Train For Your First Pull Up With These Exercises

Some exercises are complicated, but once you get them down they’re relatively easy to do. Others are simple, yet extremely difficult to pull off. The pull-up is definitely in the latter category. In fact, if we had to pick the most difficult exercise to accomplish, it would probably be the pull-up. It’s so challenging, you can’t “just work on it”: You actually need exercises to help you conquer the pull-up!

Even though this exercise can be extremely hard to achieve, it’s actually quite simple to set up. Below are few exercises that will help you master doing a pull up!

Benefits of Doing A Pull Up

benefits of pull up and pull up training


It is an extremely convenient exercise to do! All you need is a solid bar, which you can practically find anywhere! If you don’t want to go hunting for one at your local gym or even your local playground, no problem! All you have to do is buy a pull-up bar online or at your local sporting goods store to use in the convenience of your own home.

Uses Many Different Muscles

Another great benefit of incorporating pull-ups into your workout routine is the number of muscles that are worked from this one single exercise. A pull-up alone works out your triceps, biceps, forearms, wrists, lats, shoulders, and of course your core. This alone makes it one of the best bodyweight exercises you possibly utilize.

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Great For Burning Body Fat

Strength training, in general, is a great way to melt off body fat. In fact, strength training has been proven to be even more effective than cardio when it comes to improved body composition and lower body fat percentages. 

Improves Strength and Makes Your Back Stronger

This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s true. We all know that weight lifting and performing bodyweight exercises have the potential to improve your strength. What you probably didn’t know is you can improve your posture with them as well.

Improves Your Forearm & Grip Strength

As we discussed before, pull-ups are a bodyweight exercise, and your forearms are just one of the many muscles being utilized during this exercise. This is important for other functional exercises. Anywhere from gripping dumbbells, kettlebells, holding on to that dog leash a little tighter, or even opening that peanut butter jar with a little more ease.

Exercises To Train For A Pull-Up

exercises for pull ups


Rows are pulling exercises that primarily strengthen your back muscles. There are a ton of ways to perform rows, but they all work your back (and your arm muscles) – so they are perfect for helping you increase your upper body strength so you can eventually pull your body weight up! 

  1. Bent-Over Dumbbell Row: With a dumbbell in one hand, place your opposite knee and hand on a bench to become parallel to the ground. The arm with the dumbbell should be hanging at your side. Bring the weight towards your chest, while keeping your elbow inward and tight to your body.
  2. Barbell Row (Overhand and Underhand Grips): Bend your torso forward, bend your knees slightly, and keep your back straight. Bring the barbell towards your belly button.

Lat Pulldowns

Using a cable machine or a lat pulldown machine, sit facing the machine. Grip the bar, lean back slightly (but keep your back straight), and slowly bring the bar down towards your chest. Squeeze your lats together (imagine your back muscles are swallowing up your spine). There are many variations of the lat pulldown, but they’re all great!

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  1. Wide Grip Lat Pulldown: Many pulldown bars curve downward at the end. So, instead of gripping the bar at shoulder-width apart, go wider (like to wear the bar is curving down).
  2. Narrow Grip Lat Pulldown: Decrease the distance between your hands and keep your elbows tight by your side.
  3. Reverse Grip Lat Pulldown: This is usually done with a narrow grip (less tension for the elbows). Usually, your palms are facing away from you. When performing the reverse grip, your palms should be facing towards you.
  4. Behind The Head Lat Pulldown: Instead of pulling down towards your chest in front of your face, you will sit up straight and pull the bar down behind your head (towards your traps).

Pull Up Negatives

This is the one time you have permission to jump into your pull up… only because this is a strength-building exercise to work on doing a pull-up! Jump (or use a chair) to get your chin above the pull-up bar. Then slowly and steadily lower your body back down to the hanging position. This exercise should only be down if you have at least some upper body strength to depend on!

Straight Arm Hang

A straight-arm hang is exactly what it sounds like. Grab onto the pull-up bar and hang there. This is a great way to build grip strength and get your hands comfortable with gripping the bar.

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Flexed Arm Hang

A flexed arm hang is begun with your chin over the bar to start the movement. You hold your chin up and over the bar for as long as you can. If your chin touches or rests on the bar, the movement is finished. This is a great way to build strength in your biceps for the pulling part of the pull up.

Band-Assisted Pull Up

This is the exercise that is closest to the real thing! You may require multiple bands to help you out at first. That’s totally fine! Loop the band(s) over the bar. Start in the same position as the straight-arm hang, but pull the band down so that you can rest one or both knees in the loop. Grab onto the bar and pull yourself up. Try to lower yourself as slowly as possible.

Accomplishing a Pull-Up

accomplishing a pull up

Don’t neglect your other muscle groups while you are working on your pull-ups. Just because pull-ups primarily utilize your arms, shoulders, and back muscles,  you still need to train other areas. For example, your core needs to be strong for pull-ups as well!

Dedicating some time to cardiovascular exercise as well as strength training for your core, legs, glutes, etc. is needed. This will also give your upper body some time to rest and will help strengthen other areas of your body. Additionally, giving your upper body some rest will help prevent injuries, like excessive muscle soreness, sprains, strains, tears, etc. Your physical fitness level will be at a much higher level if you train your entire body.

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Lesley George

Lesley is a content writer and community manager at Shape.
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