you. Read on to learn how to master the Pull-Up.


First, what is the difference between a Pull-Up and a Chin-Up?

A Pull-Up is performed with the palms facing away from the body and the hands placed wider than shoulder width. A Chin-Up is performed with the palms facing in and the hands placed approximately shoulder-width apart.


Pull-Ups recruit more of the back musculature. Chin-Ups recruit muscle fibers from the biceps and back. Both exercises have a place in any solid training program, as do other variations discussed below.


How does one perform a strict Pull-Up?

Hang from the bar with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width. Without kipping (swinging), contract your lats and pull yourself up until your chin is over the bar. Keep your body vertical and fully control the eccentric descent.


Here are the best strategies to go from zero to knocking out 25 Pull-Ups.


High Volume

  • To be proficient at Pull-Ups, you need a lot of volume. Practice makes perfect.
  • Perform 1 or 2 sets per day to failure. I have personally used this strategy to take my Pull-Up numbers from 18 to 30 over the course of three months.
  • You don’t need a gym or anything special. Even a doorway with a ledge works.
  • Even if you can only do 1 Pull-Up, do 2 sets of 1. Soon you will progress to more.
  • If you cannot do 1, perform a Band-Assisted Pull-Up (hook the band around the bar and around one knee), or get a partner to help by holding your feet and giving you a little assistance.


There are several Pull-Up variations, and they can help you boost your Pull-Up numbers.

  • Grip: Alternate between wide grip, normal grip, narrow grip and Chin-Ups.
  • Pause Reps: Add a pause at different points during the exercise (e.g., stop halfway up for two seconds to increase time under tension.)
  • Tempo: Alter your tempo, again to add time under tension (e.g., use a normal pace concentrically—the up portion—and a slow, controlled 5-second eccentric descent—the down portion.)

Assistance & Supplemental Exercises
If you are struggling with Pull-Ups, many other exercises can help you. Give some of these a shot in your normal training routine.

  • Inverted Row: Set up a bar in a rack and lie down underneath it. It should be high enough so that when you reach up and grab the bar, your arms are fully extended. Place your feet close to your butt. Pull your body up until your chest reaches the bar and make a table with your hips. Control the descent.
  • Lat Pulldown: Take a seat on a pull-down machine. Lean back slightly and pull the bar straight down to your chest. Control the bar slowly on the way up.
  • Arm Hang: Jump up to a bar and pull yourself up just high enough to create tension in your lats. Hang as long as you can.


There you have it. Keep it simple and consistent, and before you know it you’ll be knocking out more Pull-Ups than you ever thought possible.






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