Almost everyone who trains in any sport or just for the fun of it, knows how valuable pull ups are. They build the back, improve shoulder health and mobility, decompress the spine, strengthen your abs and will even give you stronger hands and arms. And on top of all that, pull ups are just awesome and are a sign of a serious trainee. However, what if you cannot do even one pull up? Fear not, because the journey to your first pull up may be shorter than you think. Read on to find out how.

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There are basically 3 reasons why you can’t do a pull up-

  1. You are fat
    While even obese people and super heavyweights can do pull ups, it is definitely harder to do them if you are fat. Not much to say here except lose some weight. Check out any of the dieting articles on this site, and the fatloss programs and get started.
  2. You are harboring an injury
    If your shoulders are not mobile or if there is an issue with the structure of the joint, the body will pull the breaks on your strength and prevent you from performing a pull up. While the issues are complex, the solutions are typically not so bad. Perform shoulder dislocates before and after each workout and do 3-5 sets of dumbbell external rotations every week. Also practice hanging from the pull up bar after workouts to let the body get used to the position, and continue with the training program for a pull up below. The biggest issue here is figuring out if you have a problem. The easiest way to know is to try to do an overhead shoulder stretch. If it hurts when you come down, you have a problem.

    Shoulder Dislocates- Source
  3. You are too weak
    This is the most common reason. Even if 1 and 2 apply to you, getting stronger will get you to a pull up. So here is a simple routine that will get most people to their first pull up in 10-12 weeks. For women it takes 16 weeks or so with the same routine.

The Routine

You will train the pull up 3 non consecutive days a week. Simply put, day 1 is heavy, day 2 is medium and day 3 is light. Add reps and weight as described in the workouts and you will be there in no time. For now use any grip that is comfortable and makes you feel strong.

Never use the chin up assist machine. When you need partner assistance, get the person to stand behind you and grab you by the waist and push up like a shoulder press. In this position it is difficult for the partner to over assist and it does not interfere with the technique. Another way to get assistance is to hold a resistance band with both arms while grabbing the bar and put your feet on it to get a boost. This is however less effective.

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Day 1

Pull Up Negatives- 8 sets of 2 reps, 60s rest between sets. The key here is to try to drag out the descent for as long as possible, without pausing. If you cannot even control the descent right now, get partner assistance or use a resistance band.

Bodyweight Rows (hip Level)- 50 reps in 5 mins.

Sets are up to you. If you cannot do 6 reps comfortably, use a height that is a bit higher and switch to hip level after a few weeks.

Dumbbell Hammer Curls- 5 sets of 10 90s rest. Just use a weight that challenges you by the last set.

Day 2

Dead Hangs- Total 120s

Simply hang from a bar for as long as possible. You have to total 120 seconds.

Dumbbell Chest Supported Rows- 5 sets of 10 as heavy as possible on each set. 90s rest.

Barbell Curls- 3 sets of 12, 60s rest. Just use a weight that challenges you by the last set.

Day 3

Assisted Pull Up- Use either partner assistance or rubber bands. Total 10 reps in 5 mins.

Lat Pull Downs- 5 sets of 10 with 90s rest, as heavy as possible.

Rear Delt Machine/ Flys- 3 sets of 15 as heavy as possible.


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