For most of us, getting our first pull-up is sort of like climbing Mt. Everest. It takes months—even years—of training and preparation to finally get the chin to find its way over that damn bar.
But when you get to the top of that mountain, when you eventually get your first pull-up, you realize that all the hard work was worth it. Elation rushes over you like waves crashing upon the shore.
We’re sure you’ve had this experience many times in your life, where the work you put in proves to be enough to give you the exact result you hoped for. Is there a better feeling in the world? Hardly.
We can help you get that feeling. We can help you get your first pull-up. And then some! You just need to know what to do.
To make your life easier, we created a program to help you get your first pull-up. It’s structured and progressive, and it takes the pressure off of you to create a training plan from scratch.
But for those of you who want to create your own plan, we’ve compiled a list of five perfect exercises to help you get your first pull-up.
These five exercises are targeted to help you get your chin over the bar. Perform these exercises with consistency, and you’ll get your first pull-up before you know it.
- Active Hang
- Scapular Pull-ups
- Jumping Pull-ups
- Chin-Over-Bar Hangs
Let’s dig in!
Five Exercises to Get Your First-Ever Pull-up
Why: To achieve your first pull-up, you need to work on grip strength and lat strength. In the Active Hang, you’ll work both, and you’ll do it isometrically. This is a safe way to build up the requisite grip and lat strength needed to get your chin over the bar.
Prescription: Aim for 5-7 Active Hangs with a hold of at least 10 seconds. As you progress, go for “max holds” where you see how long you can stay in the Active Hang position.
Why: Many folks are missing the strength needed in the initial pull of the pull-up. Scapular Pull-ups build the strength needed to overcome weak lats in the first pull. If you want to get your first pull-up, you can’t ignore the importance of lat strength.
Prescription: Perform 3-5 sets of 5-7 reps. Rest enough in between sets so that you feel fresh each time you approach the bar.
Why: Negatives are incredibly potent. In fact, in Jocko Willink’s bestselling book The Way of the Warrior Kid, the way that Uncle Jake gets his 10 year-old nephew, Marc, into shape is through the use of negatives. And for good reason! Negatives are an important part of the equation if you want to get your first pull-up. (And if Jocko says do negatives, you do negatives!)
Prescription: NOT TOO MANY! Negatives work on the eccentric portion of the movement, and will make you dangerously sore if done in excess. Aim for 3-5 sets of 4-6 reps.
Why: It’s important to practice the full pull-up movement. The Jumping Pull-up is a way to practice full range of motion pull-ups, even if you don’t have the strength (yet!) to perform an unassisted pull-up on your own. In a Jumping Pull-up, the strength requirements in the first pull are dramatically reduced—you use the jump for assistance.
Prescription: Perform 3-5 sets of 5-7 reps. As you progress, lessen your reliance on your lower-body.
Why: Want to get your first pull-up? You need strong biceps and solid grip strength. And Chin-Over-Bar Hangs deliver. During this isometric hold, you’ll build the upper-body strength you need to perform your first-ever pull-up.
Prescription: Aim for 5-7 Chin-Over-Bar Hangs with a hold of at least 10 seconds. As you progress, go for “max holds” where you see how long you can stay in the Chin-Over-Bar Hang position.