3 Steps to Your First Pull-Up - The Barbell Physio

3 Steps to Your First Pull-Up

get your first pull-up

3 Steps to Your First Pull-Up

An athlete getting their first unassisted pull-up is a major accomplishment. For many it takes months or years of training to build the strength to finally get their chin over the bar. For others, they spin their wheels never making enough progress. The 3 steps we will outline below have worked time and time again to help HUNDREDS of athletes we’ve worked with accomplish this goal using our First Pull-Up Program. 

Step 1: Stop Using Band Assisted Pull-ups

Band assisted pull-ups can be great when used during metabolic conditioning (Metcon) workouts as they’ll allow an athlete that can’t perform pull-ups to keep their training intensity up. But in the long term development of strict pull-up strength they just don’t get the job done.

The problem is that the band provides lots of assistance at the bottom of the movement where most athletes are actually weakest. So they end up never developing the strength they need in the bottom half of the exercises and ultimately never progress away from the band assisted variation.

Step 2: Train Strength Through Full Range of Motion

To address the above deficit that so many athletes have as a result of always using band assisted pull-ups we need to work on building strength throughout the entire pull-up motion. Two great variations help to do just that. 

First, toe assisted pull-ups allow us to easily scale the pull-up. By pressing into the ground only as much as is needed the athlete can build strength in all pull-up positions.


Second, we utilize active hangs to work on scapular strength, grip strength, and the initial pulling motion of the pull-up.


Step 3: Build The Lats

Lastly, we often program accessory work to strengthen the lats as they are the most important muscle group in the pull-up. A few variations work well to isolate this muscle group.

Straight Arm Pulldowns

Straight arm pulldowns prevent the arms from taking over in this lat exercise. I typically emphasize a slight forward lean to make sure the shoulder is worked through the full range of motion. Like band assisted pull-ups the problem with this exercise is that the resistance is not equal throughout the full motion so I prefer these with a cable column if you have access but bands work fine if you do not.


Wide Grip Pulldowns

With wide grip pulldowns I typically cue the athlete to think of pulling their elbow to their hip. This simple thought helps the athlete work the lats a bit more than their arms and does a better job developing back strength.


Ready to Go? 

These 3 steps should lay a solid foundation for you to begin making faster progress towards your first unassisted pull-up. If you want a complete program that has helped hundreds finally get over the bar check out our First Pull-Up Program.