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How to do a pull up

July 18, 2017 / Uncategorized


Can you do a pull up? no? here’s some tips!

Do you want to learn how to do a pull up? The thing about a pull up  is its a compound, pull-type exercise. It works a lot of muscles in your back, shoulders and arms at the same time. So do you want to learn how to do a pull up?

Pull ups can be performed by grasping a bar with a firm overhand grip. Your hands should be separated by about shoulder width and when your arms are straightened you will then pull yourself up so your chin touches the bar. Try and keep your body straight, don’t arch or swing. When your chin is over the bar you can lower yourself so your arms are straightened again. Don’t relax too much when your arms are straight as it can put a lot of pressure on your shoulders.

Pull ups are bloody hard, especially if you’re just starting to workout.

A lot of people struggle with these and find it very hard to do just one. The problem people face usually is they’re not too sure on how to get that one pull up done. “How can you work on them to get better if you can’t do one?” people usually say. Look, if thats you then you’ll find a great deal of advice in this article and I guarantee you if you stick to this article even just a little bit you’ll be able to achieve your first pull up soon. If you’re joining the army you’ll especially want to learn how to do a pull up before you go.

Why are pull ups so good for you?

  • Pullups are a great exercise for strengthening your back muscles, shoulders, chest and arms.
  • They’re fantastic for building grip strength and improving your posture.
  • If you’re wanting a stronger core then this is an ideal exercise for you.

Here is a list of muscles they work… pretty mental eh?

Middle and lower trapezius Rhomboids Pectoralis major and minor
Deltoids Infraspinatus Latissimus
Dorsi Teres major Subscapularis
Biceps brachii Brachialis Brachioradialis
Flexor carpi radialis Flexor carpi ulnaris Palmaris longus
Flexor digitorum profundus Flexor digitorum superficialis Flexor pollicis longus
External oblique Erector spinae


Just have a look at this video above first.

Heres a few tips to get you started.

  • The more you weigh, the more you have to lift so… If you’re truly serious about completing a pull up then you need to get your diet under control. Theres different diets you can do but I’m a big fan of the Paleo Diet. If you manage to keep this under control and stay consistent you will lose weight and you’ll be able to lift yourself much easier.
  • Back Muscles are a priority. Most people leave their back related muscle exercises till last. Heres a new rule – after you stretch and warm up the first exercise you do is the one you want to work the most. So, in this case it’ll be your back.

You should also remember that your grip might just not be up to par.

Your grip strength isn’t up to par!

If you don’t come from a sports background or work in a physically demanding job then you’re probably not going to have much grip… If your grip strength isn’t sufficient to hold your body weight then there is a slim chance you can do a pull up. Read my post here on improving your grip strength.


How to do a pull up

Okay, if you still want to learn how to do a pull up then start with these exercises. 

Exercise 1: Bent Over Dumbbell Rows

This is one of the most basic back exercises and is probably one of the best to start with if you’re starting from square one. Okay so here is the plan, three sets of 8 reps with 2 minute break between sets. Once you can do this successfully, up those weights!

Exercise 2: Body Weight Rows

I’m sure you’ve all heard of the regular barbell row! unfortunately its pretty easy to have improper form with this exercise and cause injury or just give u a pretty shitty workout. This is why I like the inverted row for people trying to get their first pull up done. The inverted row gets you used to your bodyweight and doesn’t add any extra stress to your back. This makes it PERFECT to get you used to doing a pull up, they use the same muscles but just at a slightly different angle and you can use the smith machine to change the height of the bar depending on your level.

So heres how you do an inverted row

  • Set the bar at a height that will be challenging enough for you to complete 3 sets of 8 reps. 
  • Lie on the floor underneath the bar
  • Grab the bar with your palms facing away from you.
  • Contract your abs, and try to keep your body a completely straight line.
  • Pull yourself up to the bar until your chest touches the bar.
  • Now Lower yourself back down to the starting position.
  • Once you can do your 3 sets of 8 reps, lower the bar!


Exercise 3: Assisted Pull Ups

I’m not a big fan of this one but it is better than doing nothing! You can try this with a chair, exercise band or a partner if you don’t have access to the machine.


Exercise 4: Negative Pull Ups

Okay if you don’t have a rubber band, someone to hold your feet, a machine or even a chair… but you do have a bar.  Then we can do negative rep pull ups. So heres what you do, just jump up above the bar and lower yourself slowly until your at the bottom. Please beware though that this is very very dangerous if you’re overweight. Negative reps is a great way to build arm and back strength! Keep your movement slow and controlled and engage the upper body muscles to give more tension during the exercise.

Here is why Negative pull ups are so good. Overloaded Eccentrics is a fancy way of saying lowering heavy weights slowly. They’re a great way to recruit more muscle fibres and motor units and is a great effective method for increasing strength and triggering hypertrophy.

This method can be used…

  • As a finisher to a pulling or pull-up workout. Just add a few negative reps to the end of your normal workout.
  • To pre-exhaust back and arms. Start your workout with negative-only pull-ups.
  • To excite and “potentiate” the central nervous system.



Exercise 5 – Chin Ups and Pull Ups

It’s time to do your pull up! Depending on your weight, fitness levels and strength and how far along you are in these excercises but you’re probably by now going to be able to manage one pull up! You may find it easier starting with a chin up, thats where your palms face towards you.  If you want you can read about my chin up advice in my other article. Just try focus on keeping your butt clenched, your abs and core tight and get your chin above the bar!

Whats next?

Once you can easily crack out 3 sets of 10 pull ups/chin ups you can then move onto the following:-

  1. Get better at doing more reps i.e 3 sets of 20.
  2. Try other types of pull ups like wide grip pull-ups or go side to side etc etc
  3. Get a weighted belt and add more weight to your pull ups.

Theres a lot more to write about so I’ll be touching up on this article over time.

Need a pull up bar? check out the Powerbar 2


  1. A chard Author July 18, 2017 (9:14 pm)

    Great detailed tips on his to achieve positive pull ups. Cheers

    Reply to A chard
  2. Sandy McFadyean Author July 20, 2017 (10:48 pm)

    I haven’t managed a chin-up for years, but this article may just have inspired me to get back into it. This is an excellent, well researched site and I’m loving the instructions for the exercises. Concise, simple and safe. I’ll definitely be back. I might even video some chin up attempts of my own.

    Reply to Sandy McFadyean

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