How to Nail your First Bodyweight Pull-up

"Pull up your own bodyweight"... they said.

"It will be easy"... they said.

If you're reading this, you and I both know this is FAR from an easy task. It probably even seems dang near impossible.

Instead of throwing in the towel and thinking your upper body strength just sucks and always will, hear me out.

I used to think that too, before I tried to actually take a sensible approach.

The first time I hung from the pull-up bars and could barely lift myself an inch before dropping back to the floor, I wanted to give up.

But guess what, I didn't.

I want to show you how to work into the pull-up with ease and feel stronger than ever.

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5 Reasons why you NEED to nail your pull-up

Well, I guess it's not an absolute NEED. But I strongly insist you to go for it. Let me tell you why.

When I got my first pull-up after MONTHS of working at it, it wasn't just an "OK let's move on" type of thing.

I felt so empowered, and more confident than ever.  Achieving this one (seemingly minor) thing fueled my motivation to work towards achieving other physical tasks.

It showed me that hard work does pay off and that you can literally train your body to do anything you want.

There are a few outstanding reasons why the pull-up is queen of all exercises, in my book:

  1. Pull-ups make you super strong (hello, you're lifting your whole body up)

  2. Pull-ups are a compound exercise (works multiple muscles all at once)

  3. Pull-ups empower you (hard work + accomplishment = empowerment)

  4. Pull-ups are the ultimate exercise to do anywhere

  5. Pull-ups give you the courage to rock that tank top ;)

I think every woman in the world should be able to have the feeling of being able to lift her own body weight up off the ground.

So, you in?

Equipment needed for pull-up mastery

You don't need much and can choose whatever is accessible to you.

Option 1: Pull-up bar and bands (2-3 different levels). I like these.

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Option 2: Assisted Pull-up machine

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Choose the one that you have regular access to, or go between the two method if you'd like.

Pull-up form

I personally like a parallel (or neutral grip) with hands facing one another, but others like a wide grip. Mix it up to find what you like and what comes natural! There is no wrong way.

Band users - I recommend standing on a bench or box so you can get your knee or foot (depends on band length) inside the band.

As you begin to pull up, exhale out at the same time, while drawing your elbows down and shoulder blades together.

Slowly lower yourself, while bringing those arms back to full extension.

Aim for 1-2 counts up, 3-4 counts down.

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If you love bodyweight training, you'll love my free, 3 day bodyweight workout program.

Pull-up protocol

Alright, it's time to do this thing!

Whether you're using the machine or bands, you'll follow a similar protocol. Follow my step-by-step instructions here or skip down to the video :)

Ideally, you'll want to practice your pull-ups 1-2x per week for 10-15 minutes at a time.

Starting Strong

Start with a resistance level that you can do 10-12 reps with, without rest. This will depend on your current strength and body weight, and may take a little trial and error to get it right.

Complete 3-4 sets of 10-12 reps until it feels easy at this level of resistance. This builds endurance and gets your muscles acclimated to the movement.

Mid-Way Progressions

Once those sets of 10-12 reps get easier (after a couple sessions) decrease your assistance. Maybe you take a little weight off the machine or grab a lighter band.

Any time you increase intensity (AKA difficulty) like a lighter band or removing assistance, you want to simultaneously decrease volume (the # reps you're doing).

When you decrease assistance, practice 4 sets of 6-8 repetitions, rather than 3 sets of 10-12 reps.

Stay at this resistance level until it starts to feel easier. At that point, begin to increase your volume.

When you can get 3-4 sets of 10-12 reps again, it's time to increase intensity.

Finishing Touches

After a few months of following this pattern you'll be super close! It doesn't hurt to try a few unassisted pull-ups when you feel confident.

Practice them at least once per week to maintain your amazing pull-up gains!

I recommend continuing to practice both assisted and unassisted pull-ups to so you're working on both endurance and strength.

Pin the 10-week plan below to remember these progressions!

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Keep Moving XX,

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P.S.S. If you're into getting stronger, I've got some free resources you may want to check out.