Pull Ups are a quite an intimidating exercise, and being able to perform them tells yourself and the world that you are in great shape. Can’t do one single pull up? Well, don’t despair. Here are a few exercises that will help strengthen your back, biceps and forearms and help you achieve that elusive pull up.
Start Your First Pull Up
1. Bent Over Rows
Bent over rows, whether performed with dumbbells or bars, target you latissimus dorsi muscles, therefore, they enhance you back strength. Do this exercise for 3 sets of 8 repetitions with a progressive load every other day. Once you are able to complete your sets with at least 10kg per dumbbell or 20kg per bar, move on to the next exercise.
2. Body Weight Rows
What is great about these rows is that you can perform themboth at the gym or in the park (or in your back yard), all you need is a bar. 3 times a week should suffice to build strength for a pull up. Start with the bar high, so you only have to lean back slightly, then progressively lower until you reach a 45 degree angle. When you are able to complete 3 sets of 8 reps at this level, you are ready to move on to the next exercise.
3. Assisted Pull Ups
There are 4 ways you can do assisted pull ups: using a chair, an exercise band, with the help of a partner or using the assisted pull up machine at the gym. You might need more help at first, but by progressively doing 2 sets of 8 reps 2 times a week and 1 set body weight rows, you will require less and less assistance until it is time to try your first pull up. But before we get to that, let’s see an alternative to the assisted pull ups.
4. Negative Pull Ups
If you don’t have any assistance, be it human or mechanical, try the negative pull ups. Get above the bar and lower yourself down at a controlled pace. Try counting to 3, you don’t need to exert yourself and turn your first rep into the last one so don’t go down too slowly. Keep doing negative pull ups until your arm and back strength increases, then set your eyes upon that mighty pull up.
5. Combined Effort
After going through all of these exercises, make a 3 day weekly plan that includes assisted pull-ups, bodyweight rows and negative pull ups. 3 sets of 8 repetitions are enough for the first two exercises, while the negative pull ups should be done in 3 sets to failure. Once you reach 3 sets of 5 repetitions, you are ready to try your first real pull up.
Depending on your weight, level of strength and fitness, you might be able to start with more than one pull up, or maybe you would prefer to do some chin ups before moving on to pull ups. Either version is perfectly fine. Just make sure to keep proper form and keep working on your strength. Who knows? Maybe one day you are going to be one of those people that manage to lift themselves up with a huge chain wrapped around their waist.