how to do pull ups

Pull Up Progressions & Variations: Beginner to Advanced Pull Up Plan

May 23, 2020 1 Comment

If pull ups aren’t one of your favorite exercises, they absolutely should be...ASAP. After all, the pull up is an essential exercise that offers tons of benefits. 

But what if you can’t do pull ups?

Good news, with hard work, dedication, and a foolproof pull up progression plan, nearly everyone can learn how to do pull ups, and even move on to more advanced pull up variations. 

pull up progressions

In this pull up progressions guide, we start by discussing the benefits of pull ups and muscles worked, the correct form of a pull up with tips, and a pull up test to gauge where you stand among others in your demographic.

After that, we dive into the pull up progression plan for those who can’t do pull ups, which applies to those who aren’t doing pull ups correctly.

For those of you who can do pull ups, you will still find this guide useful as we demonstrate a plan to take your pull up game to the next level, using pull up variations and various progressive overload techniques. That way you can continue to develop upper body strength and endurance with this fantastic, absolutely essential, age-old bodyweight exercise.

Without further ado, let’s begin.

Benefits of Pull Ups

benefits of pull ups

The pull up is one of the most important exercises that you can do, bar none. Whether you lift weights, do calisthenics, or simply workout at home when you have the time, pull ups should be included in your workout regimen. No questions asked. It’s an essential exercise for all fitness levels.

That being said, it is considered a more "advanced" exercise, as you do need quite a bit of strength to perform proper pull ups. Luckily, there are regression exercises and modifications so that you can progress to a standard pull up once you gain strength. From there, you can continue advancing, of course, with more difficult variations. Even then, the standard pull up will always have its place.

For beginners, if you can’t do pull ups, then this should be one of the first things you aim to master. You should think of pull ups as you would running, or doing push ups, it’s a must that you are able to do these things.

For weightlifters, the pull up is equally as important as squats, bench press, deadlifts, and so on. Thus, it must have its place in your strength training workout plan…

We think you get the point. It’s a vital exercise.

Now, let’s get specific on the benefits that come along with mastering the pull up, and performing pull ups on a regular basis.

how to do pull ups

What are pull ups good for?

  1. The pull up is one of the most effective compound exercises for strengthening and building back muscles, which includes your latissimus dorsi, trapezius, erector spinae, and infraspinatus. What man doesn’t want a strong, wide back like that of a silver back gorilla? And what women doesn’t want a defined, beautiful, v-shape back?
  2. Pull ups will strengthen your biceps, forearms, and shoulders as well!
  3. Pull ups will help you build incredible grip strength.
  4. They also increase shoulder stability and core strength! As those are your stabilizing muscles when performing pull ups.
  5. Improves upper body explosiveness. This will lead to improvements in all areas of your fitness as well as competitive sports.
  6. They burn a lot of calories. Although you are just using your bodyweight, pull ups are difficult. They will get your heart pumping like crazy, allowing your to burn fat and boost your metabolism.
  7. When pull ups become too easy, you can add more reps, lower rest time, do progression exercises or add some weight to your body (weighted vest, weight belt, etc.). There are so many ways to make pull ups more challenging (as well as make them easier!). Furthermore, variations allow you to hit different angles, challenging and building your muscles in new ways.
  8. They are easy on the joints. Unlike squats, deadlifts, and other barbell and dumbbell exercises, pull ups are much less taxing on the joints. The best part is, they offer just as much reward in terms of muscle building effectiveness. Pull ups are high reward, low risks. There aren’t many exercises like this (burpees being another high reward low risk exercises).
  9. Pull ups will help you improve posture. They will naturally cause you to pull your shoulder blades back and down over time, which is great for proper posture.

The above is clearly not an exhaustive list of benefits. Other benefits off the top are convenience, they are impressive (especially to those who can’t do pull ups, or can’t do many) and they provide incredible mood enhancement (just like any exercise, but for beginners especially so as once you achieve them and watch yourself continue to improve, it feels great…moreover, it is easy to see improvements quickly with pull ups).

should i do pull ups

Will pull ups make me bigger?

Absolutely. Pull ups are one of the most effective bodyweight only exercises for building muscle mass, as they are challenging, so they will put a lot of tension and resistance on your upper body muscles. By doing pull ups on a weekly basis, you can grow a very lean, muscular, impressive v-shape back. Moreover, your biceps and forearms will gain serious lean muscle too!

Once standard pull ups become easy, there are tons of ways you can continue to progress and increase difficulty. For example, you can add more reps, lower rest time, do more sets, do a more difficult variation, add weight to your body, and so on. There are countless ways to progressive overload, so you can not only get big with pull ups, but you can keep improving your muscles, making them bigger and more rock solid.

Pull Ups Muscles Worked

Let’s first look at the anatomy of the muscles worked with a standard pull up. Here is a picture so you can refer to it when we discuss the muscles worked when doing pull ups. Below is a more detailed picture of the back anatomy. 

Pull Ups Anatomy

pull up muscles worked

What muscles do pull ups work?

Standard pull ups are a total upper body exercise.

Primary muscles (movers):

  • Latissimus Dorsi (largest muscle of your back) - primary mover**
  • Biceps Brachii
  • Brachioradialis and brachialis (forearms)
  • Infraspinatus
  • Lower Trapezius

Secondary muscles:

  • Rear deltoid
  • Rhomboids
  • Levator scapulae
  • Pectoralis Major/Minor

Stabilizers:

  • Rotator Cuff Muscles (infraspinatus, supraspinatus, subscapularis and teres minor)
  • Triceps
  • Obliques
  • Erector Spinae

pull up anatomy

Importance of Grip Strength for Pull Ups

Grip strength is a major factor for pull ups. Even if your back was strong enough to pull you up, if you don’t have the grip strength (and grip endurance), you won’t be able to do sets of pull ups. Therefore, working on your grip strength will directly improve your pull ups.

We will include some grip strength specific pull up progression exercises below. But there are other things you can do as well, which you can read about here - how to improve your grip strength.

CORRECT PULL UP FORM

correct pull up form

  1. Start with a dead hang, which means you are hanging down completely straight, arms extended, scapula relaxed. Your hands should be slightly wider than shoulder-width.
  2. Start by activating your scapula by pulling it back and together (retract your shoulder blades). This will put you in a position to use your back to pull you up.
  3. From there, use your back (focus on your lats) to pull your body up. Your arms are there to assist you, not do all the work.
  4. Keep your chest up and shoulder blades retracted as you pull up.
  5. Get your chin above the bar. Then slowly lower back down to a dead hang and repeat.

NOTE: Everything should be done in one fluid motion. Dead hang > Scapular Activation > Pulling Yourself Up...it's all one smooth movement.

TIPS:

Don’t cheat. If you can’t do a pull up with correct form, then, of course, you will need to do pull up progression exercises so you can build your strength up to the point where you are doing a pull up correctly, even if it's just one rep. One rep correctly is far better than a few garbage reps.

So, avoid kipping, don’t swing, don’t just use your arms, activate your back muscles. Moreover, don’t do half reps. Better to do fewer correct reps than a bunch of half reps. It will be much more beneficial.

pull up for beginners

PULL UP TEST

Pull ups are a great indicator of your overall strength. Here is a good test to gauge where you are at with others and where you should start for your pull up journey moving forward.

This test measures upper body muscular strength and endurance:

Using the pull up form above, do as many pull ups as you can. Make sure you have a pull up bar that is high enough so you can hang.

Results

Teens:

Boys 13-18: 3-8 pull ups is average. The older you are, the more you should be able to do on that range.

Girls 13-18: 1 pull up is average

Adults:

Men: 8 pull ups is average, 13-17 is considered above average (fit and strong).

Women: 1-3 pull ups is average, 5-9 is considered above average (fit and strong).

Remember, these are full range of motion, correct, standard pull ups. No cheating.

Here’s how we interpret the results…

If you can’t perform a correct pull up, you will start with the regression exercises below. Follow the pull up progression plan and you will be able to do your first pull up in no time, then you will get your pull up game to average and above average before you know it.

If you can perform a correct pull up, but you are below average, then you can skip the pull up progression plan and work on doing correct pull ups straight away. Banded pull ups and negatives will also be beneficial for you at this stage (you will see these below in the pull up progression plan). Practice pull ups every other day or every three days. Perform 5 sets to failure each workout that you do pull ups. Do this and you will see your reps increase quickly. Be sure to give yourself enough rest time between days so that your muscles can recover.

If you can do the average or above average reps, then you can start to practice with some more advanced pull up variations. You can also try other methods of progressive overload, like lowering rest time, slowing down your reps (slower tempo), adding more reps, adding weight to your pull ups (vest or belt). That way you can continue to improve your pull ups and get stronger, bigger, and gain more upper body endurance.

pull up practice

Why can't I do pull ups?

For those who can’t do a pull up, don’t be discouraged. There could be a number of reasons why you can’t do a pull up, including some that are completely mental. The most common reason some people can’t do pull ups, but who will be able to with practice, is that they lack the upper body strength and grip strength. The good news is you can do it if you set your mind to it. Follow the pull up progression guide below and you will achieve your first pull up in no time!

"I can do pull ups, why should I continue trying to improve my pull up strength?"

If you did the pull up test and you are average, or even above average, you should still continue to improve your pull up strength and endurance. Remember all the benefits above? By advancing, you will enhance those benefits, which will only continue to improve the quality of your life. Don’t quit just because you are average. Go above and beyond. There’s always room for improvement and more to gain from doing so.

Let this be a bit of inspiration…

Pull up world record - 4,321 pull ups in 24 hours. Set by Mark Jordan, a 54-year old American from Texas.

how to improve pull up strength 

PULL UP PROGRESSION PLAN - FROM ZERO TO PULL UP HERO

We are going to run through the perfect pull up progression plan to take you from zero pull ups to hero pull ups (i.e. advanced variations). Of course, this is going to take time, not to mention, hard work. But if you stick to the course, you will surely be able to. At the very least, you will be doing proper pull ups, for sets and reps, in what will feel like no time when you look back at your progress.

What is a pull up progression plan?

A pull up progression plan is simple. It teaches you regression exercises so that you can build the strength and endurance to be able to perform your first pull up. Regression exercises are basically easier versions of the pull up. But they can also be practice exercises as well, that help build the strength and endurance you need for pull ups.

The regression exercises will have a progression as well. Meaning, they will start off easy, and then get harder, until you are able to do a proper pull up. Some of the regression exercises will also prime you, so that you develop good pull up habits (aka no cheating!).

If a regression exercise is too easy for you (i.e. the first one or the first two), you can skip it and jump into the progression plan below at a point that makes sense for you.

If you are still struggling with an exercise, keep at it for a week or two more. Conversely, if it becomes easy quickly, advance. Go at your own pace. Push yourself.

So, start at the very beginning, then move on if/when you can achieve it.

Who should follow this pull up progression plan?

Easy answer...Anyone who can’t do a pull up with correct form.

If you can do a pull up, but not many, then keep working on the standard pull up. Do at least 5 sets of max pull ups 2 times a week. You can also give some of the pull variations a try (see below). Some are easier than the standard pull up.

If you can do proper pull ups for a fair amount of reps, try some pull up variations, these will allow you to continually progress and hit your back muscles from all angles.

You should be doing pull ups a couple times a week. An ideal back workout should include 3-5 sets of standard pull ups for max reps (perfect form) followed by 3 sets using 1-3 different pull up variations. It can’t hurt to do more, so if you want to do 10 sets, go for it! This is especially true if you are doing bodyweight only workouts. Make sure your workouts are challenging and have enough volume.

HOW TO LEARN PULL UPS FOR BEGINNERS - PULL UP PROGRESSION PLAN:

In this video, Chri Cali runs you through the perfect pull up progression plan. If you follow this, you can go from zero pull ups to Pull Up Hero (see below for clear step by step plan to learn how to do pull ups correctly).

Of course, this pull up progression plan for beginners is going to take time, hard work, and dedication, but if you put the time and effort in, you will learn how to do pull ups, for reps and sets, with correct form no less! 

WEEK 1-2:

Exercise 1: Australian Pull Ups (Bar at Belly Button Level) - 10 reps x 3 sets

australian pull ups

  • For this exercise, your body will be in a vertical position in the starting position.

Exercise 2: Australian Pull Ups (Bar a Midway from Belly Button and Chest) - 10 reps x 3 sets

pull up progression plan

  • For this exercise, the starting position will have your body in a diagonal position.

Exercise 3: Australian Pull Ups aka Inverted Row (Bar a Chest Level) - 10 res x 3 sets

pull up progression exercises

  • For this exercise, your body will be almost parallel with the floor. Your feet will be extended straight forward.

WEEK 3-4:

Continue practicing exercise 3 above. Add these exercises to the routine for weeks 3-4…

Exercise 4: Dead Hangs - 9 sets x 10-60 seconds (as long as you can hold)

Dead hang pull up progression

  • Normal grip 3 sets
  • Wide grip 3 sets
  • Close grip 3 sets

Exercise 5: Shoulder Depressions - 5 sets x 10 reps

shoulder depression pull up practice exercise

WEEK 5-8:

Exercise 6: Banded Pull Ups - 5 sets x Max reps

pull ups with bands

  • Start with the most assistance needed (larger bands or multiple bands together) and slowly work your way down to less bands over week 5-8.

Exercise 7: Negatives - 5 sets x 8-10 reps

Pull up negatives

  • Use a chair or jump up into position.
  • Lower down from the top position (chin above bar) as slowly as you can.

WEEK 9+:

Exercise 8: PULL UPS - 5 sets x Max reps

how to do a pull up

  • Do your first Pull Up! Even if it’s only 1, do sets of 1 pull up!
  • Over time you will quickly see your rep count improve.
  • Be sure to do full range of motion pull ups.

CORRECT PULL UP FORM:

  1. Start with a dead hang, which means you are hanging down completely straight, arms extended, scapula relaxed. Your hands should be slightly wider than shoulder-width.
  2. Start by activating your scapula by pull it back and together (retract your shoulder blades). This will put you in a position to use your back to pull you up.
  3. From there, use your back (focus on your lats) to pull your body up. Your arms are there to assist you, not do all the work.
  4. Keep your chest up and shoulder blades retracted as you pull up.
  5. Get your chin above the bar. Then slowly lower back down to a dead hang and repeat.

WHEN TO DO THESE PULL UP PROGRESSION EXERCISES?

Week by week, do these exercise two-three times a week, spread out evenly (make sure you are fully recovered from the previous workout).

You can throw these into the beginning of your workout on back day or upper body day, ideally.

or…

You can do them separately from your regular workout plan (i.e. if you workout in the morning, do these in the evening). 

WHY YOU NEED PULL UP ASSIST BANDS

pull up assist bands

Whether you can do zero pull ups or you have mastered the standard pull up and you want to try some more advanced pull up variations, resistance bands are a must-have. This applies to any and all bar brothers and sisters out there, at nearly all levels of the game.

For beginners who can't do pull ups, resistance bands are there to assist you so you can. It's not cheating by any means. The band doesn't pull you up to the bar on its own. You will have to work to get your chin above the bar. It essentially just makes you a little lighter. If you want to train your lats and back in the most effective manner, using pull up assist bands to do pull ups is a must. It's far better than doing endless lat pulldowns on a machine at the gym. Not that lat pulldowns are bad, it's just not the same. You will see many people doing heavy lat pulldowns but they struggle with pull ups. While pulldowns will help your pull up game a bit, they don't help it as much as strapping up some bands and doing actual pull ups.

best resistance bands for pull up assistance

Pull Up Assist Bands

For people who can do standard pull ups but have trouble doing a good amount of reps (i.e. 10 reps) for multiple sets, pull up assist bands are also a must. They will allow you to get the necessary reps in to build muscle, develop strength & endurance. Over time, you will require less and less assistance from bands, eventually doing multiple sets for high reps all on your own. 

For people who have good pull up strength and endurance, you'll want to try some new, more advanced variations. Well, pull up assist bands are your golden ticket. They will get you to the advanced level you want to be. With the 41 inch loop resistance bands seen in this post, you can practice muscle ups and other advanced pull up variations. You will see some seriously jacked calisthenic enthusiasts using bands on a regular basis. This is because they are useful at all stages of the calisthenics game. Bands help these advanced calisthenic trainees get their form down and strength up for those very tough movements. And it's not just pull ups, we are talking about all kinds of challenging movements, like planches and levers.

So, if you want to go from beginner to advanced, 41" loop resistance bands (aka pull up assist bands) are an absolute must-have

7 Benefits of Resistance Bands

Are resistance bands good for pull ups

Practice variations!

Try different grip variations once you get the standard grip pull up down.

  • Close Grip
  • Wide Grip
  • Neutral Grip
  • Switch Grip

We will run through these in a moment.

Importance of Pull Up Variations

All pull ups will be a vertical pulling motion, so pretty much all the same muscles will be worked no matter what variation you chose.

That being said, there are differences in which muscles are being targeted more and the intensity of the muscle contraction depending on the variation you choose.

For example, a wide grip pull up is going to emphasize the outer part of your back, while close grip pull ups will hit the middle of your back more.

“Some variations will be tougher on your grip, some will target your abs more, some will hone in on your upper back, but all will be challenging” - Chri Cali

Once you master the standard pull up, performing different variations of pull ups will be beneficial for building your lats, mid-back, rear delts, biceps, forearms and even your core. Moreover, by recruiting the muscles equally, you will have more well rounded strength and it will help you become more resilient to injuries and overuse of the muscles.

Grips:

pull up grip variations

Pronated (overhand) vs Supinated (underhand):

Overhand grip is going to be more difficult than an underhand grip because your biceps are in a less optimal position that is difficult to produce maximal force.

Overhand is considered a pull up

Underhand is a chin up

Neutral Grip:

This is a grip where your hands are facing in towards each other. This would be considered middle difficulty, between overhand and underhand grip.

Switch Grip:

This is where one hand is facing in (underhand) and one is facing out (overhand). This is like a standard deadlift grip. This is not a typical grip for pull ups, but it is a way to change up the angle of how you are hitting your muscles. Just be sure to switch which hand is over and under evenly.

Hand Position On The Bar:

Beyond grip, you also have distance between your grips, for example, close grip, where your hands are closer together on the bar.

Close Grip: Hands together or within a 6-12 inches of each other.

different pull up grips

Standard Grip: Hands just a bit further than shoulder width apart.

how to grip a pull up bar

Wide Grip: Hands about a foot or so further than shoulder width apart on both sides.

best pull up grip

The wider your grip the harder the pull up will be as your lats are getting less help from your other muscles.

14 PULL UP VARIATIONS

The following variations are nothing crazy. They are not super advanced pull up variations. These are intermediate pull up variations - some are even easier than the standard pull up.

The purpose of doing pull up variations like these is so you can hit your back from all angles. They allow you to target your back muscles differently, so you can develop a strong, muscular back, all around. With these variations, all you need is a pull up bar to get a great back workout in. For the minimalists out there, this should be music to your ears. 

If you do bodyweight training, only. Then you know the struggle with hitting your back muscles. For people who do bodyweight-only training, the only thing you truly need is a pull up bar, as every other muscle can be hit without any equipment. Your back is different. It needs that bar (and for beginners, you probably need a few resistance bands).

Let's have a look at 14 of our favorite pull up variations (excluding the standard pull up, of course). We will rank these in order of easiest to most difficult. We will also let you know which muscles are being primarily targeted for each of the variations. That way you can choose variations for your back workout that enable you to hit all your back muscles (and biceps) effectively. 

Note: All variations will work all the muscles in your back and arms as they are total upper body movements. Thus, we will only state the muscles that are emphasized for each variation. 

1. Chin Up

chin up

Grip: Supinated (Underhand)
Hand Position: Shoulder-width apart
Primary Muscles Worked: Emphasis on the bicep, teres major, middle back

2. Switch Grip (aka Mixed Grip)

Switch Grip Pull Up

Grip: Under/Over (like a deadlift)
Hand Position: A little further than shoulder-width
Primary Muscles Worked: Emphasis on arms and lats

Note: Be sure to switch your grip each set so you train your body evenly.

3. Mid-Grip Pull Up

pull up regression exercises

Grip: Pronated (Overhand)
Hand Position: Slightly less than shoulder width
Primary Muscles Worked: Emphasis on Inner lats, lower traps, and pecs. 

4. Close Grip Pull Up

close grip pull up variation

Grip: Pronated (Overhand)
Hand Position: Centered and together
Primary Muscles Worked: Emphasis on biceps, Inner lats, lower traps, and pecs 

5. Neutral Grip Pull Up

neutral grip pull up

Grip: Neutral (Facing in towards each other)
Hand Positon: Slightly less than shoulder width apart
Primary Muscles Worked: Emphasis on l
atissimus doris, trapezius, biceps

Note: We didn't have a standard neutral grip pull up bar to demonstrate on this day, which would have been easier than the parallel bars. The closer your hands are to each other, the easier it will be.

6. Wide Grip Pull Up

wide grip pull up variation

Grip: Pronated (Overhand)
Hand Position: Half-foot to a foot wider than your shoulders on both sides
Primary Muscles Worked: Emphasis on the latissimus doris, trapezius, rhomboids, external obliques

7. Commando Pull Ups

commando pull up

Grip: In/in
Hand Position: Stacked - body perpendicular with the bar, directly underneath.
Primary Muscles Worked: Emphasis on biceps, traps, lats.

8. Slow Down Pull Ups

eccentric pull ups

Grip: Overhand
Hand Position: Standard (Shoulder-width or slightly more than shoulder width)
Primary Muscles Worked: Emphasis on lats, traps, biceps, rhomboids. This one works all the same muscles as a standard pull up (so your entire back) but it does it with more eccentric contraction. Thus, this is a great movement to develop strength and endurance in your pull up game. 

9. Behind the Neck Pull Ups

behind the neck pull up

Grip: Overhand
Hand Position: More than shoulder-width apart
Primary Muscles Worked: Emphasis on lats, traps, rhomboids major and minor, pectoralis, biceps, teres major.

10. Lean Back Pull Ups

best pull up variations

Grip: Overhand
Hand Position: More than shoulder-width apart
Primary Muscles Worked: Emphasis on lats and core.

Note: It will be very hard to get your chin over the bar on this one, but it will still be effective if you can not. 

11. Pull Up Rows

different kinds of pull ups

Grip: Overhand
Hand Position: More than shoulder-width apart
Primary Muscles Worked: Emphasis on lats, forearms, shoulders, erector spinae, rhomboids, teres major. 

12. Typewriter Pull Ups

difficult pull up variations

Grip: Overhand
Hand Position: More than shoulder-width apart
Primary Muscles Worked: Emphasis on lats and arms

Note: For this one, pull up to one side, so your chin is above the bar and near your hand. Then staying above the bar with your chin, move along the bar to your other hand, then return to the starting position. It's similar to an around the world pull up. 

13. High Pull Up

Muscle up practice exercise

Grip: Overhand
Hand Position: Shoulder-width apart
Primary Muscles Worked: 
Emphasis on lats, biceps, forearms, traps, core. 

Note: For this one, you can start by kipping (as seen in the pic, that was done with kipping). As you develop strength, try to perform high pull ups without kipping. This movement will directly help you gain strength and correct form to perform a muscle up. It's a muscle up regression exercise.

14. Plyometric Pull Ups (and Clapping Pull Up)

Plyometric pull up

Grip: Overhand
Hand Position: Shoulder-width apart
Primary Muscles Worked: Emphasis on the latissimus doris, trapezius, rhomboids, external obliques

Note: For this one, perform the pull up similar to a high pull up, you want to explode up so you can remove your hands from the bar (above the bar) then catch the bar on your way down. It's a very explosive exercise and the best back plyometric exercise you can do. As you develop strength for this, try to clap your hands together above the bar. 

Pull Ups: Strength vs Muscle Growth vs Endurance

If your goal is to maximize strength, do sets without going to failure. This will train your nervous system to get stronger faster than if you go to failure.

If you goal is to maximize muscle growth, do sets to failure. This will stimulate you muscle fibers in the best way for hypertrophy,

If your goal is to improve endurance, you need to slow down your temp. Do longer hang time, hold the pull up at the top, and slowly lower down.

Pull Ups for Strength - Sets x Reps:

If you max out at 10 reps, do something like 5 sets for 7-8 reps. More sets is better than doing something like 3 sets of 9.

Pull Ups for Building Muscle - Sets x Reps:

Aim to do more sets, like 5-10 sets, to technical failure.

Pull Ups For Endurance - Sets x Reps:

Do more sets, just like building muscle, but slow down your tempo. 2 second hang, 1 second up, 1 second hold, 2 seconds down. Train to near failure on each set. This will increase your endurance and strength simultaneously.

Also, practice hangs and holding the top position for as long as you can. This will build your grip and pull up endurance.

how to learn pull ups

How to incorporate variations into your pull up routine?

By adding variations into your pull up routine, you will be able to do more sets, as other non fatigued muscles will become more dominant. Therefore, you can do a lot of sets this way.

10 Sets:

3 Sets Wide Grip
3 Sets Standard Pull Ups
3 Sets Chin Ups
3 Sets Commando
3 Sets L-Sit Pull Ups

If you do 2 pull up workouts a week, the second one could look like this…

2 Sets Wide Grip
2 Sets Standard
2 Sets Chin Ups
2 Sets Behind the Neck
2 Sets Offset (each side)
1 Set Clapping Pull Ups
1 Set High Pull Ups

Use the rep range depending on your goal of strength or muscle growth.

Don’t worry so much about having the perfect plan, just get out there and do pull ups and test yourself. Push yourself as hard as you can.

HOW OFTEN SHOULD I DO PULL UPS?

If your goal is to improve your pull ups, then you should be doing them as often as you can. Just be sure your muscles have recovered from the previous session. Typically, this means you’d train pull ups a minimum of 2 times a week.

pull up workouts

PULL UP WORKOUTS

STANDARD PULL UP WORKOUT 

5 Sets x Max Reps

Expecting something more in-depth? Nope, that’s it, just go out there and do your sets. If you can do more sets, then go for it! Aim to do a minimum of 5 sets, though.

Be sure to do other bodyweight back exercises with the above pull up sets, so you can target all the muscles in your back effectively. Also, do chin ups, which are an easier version and will target your biceps and back differently.

If you have equipment like dumbbells, do things like rows, single and double, deadlifts, stiff-legged deadlifts, and so on.

PULL UP WORKOUT WITH VARIATIONS

With pull up variations, you can hit all the muscles in your back, allowing you to get a serious back workout in with just your pull up bar. Here is a good pull up workout that includes various pull up variations, targeting all the muscles in your back, along with your biceps, forearms and core.

3 Sets Wide Grip x Max Reps
3 Sets Standard x Max Reps
3 Sets Chin Ups x Max Reps
3 Sets L-Sit Pull Ups x 80% Max Reps
1 Set Clapping Pull Ups x 80% Max Reps
1 Set Commando Pull Ups x 80% Max Reps
1 Set (each side) Offset Pull Ups x 80% Max Reps
1 Set High Pull Ups x 80% Max Reps
1 Set Dead Hang x Max Time
1 Set Standard Pull Ups x Max Reps

pull up regression exercises

Can I do Pull Ups Every day?

This really depends on your fitness level. If you are just starting out, your body will need more time to recover. So, ideally, you’d do pull ups when your muscles have recovered, which would likely be 2-3 times a week (every couple days). At a minimum, once a week.

The great thing about pull ups is that you can progress quickly. If you can do just 1-2 pull ups now, don’t be surprised if you can do 10 in a few weeks. Once they start getting easy, change up your tempo, rep scheme, rest time, etc. Aim to keep increasing the difficulty this way.

If you have a high fitness level right now, standard pull ups won’t tax your body as much and you will be able to do them more often. It’s a bodyweight exercise so you could do them every day with a high fitness level. That being said, it would be more beneficial if you increase the difficulty instead of doing the same standard pull up rep scheme every day. If you were to do this, it would make you sore and your muscles would need time to recover. Thus, you’d be doing them 2-3 times a week just like a beginner would.

You can practice anytime your body feels up to it. Recovering fully will make you stronger, so listen to your body and give it the rest it needs. If you are sore, hit another muscle group that isn’t and do pull ups when the soreness goes away.

Be sure to sleep good, eat good and drink a lot of water so you can recover optimally.

pull up plan

PULL UP CHALLENGES

Try these challenges once you master the standard pull up. Record your scores and see how you improve over time.

Should you warm up before these challenges? Yes, but minimal. Just get warm and get your blood flowing. You want your body fully energized to see your max potential.

Do these challenges on separate days.

1 Minute Pull Up Challenge (Beginner to Intermediate)

See how many pull ups (proper pull ups) can you do in 1 minute).

5 Minute Pull Up Challenge (Intermediate)

See how many pull ups (proper pull ups) can you do in 5 minutes).

10 Minute Pull Up Challenge (Advanced)

See how many pull ups (proper pull ups) can you do in 10 minutes).

100 Reps Pull Up Challenge (Intermediate to Advanced)

Time yourself to see how long it takes you to do 100 pull ups with correct form.

DEAD HANG CHALLENGE

This one isn’t exactly a pull up challenge but it will directly translate to pull up strength and endurance.

Basically, you see how long you can hang onto a pull up bar at dead hang.

For those who are very advanced with their grip strength, try this with one arm! Test on both sides too. 

RESISTANCE BANDS

resistance bands for pull ups

Struggling with pull ups? Get yourself a pair of resistance bands ASAP. A pull up bar and resistance bands are the only tools you need for a formidable back.

pull up bands

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1 Response

Rob
Rob

June 14, 2020

Such a well put-together article. 1st class instruction with a tonne of detail.

Thank you!

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