Negative Pull-Ups – The Ultimate Exercise To Improve Your Pull Up Game

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

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 the negative pull up was the answer for building up the strength necessary to do them.

From there, I went on to do my first pull up, and then advanced to 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 muscles. Like regular pull ups, they work your forearms, biceps, and mainly your upper back muscles.

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

man performing underhand chin ups

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 a normal pull up.

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 A Negative Pull Up

Here are the main steps for performing a negative pull up.

  • Jump up onto a pull up bar with a grip slightly wider than shoulder width. You should have your chin above the pull up bar or slightly below it.
  • 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 to the starting position which will be a full dead hang (arms fully extended). Don’t concern yourself with pulling your shoulder blades together or any other nonsense.
  • Rinse and repeat. You’ll know you’re done when you can barely control your negative pull up through a full range of motion.
How To Do a Negative Pull-Up | Exercise Guide

Top Negative Pull Ups Benefits

The main benefits of using pull up negatives in your pull up training are:

  • 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 pull ups.
  • Stretch mediated hypertrophy and lowers the risk of injury. Because you’re lowering under control, these are basically weighted stretches that can help hypertrophy different muscle groups. 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.

Based on these benefits, you can see why focusing on the negative pull up is 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 pull up training!

Using The Negative Pull Up 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 the negative pull up early on when your back, grip, and forearms are ready to take a beating.

man performing overhand pull ups

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 up, 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 a full pull up, 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!

Pull Up Progression For Beginners

When it comes to the idea of doing a traditional pull up, many of you probably think back to your high school days when you 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 a pull up, 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 a pull up, 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.
How To Do Pull Ups For Beginners (Easily)

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 pull up workout.

  • 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.
  • At the beginning, we won’t even be doing a pull up variation 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.

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.

No-Straps Dumbbell Row

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.

Suspension Inverted Row

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, the pull up.

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 a rack pull up.

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

Rack Pull-Ups
This allows us to work through the same range of motion as full 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 a regular pull up but don’t be fooled.

They’re absolutely a game-changer for anybody trying to get stronger.

Try them out and be humbled.
RP Parallel Pulldown
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.

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.

Frequently Asked Questions


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 up game?

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

Until next time,


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