How To Do Negative Pull Ups

The first step in working up to your first real pull up is by using negative pull ups.

Negative pull ups are a fantastic upper body exercise that will build up your grip strength, muscle mass, and strength quickly.

When I first struggled to do reps, abusing negative pull ups was 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 proud of!

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

Negative Pull Ups Muscles Worked

Negative pull ups work a ton of upper body muscle. A standard overhand pull up will work your forearms, biceps, and mainly your upper back muscles.

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

And if you do a negative pull up with an underhand grip, or chin ups as they’re more commonly called – you can work lats and even more biceps too.

That’s why it’s a good idea to do a variety of negative pull ups with varying grips just like you would with regular pull ups.

This is the best way to build more muscle and strength that I’ve found. Especially if your main goal is to do more pull ups.

Proper Form For Negative Pull Ups

Here are the main steps for performing negative pull ups.

  • Jump up onto a pull up bar with a grip slightly wider than shoulder width. You should have your chin above the bar or slightly below it.
    • The assisted pull up using negatives is another option as well. Your partner will assist you in getting to the starting position which will save energy.
  • Hold yourself there for a second to prevent your body from swinging. Don’t concern yourself with pulling your shoulder blades together or any other nonsense.
  • Slowly lower yourself until you’re fully extended to the starting position which will be a full dead hang. Don’t concern
  • Rinse and repeat. You’ll know you’re done when you can barely control your negative pull ups through a full range of motion.

To learn more about the technique necessary for this style of pull ups, check out this video from

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The most important point to pay attention to is the control she shows while lowering into the starting position which should be a dead hang.

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.)

Top Negative Pull Ups 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 cross-fitters.
  • 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. Slowly lower it 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 usually be able to do once. This will help with building strength, muscle, and connective tissue! However, don’t overuse them on weighted exercises. For any bodyweight exercise such as push-ups, sit-ups, and pull ups, it’s tough to overtrain while performing them.
  • Increases flexibility and lowers the risk of injury. Because of the increased time under tension, you can increase your flexibility through a loaded stretch. This will allow you to strengthen different muscles 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 excellent training economy!

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

In the next section, I will show you how to incorporate Negative Pull Ups into your training program!

Using Negative Pull Ups 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 need to do your Negative Pull Ups 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 your negative pull ups 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 incorporating Negative Pull Ups into your 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 of negative pull ups and just trying to slowly lower themselves all the way down to the starting position.

But when do you know you’re ready to start moving onto full pull up variations?

In general, I recommend increasing how many reps you can do with 5-second negative pull ups to a full dead hang.

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 pull ups as you continue building strength.

Pull Ups 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 shows 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 above the bar; it wouldn’t happen even when cheating.

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 pull ups you need a couple of things:

  • Build muscle in your upper body and back muscles with rows, pulldowns, and other back exercises. If you can’t do pull ups, you need to get stronger. Build essential strength with tried and true movements.
  • Increase your grip strength. If you can’t grip the pull up 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 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, we have other matters to attend to. Mainly, build up your back musculature with basic bodybuilding techniques. Bigger muscles have higher strength ceilings than smaller muscles after all.

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

For phase 1, we will be focusing on four basic movements in a four-day training week.

There are other ways to set this up, gain as much muscle and strength as fast as possible; this is what
I would do.

The four movements will slightly vary based on the person, but they’re easy to perform.

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

Horizontal Pulling Exercises

Because of the body’s orientation, these are considered horizontal movements and should be trained to bias different parts of the back.

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

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

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

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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.

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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 exercise will be.

Beginners will want to start at a much higher level; your body will potentially be at about a 45-degree anglewhile you gain strength.

Vertical Pulling Exercises

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

Pulldowns will 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 pulldowns fit the job for us!

The other exercise we’re going to be using is rack pull ups.

Let’s see the proper way to do both of these.

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This is Paul Carter from

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 regular Pull Ups.

The way you want to start doing these is by having your feet on the ground in front of you.

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.

Try them out and be humbled.
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Here are the folks over at Renaissance Periodization breaking down the perfect form for the pulldown using a neutral grip.

This form is textbook and absolutely what you want to do without 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.

While doing all of this, make sure you’re doing multiple different negative pull ups variations as well.

You can do assisted pull ups with negatives too.

Basically, somebody helps you get into the starting position which is a little easier than jumping off a box or bench.

Over time, you’ll build up your upper body strength, and can eventually move on from negative pull ups to full pull ups from a dead hang.


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 pull ups?

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

Until next time,


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