Ask the Experts: How Can I Do a Pull-Up?

New to the Pull-Up? Having trouble? Learn how you can work up to performing Pull-Ups with these strength-training techniques.


Q) I can't do a Pull-Up. How can I get started?

A) If you can't do a Pull-Up, attempting one can feel like you're trying to climb Mount Everest. It seems almost impossible. But fear not. You aren't as far away from doing a Pull-Up as you may think.

The reason why you can't do a Pull-Up is that you don't have sufficient strength relative to your body weight.

Let's say that you weigh 185 pounds. This is the amount of weight you are attempting to lift during a Pull-Up. If you were to perform a set of Bench Presses without ever having done the exercise, would you load 185 pounds onto the bar? I certainly hope not.

Like any other exercise, you have to start at a point where you can safely and effectively perform the movement. From there, you can gradually increase the challenge until you can successfully lift your own body weight.

To reduce the difficulty of Pull-Ups and gradually build strength, employ the following strategies. You'll be ripping out reps of this essential exercise before you know it.

RELATED: Do More Pull-Ups

Assisted Pull-Ups

This technique reduces your weight by providing—you guessed it—assistance. You can either attach a resistance band to the pull-up bar and place a foot in the loop, or have a partner help you. If all else fails, you can use an assisted pull-up machine, but this prevents you from using a natural range of motion.

Sets/Reps: 3x8-10

Note: Gradually increase the difficulty and reduce the number of reps as you get stronger.

Negative Pull-Ups

You may not be able to pull yourself up, but there's a good chance you can lower yourself. You are stronger on the lowering (i.e., eccentric) part of an exercise, so this is a perfect way to train your back muscles. Hop up so your chin is over the bar and take 3-4 seconds to lower yourself until your arms are straight.

Sets/Reps: 3-4x4

Lat Pulldowns

Try Lat Pulldowns to strengthen muscles critical for the Pull-Up, and adjust the weight to your strength level.

Sets/Reps: 3x10-12

Note: Gradually increase the difficulty and reduce the number of reps as you get stronger.

Grip Training

Pull-Ups are a back exercise, but your grip can be a limiting factor. Regularly performing Pull-Ups will improve your grip, but you should also perform grip-specific exercises so that you can firmly hold onto the bar.

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