How To Do More Pullups Using Negatives! – (Updated 2021)

The first step in working up to your first real pull-up is by using Negative Pull-ups, an amazing upper body movement that is going to build up your grip, muscle mass and strength quickly.

Using this specific, closed-chain exercise allows us to abuse the negative, or eccentric portion, of a pull-up.

When I first struggled to do pull-ups, Negative Pull-ups were the answer for building up the strength necessary to do them.

From there, I went on to do over 18 pull-ups at a bodyweight of 275 lbs. That was a huge accomplishment for me and something I’m really proud of!

Let’s get into the article! Here we go!

Proper Form To Focus On

When performing Negative Pull-ups you want to jump up onto a pull-up bar, hold yourself there for a second to prevent your body from swinging, and lower yourself slowly.

That was easy! Articles over!

Just kidding, there’s more to it than that! Here’s a video from BodyBuilding.com.

The most important point to pay attention to on this is the control she shows while lowering.

Make sure you have a solid box or bench underneath you, you do not want to be using an unstable surface like a bosu ball. (Don’t ever use a bosu ball in general for that matter.)

Negative Pull-Up Benefits

The main benefits of using negatives in your training are:

  • Increases the time under tension. More time under tension=more muscular growth, in theory. This is a major reason why Bodybuilders are the biggest athletes on the planet. Their time under tension is much higher than powerlifters, weightlifters, and crossfitters.
  • Muscles produce more force during the eccentric compared to the concentric. If you don’t believe me try this, go load up your 1 Rep Max on Bench Press. Lower it slowly and have your spotter assist you in pressing it to the starting position. You could potentially do multiple reps with a weight you’d only normally be able to do once. This helps build strength, muscle and connective tissue! However, don’t overuse them on weighted exercises. For bodyweight exercises like push ups, sit ups and pull-ups it’s very hard to overtrain while performing them.
  • Increases flexibility and lowers risk of injury. Because of the increased time under tension, you can increase your flexibility through a loaded stretch. This allows you to strengthen different muscle groups and increase your flexibility all at the same time. Also, because eccentric contractions require you to be in control at all times, it lowers the risk of injury that is always present during weight training. That’s what I call great training economy!

Based on these benefits, you can see why focusing on Negative Pull-Ups is a fantastic way to increase strength, build muscle, and decrease your injury risk.

In the next section, I’m going to show you how to incorporate Negative Pull-Ups into your training program!

Using Negatives In Your Training Program

When using Negative Pull-Ups in your training program you want to pay attention to when you’re doing them.

You should be doing them early in the session when you’re fresh! Because of the increased time under tension, you absolutely need to do these early on when your back, grip, and forearms are ready to take a beating.

Can you imagine doing Negative Pull-Ups after just doing Dumbbell Rows?

No, thanks!

You’re going to be wiped out and unable to lower yourself slowly at all. Increasing the risk for no potential gain.

With the Negative Pull-ups, you want to keep increasing the time under tension as much as possible. 3 Sets of 5 seconds is the first main goal you want to hit.

When the goal is building up to Pull-Ups, we want to do them every day. You’ll have to wait and see how your recovery handles as you progress, but you shouldn’t have much of an issue.

The main things you might notice are your elbows and wrists being sore. If you have to back off until your body adapts that’s perfectly fine and something I recommend.

The other important thing to watch while performing the negatives is not cheating! You may have to use a stopwatch or count slowly, but make sure you track your workouts the same every time.

This consistency in counting is just as important as doing the workouts themselves!

If you have any questions on how to incorporate Negative Pull-Ups into your own workouts, leave a comment below, and I’ll help you out the best I can!

When Should You Try Doing Real Pull-Ups?

Some people will need to keep working at this longer than others and if you notice you start plateauing after a couple of workouts it might be time to switch things up.

There are many ways to do this, but this is the way that I’ve found that works the best.

As I’ve said before, this is the exact way I set it up for myself and other clients. Male or female, they always got results from doing multiple sets per week without any need for variation.

So when should you move onto testing your Pull Ups?

In general, I recommend just increasing how many reps you can do with a 5 second negative.

If you can do a set of 8-12 reps while maintaining that rep speed you’re probably pretty close and can try testing regular pullups as you progress in strength.

If anybody is interested in doing something similar to increase how many push-ups or dips you can do, let me know! The process is very similar and can be added into any program easily.

Pullup Progression For Beginners

When it comes to the idea of doing pull-ups, a lot of people think back to their high school days when they couldn’t do even one.

Physical fitness testing attempts to show how out of shape and weak we are. And it works! Even though I was an athlete for years leading up to it, I could never get my chin over the bar, even when cheating it wouldn’t happen.

And I’m not the only one!

I know dozens of people, men, and women, that couldn’t do a single one growing up.

To do pullups you need a couple of things:

  • Build up your back strength with rows, pulldowns and other back exercises. If you can’t do pullups you need to get stronger. Build basic strength with tried and true exercises.
  • Increase your grip strength. If you can’t grip the pullup bar you’ll never pull yourself over it! Building your grip and back strength goes hand in hand luckily.
  • Lose Body fat. The less you weigh, the less weight you have to pull over the bar. Easy.

Build The Back And “Pull-Ups” At The Same Time

Now we’re finally getting into the meat and potatoes of the training program. There are two things to consider when setting up your workouts;

  1. Make sure the rest of your program is balanced. You don’t want to be doing a ton of biceps exercises right before working on your back work. This is the main focus for this part of your training so make sure to keep it a priority near the beginning of the workout, so you’re as fresh as possible.
  2. When working on building your pull-ups from 0 to multiple reps per set, we won’t even be doing pull-ups at the beginning. If you can’t do at least 2 with great form then we have other matters to attend to. Mainly, build up your back musculature with basic bodybuilding techniques. A bigger muscle has a higher strength ceiling than a smaller muscle so that will be the main focus for Phase 1.

Phase 1 – For Beginners, AKA Those That Can Do 0 Pull-Ups

For phase 1 we’re going to be focusing on 4 basic movements in a 4 day training week.

There are other ways to set this up but here’s what I would do to gain as much muscle and strength as fast as possible.

The 4 movements will have a little variation based on the person, but they’re very basic in nature.

Those 4 movements will be 2 horizontal pulls and 2 vertical pulls spread out evenly throughout the week. Let me explain what I mean.

Horizontal Pulling Movements

Because of the orientation of the body, these are considered horizontal movements. They work very similar muscles compared to pull-ups and absolutely need to be trained hard to get better at them.

The easiest movements I’ve seen that almost everybody can do are dumbbell and inverted rows.

These two movements are awesome for building strength and muscle without the strain on your lower back like a barbell row.

These will be our 2 horizontal pulling movements for the week.

This is Paul Carter showing us a proper DB Row with great form. The amount of momentum here is the maximum amount you want to use for this exercise. If you do these super strict it’s hard to gain strength on it but don’t start swinging and spazzing out lol.
The cool thing about Inverted Rows is you can change the angle based on how hard it is. The lower you are like he is in the video, the harder the movement will be. Beginners will want to start at a much higher level, your body will be at about a 45-degree angle potentially while you gain strength.

Vertical Pulling Movements

Vertical movements are things like pull-downs, and you guessed it, pull-ups.

Pull-downs are going to be the main movement for a long time, until we can start working on pull-ups, of course.

We need a way to train those muscles in the same plane as a pull-up and pull-downs absolutely fit the job for us!

The other movement we’re going to be using is rack pull-ups. Let’s see the proper way to do both of these.

This is Paul Carter from Lift-Run-Bang.com. Here he shows the proper way to do Rack Pull-ups with great form. This allows us to work through the full range of movement just like with regular Pull-Ups. The way you want to start doing these is by having your feet on the ground in front of you. Doing it this way will make the exercise a lot easier to start. These might look like they’re super easy already compared to regular pull-ups but don’t be fooled. They’re absolutely a game changer for anybody trying to get stronger. Definitely try them out and be humbled.
Here are the folks over at Renaissance Periodization breaking down the perfect form for the pull-down using a neutral grip. This form is textbook and absolutely what you want to be doing without any swaying or using momentum. If you can’t do it like this you need to lower the weight and leave your ego at the door.

Questions People Also Ask

Are negative pull-ups good?

Negative pullups are an awesome exercise you can use to assist in building up back, forearm, and grip strength to do regular pullups.

They aren’t so amazing that they’re all that you should be doing for back work though.

You should still do pulldown and rowing variations to build up your upper back and lat musculature as much as possible.

There are a lot of options for getting a bigger and stronger back.

Negative pullups are one of the main ones I recommend if you’re training to do pullups specifically.

Do negative pullups build strength?

Negative pullups definitely build strength, and they’re one of the best movements you can use to get strong enough to do standard pullups.

Between negative variations as well as typical back training, you’ll build a stronger back than you could possibly imagine.

What muscles do negative pullups work?

Negative pullups work your forearms, biceps, and mainly your upper back musculature.

If you do negative neutral grip pullups where your elbows are out in front of your body, you can bias the lats a lot more as well.

That’s why it’s a good idea to do a variety of pullup grips for your negatives just like you would with regular pullups.

You’ll build more muscle and strength doing this rather than just focusing on one grip forever.

How Can I Build Up Strength To Do Negative Pull-Ups?

If you’re not strong enough to do negative pullups with controlled eccentrics right off the bat, it’s absolutely possible to build up strength to do them.

Doing pulldowns, rows, and even bicep work will all assist in getting you stronger overall.

That’s all that’s required to progress to harder exercises after all!

Conclusion

And with that, it’s time to hear what you have to say!

What do you think of the tips and information on how to improve your pullups?

Let me know what you think in the comment section below.

Until next time,

-Dante

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