The first step in working up to your first real pull-ups 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 onto doing 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 then that! Here’s a video from BodyBuilding.com.
The most important point to pay attention to on this are 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 to 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 start position. You can potentially do multiple reps with a weight you’d only normally be able to once. This helps build strength, muscle and connective tissue! However, don’t overuse them on weighted exercises. For bodyweight exercises like pushups, situps 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 so stay tuned!
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?
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 once you’re able to do 5 sets of 15-20 second negatives. I’ve had women get close to this standard and they were able to do Pull-Ups pretty easily from there!
When you get to this standard yourself I guarantee you’ll be strong enough!
If anybody is interested in doing something similar for increasing 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.
When it comes to the idea of doing pull-ups, a lot of people are stuck thinking back to their high school days when they couldn’t do even one.
The physical fitness testing attempted to show how out of shape and weak we are. And it worked! 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 your back strength up 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 actually 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. That 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, building 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 the way I would do it 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 low back like a barbell row.
These will be our 2 horizontal pulling movements for the week.
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.
Onto The Training Program!
Now that we have our movements picked out, I’m going to show the best way I’ve found to set up the training.
You won’t have to worry about exact sets and reps. Just basic total reps per exercise will make this exceptionally easy for you guys to set up on your own. Here’s what it looks like!
|Day 1: |
A1. Bench Press
A1. Military Press
5×5 @300 lbs
|A2. DB Rows |
25-50 [email protected]
|A2. Rack Pull Ups |
|A2. Pulldowns |
|A2. Inverted Rows |
|B1. DB Incline Bench 25-50 Reps @50lbs||B1. Back Extensions 25-50 Reps||B1. DB Press |
25-50 Reps @30lbs
| B2. Pull Aparts or |
|B2. Pull Aparts or |
|B2. Pull Aparts or |
|B2. Pull Aparts or|
As you can see the workouts are very simple and using super-sets that work opposing muscle groups is a great way to get solid work in without ruining your strength.
You want to use the bodyweight back work on your main lower body days so you don’t get overly fatigued.
Doing heavy DB Rows with Deadlift is a bad idea, doing them with Inverted Rows is perfectly fine.
Why all the supersets?
Increase your efficiency and keep you in great lifting shape. The better shape you’re in with less bodyfat the easier it’ll be to achieve your first pull-ups.
Being in shape makes you stronger I promise. And yes I know there’s a ton of Pull Aparts/Face Pulls but that’s by design.
Imagine how much better your upper back strength and musculature will be by doing all that work?
Over time your upper back strength will improve and will absolutely make your overall back strength greater.
Also, you might be wondering why the rep ranges instead of sets and reps. There are multiple reasons why but honestly it’s just easier to set up!
You can set a weight and just work hard increasing how many reps you do at those weights. Once you can get 50 or 100 total reps for a movement in 3-5 sets you just add 5 lbs and keep working next time.
Definitely simple but definitely effective as well! Also, by doing back work every training session you can make sure you’re doing the most work possible to get stronger fast!
There are a ton of ways to set this up so if you have any questions definitely let me know!
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,