Let’s talk about how to do more pull ups…

Squats and deadlifts are two of the absolute best movements you can do to help increase the amount of muscle you add onto your frame.

If we were to look at an upper body lift that would be considered somewhat squat to the squat or deadlift in terms of adding muscle to the body, it would have to be the pull up.

The pull up in my eyes is best described as “the upper body squat” and for good reason.

I luckily started doing pull ups at a really young age through wrestling.  I was also the kid who has a pull up bar in the garage as well as a peg board.

Man I can remember all the pull ups I used to do when I was bored.  Back then you didn’t even think of it as “training”.   Back then I just “did it” to do it.

It’s help me build some serious bodyweight strength up to this day.  But NOT everyone grew up the way I did doing pull ups all the time.

There’s people out there that can’t even do one stinking pull up!  It’s really not that hard if you work at it!

Pull Ups require a good amount of bodyweight strength. Strength is a skill and therefore needs to be trained over and over. Just like any other skill out there, it will get better will constant time put into improvement.

Now, what I want to do is give you THE PROGRESSIONS to which if you follow, will show you how to do more pull ups.

I will warn you, I am against the use of a band to assist in learning how to do pull ups.  Call me old school, but I feel that you’ll get stronger, quicker with straight bodyweight pull ups and progressions than if you have to use a band to “cheat”.

Before I get into the basic progressions of pull ups and chins, know that you DO NOT want to stick within the vertical training plane.  I other words, to get your back stronger, you want to perform other “assistance” type work as well.  Other movements that will aid in your quest for more pull ups and chins are:

  • Deadlifts
  • Barbell Bent Rows
  • Single Arm Bent DB Rows
  • TRX / Recline Rope Rows
  • TRX / Recline FACE Pulls
  • Band Pull Aparts
  • Superman Holds
  • Heavy Farmer Walks (for grip mostly)

Make sure you focus on those movements as well to get better well rounded.

And of course, don’t forget about your pressing, squats, and lunges, ect as well.  I’ll save all of that for another article!

Also, one quick note, to get FASTER results, make sure you’re always experimenting with different types of holds and grips.

Here are some different types of grip used:

  • regular grip (palm away)
  • wide grip
  • palms in
  • close grip
  • baseball grip (alternate grip)
  • rope grip (use a rope)

So here we go!

Progression 1 – Scapular Retractions from the hang

The first thing we must do, is get our scapular retractors stronger.  To do this, we do a simple exercise called “Hanging Scap Pull Ups”.

It’s simple really…  Hang from a bar or rings and contract your shoulder blades together by squeezing your scaps.

Once you can get yourself to doing 3 sets of 15-20, you should be good enough to progress to the next level.

Progression 2 – Iso Holds

Now that we have strengthened up our retractors, it’s time to put them under some real live tension in various pull up positions.

There are three different positions we want to work in:

  1. The Top (chin well above bar)
  2. The Middle (eye level with bar)
  3. The Hang (just above the absolute bottom with a little bit a room to spare)

The easiest way to do these is to have a box handy to step on so you can jump into position.  Once in that position, you simply hold the position by squeezing your shoulder blades and keeping your body tight for as long as you can go.

A good rule of thumb would be around 15-20 secs.  Once your able to complete holds consecutively for 15-20 secs x 3-4 sets, it’s time to progress to the next level!

Progression 3 – Slow Negatives

Now that we have strength in our retractors and are able to keep tension in our back for at least 15-20 secs consecutively, we can start to work the negative portion of our pull ups and chins.

Just like the step above, it’s smart to have a box handy so you can jump into the top position of a pull up or chin.

For negatives, all you do is jump into the top position of the movement and SLOWLY lower your self down to the bottom.  Always keep tension in your back through the whole movement.

For reps and sets, I recommend doing 3-4 sets of SUB MAX reps.  Do not go to failure as you’ll burn your body out and you’ll never progress overtime.

Make sure each set you’re leaving just a bit in the tank.   Overtime, you should be increasing in strength and as you do, you’ll be ready for the next progression!

Progression 4 – Your FIRST Pull Up!

Now, if you’ve been doing the progressions above as well as integrating in the assistance movements also listed above, you should be in good position to hit your first pull up.  If you haven’t already tried, you need to get the first one out of the way!

Once your able to get your first pull up, it’s all cake after that.  You simply start to build of of your first pull up.

Say you finally get to one solid pull up!  You get your chin over the bar with ease but when it comes to getting your second in a row, you fail.  Have no doubt, you will get stronger.

What you will do is “volume training” with your pull ups.

So, if you can do one pull up, you’re goal would be to do 20 total pull ups during your workout.  What you’ll do is scatter your pull ups through out your workout…

So for example, if you were squatting, go ahead and hit your set of squats and immediately after the set, walk over and do one pull up.  Do this after each set of squats and any other movements you do that day.  You would simply superset one pull up with each movement you do unless you’re doing a pulling movement.  This way, each time you perform a pull up, you want to be fresh so you will hit full range of motion without failure.

What will happen overtime as you work, is you’ll start to get 2 pull ups in a row, then 3, then 4!

You’ll keep applying this “volume style of training” until you’re getting around 5 or six solid, chin above the bar pull ups in a set consecutively.  Once you get there, you’re pretty much set!

Here’s another great resource that will help show you how to do more pull ups:


After that, to further your progress even more, you would want to start to incorporate weighted pull ups!

Once your to this point, feel free to start playing around a bit….


Now, let me know what type of questions you may have about pull ups and make sure to leave me some comments too!

Bodyweight Strength Recommendation:

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