How to Work Towards Your First Pull-up (when you can’t do one)

Let’s do Some Pull-ups!

Getting a pull-up is usually very difficult for most people to do when first starting out. Luckily, this article, in addition to the video above will make it incredibly easy to achieve your first pull-up and many more. We will discuss the muscles behind worked during the pull-up, and show you multiple ways to improve the strength in those muscles, to help get you those pull-ups you desire.

Which Muscles Does it Work?

When it comes to the pull-up, there are multiple muscle groups being worked. For the sake of the discussion, we will break the pull-up down into two main movers. The biceps muscle, helps to bend or flex your elbow. The latissimus Doris (last) helps to extend your shoulder, or bring it from up over head, down in front of you. Together, these two movements when done together when hanging from a bar, make a “pull-up.” Not that we have that covered, we can look at multiple ways to work these muscles, and get you doing pull-ups in no time. Consult the video above to see full demonstrations on how to actually complete the movements.

Pull-Up Variations for Strength

Ring Row Hold

A great starting point to build isometric pulling strength. Most of the individuals I work with are able to complete sets of 30 second ring row holds with no problem, before adding in the next exercise. If you don’t have a set of rings or a pull-up bar to use at home, I am going to link my top picks below to get you started of gymnastic rings and an at home pullup bar.

Full Ring Rows

Once you’ve built the strength to do ring row holds, a full ring row should be in your grasp. Instead of doing a hold, you will now do full repetitions, making sure your arms straighten fully at the bottom, and bend at the top.

Lat Pull-down

A lat pull-down is a great way to improve your horizontal pulling strength and get your shoulder girdle used to the loads it will be handling when doing full pull-ups.

Pull-up Holds

Those first two are great ways to build your initial strength. Once you do that, you can move onto pull-up holds. I usually recommend starting with your hands shoulder width apart, before either jumping or boosting your chin over the bar, ideally holding for sets of thirty seconds.

Pull-up Lowers

A step up from that last exercise, pull-up lowers have you boosting your self up again, but instead, slowly lowering your entire body down. You won’t pull yourself back up, but instead boost your chin over the bar again, before completing another slow repetition, working up to sets of 5-10 with a slow lower (3 seconds.)

Foot Pushups

With a small boost, you will let one foot dangle to the side, helping you push yourself up to do a full pull-up. The key with this is to make sure you are still pulling with your arms as hard as possible.

Banded Pull-ups

This is where it starts to get fun! We can add in some full range of motion, assisted pull-ups, by attaching a band to the pull-up bar, and putting the band either on your feet or knee. Make to still control the lower, before trying to boost yourself up once again as high as possible.


Last but not least are some chin-ups. Chin-ups are similar to pull-ups, but you have your hands facing toward your body, instead of away from your body. This works a different part of your biceps muscle, which makes the movement slightly easier. Do your best to do 5 complete chin-ups, and in no time you’ll be getting a FULL pull-up!!!

Before You Go..

If you want to continue to improve your strength, regardless of your current abilities, you need to subscribe to our blog. We help individuals navigate through the gym and become healthier in life. If you don’t want to do that, I think you would enjoy this other article I outlined, showing you how to go from doing ZERO pushups, to TEN in no time!

How to Do a Pushup if You Can’t Do One: (From 0 to 10 Pushups)

I Can’t Do a Push Up! The contents of this article, in addition to the video above will outline exactly how you can go from doing no pushups, to sets of 10 easily. We will talk about which muscles you need to get stronger, how you can work them, and which exercises to do to…

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