Conquering the Pull Up – a 4 Step Progression

I’ve got an awesome guest article for you today from my friend Callie Durbrow, who’s a fat loss expert and the owner of Durbrow Performance Training in Somerville, MA.

She’s got a amazing facility over on the east coast … she’s actually helping and giving me some ideas and advice as we plan out our new FVT training center here in Sacramento.

Callie has got an article for you today on the topic of coquering the pull up – and she breaks it down into a great four step progression.

Thanks –

– Forest


Conquering the Pull Up – a 4 Step Progression
By: Callie Durbrow, CSCS, author, Strong and Sexy in 25

Up until about 3 years ago I was struggling with Pull Ups. For a long time I just did them using assistance bands and sort of came to terms with the fact that I just wouldn’t be able to do more than one stand alone rep.

Then I started doing some research and saw a couple of my fitness colleagues rocking them for multiple reps. I made it my mission to start crushing Pull Ups and Chin Ups.

Now I’m rocking 8-10 reps for multiple sets and 3-4 reps with a weight belt for multiple sets.

Why are Pull Ups awesome?

— They are a bad ass exercise
— They sculpt your upper back and give you that V shape that men and women both love
— That sculpting effect makes your waist look smaller (bonus)
— They are a great fat burning exercise (they work a lot of muscles in the body which means more calorie burn)

Today I wanted to share a few progressions that both men and women can use to build up their Pull Up prowess.

1 – Perform Isometric Hangs

This may seem totally “unsexy” but this is one of the best ways to improve your grip strength and get your body comfortable being over the bar.

It also strengthens your biceps and lats to hold you in that top position, which is the toughest to achieve.

How it’s done:

— Jump up onto a pull up bar (make sure you’re not working to get up there, the work is done on the hold portion)
— Set your hands shoulder width with palms facing away from you
— Set your head above the bar and hold yourself in the top of the pull up position
— Hold for 5-10 seconds and then drop down
— Perform 3-5 reps and try to add 2-3 seconds every week

2 – Perform “Negatives”

This is another great drill to improve grip strength, body control and strengthen your lats, the major muscle needed for a great pull up.

How it’s done:

— Follow steps 1-3 from the previous exercise
— When you get to the top, instead of holding, you are going to lower your body down with a 5 second count until your arms are straight
— Jump back up (don’t use an extra energy on this part) and repeat for 4-5 reps
— Perform 2-3 sets of 4-5 reps using the 5 second count on each rep

3 – Use Band Assistance

I’m not a fan of the Assisted Machine that you see in a lot of gyms, or of a partner helping you because the resistance is not consistent.

Using a band under your knee or foot (I’ll explain more below) will help to reduce the amount of your own body weight that you’re lifting on each pull up.

Here’s how it’s done:

— Take a resistance band (you can get them from EliteFTS or Perform Better- the thicker the band, the more resistance so if you have a few bucks to spare, I recommend
getting a thick one, a medium one and a thin one to progress) and loop it over a pull up bar and slide it through so it makes a loop
— Put your foot or your knee in the loop
— If you put your foot in, straighten your leg and wrap your other leg around it to tighten your abs
— If you put your knee in, this gives you less overall resistance but is sometimes easier to get into if you don’t have a partner to pull it down for you
— Once you’re in the band, set your hands shoulder width on the bar and palms facing away from you
— Squeeze your shoulder blades together and visualize driving you elbows down to your rib cage as you come up over the bar
— Lower down slowly and repeat for 5-10 reps
— Complete 2-4 sets of 5-10 reps

4 – Add Resistance

For those of you that can perform multiple reps and need a challenge, add some resistance to your pull ups

Here’s how it’s done:

— If you have a weight belt, strap a dumbbell or kettlebell to the chain and perform your pull ups
— You can also use a thick resistance band a loop it through a weight plate or dumbbell for the same effect as above
— Other options- chains, weight vest

To wrap it up, the Pull Up is one of the best exercises to sculpt lean muscle, improve your athletic physique and burn fat over the long run. It’s intimidating and often hard to progress but now that you have some basics, give it a shot.

If you liked this post, you can find my full training program at the link below:

=> Strong and Sexy in 25 Minutes

– Callie Durbrow, CSCS
Owner, Durbrow Performance Training

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