Pull-Up Workout For Beginners: 4 Exercises You Need to Know

5 min readNov 12, 2021


By Soji James, CPT, CSCS

Pull-ups Are a Great Way to Change Your Body Composition. (Image Source: Shutterstock)

Pull-ups are a great way to change your body composition. Are you looking to turn heads in a strapless dress or a tank top? Some hard work and proper pull-up training can help you build the strong, defined back and shoulders that others can only dream of. Okay. Obviously, this all sounds good, but thinking and doing are two completely different things. .If you’re struggling with getting your pull-up workout started, then you can take some pointers below.

No Such Thing as I Can’t do a Pull-Up Workout

The first thing I’m going to need you to do is to eliminate “can’t” from your vocabulary. I refuse to let you get in the way of your own success with self-limiting beliefs. Even beginner fitness goals should include some basic challenges. So, yes; performing a pull-up can be difficult, but when training for them both regularly and the right way, they aren’t impossible. The movement itself looks simple, but it is fairly complex and a true example of the strength we possess when we can get our body to work as one unit. In addition to reaching your desired physique, I can not think of many goals cooler than getting very strong and breaking through your limitations.

I Did 100 Pull-Ups Every Day For 30 Days

When it comes to performing a pull-up, total body tension is key. With more pull-up muscles worked and engaged, there are fewer energy leaks, and movement is more efficient. Some common mistakes I see are lack of lat engagement at the start of the pull, lack of strength & full-body tension during the pull, and finally lack of drive at the finish. This won’t be easy and it will take time, but the feeling of knocking out your first one is amazing. Here are 4 exercises to get you closer to completing your first pull-up.

I Did 100 Pull-Ups Every Day For 30 Days — BuzzFeedVideo

How to Nail Your First Pull Up Workout

1. Hang Around

Before we can get you crushing your first pull-up, you need to be comfortable hanging from the bar. This will help you enhance your grip and forearm strength, while also being beneficial for your shoulder integrity. Start out with a passive hang (shoulders fully relaxed) and then eventually build up to active hangs. In this position, work on engaging the lats and packing your shoulders into your sockets, while maintaining total body tension (squeeze your glutes, abs, quads, pump up your biceps, etc). Remember: the tighter the body, the easier the movement. Build up to being able to hold these positions for 3 sets of 30 seconds.

2. Inverted Rows

Your row strength will correlate to your success with pull-up workouts. While I definitely recommend throwing movements into your programs like DB single arm rows and barbell rows, I’m a big fan of using suspension trainers to build up your horizontal pulling prowess. This exercise can do a great job of building up the upper back muscles like the rear delts, scapular retractors, and shoulder external rotators in an easily adjustable/non-intimidating manner. Start slow, but then build up to being able to do strict rows utilizing almost all of your body weight. Build up to being able to do 10 rows with your body straight and your feet elevated. I highly recommend the TRX training system if you don’t already have one:

TRX ALL-IN-ONE Suspension Training Available on Amazon
TRX Suspension TrainingPhoto Credit: landerbodyworks

3. Negatives

When you can’t complete a pull-up, performing negatives or focusing on the eccentric (descending) portion of the pull-up is a great way to build strength. These are tough, and will definitely leave you sore — but it will all be worth it. Negatives begin with the elbows flexed at the top of the movement and progress to a slow, strict and controlled descent all the way to the bottom. Build up to being able to do 3 sets of 3–5 reps with a 5 second eccentric.

4. Assisted Pull-ups

It never hurts to have a helping hand! I have seen tremendous pull-up results utilizing resistance bands with my clients. The thing with these is that you just need to be strategic with how you use them. You don’t want to become fully dependent on them, and you want to develop strength in the toughest part of the movement (the initial pull from the bottom). I utilize a combination of resistance banded and jump pull-ups with an eccentric focus. I think the two in tandem allow for proper technique work. They’re a great addition to your pull-up workout, increasing the volume of practice, and strength building throughout the movement. I don’t think you could go wrong with the bands from wodfitters ($10.99–109.00 for various sizes and combination packs):

WODFitters colorful resistance bands Available on Amazon

Challenge Exercises to Improve Grip Strength

If you liked this set of exercises and want to challenge yourself, then give the Garage Fit Steel Mace a swing. It’s an unconventional — yet fun way to improve your grip strength, and the benefits will help you do more pull-ups, too!

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