Get your first pull up: Kent Campbell

One of the most common things I get when working with a new client is that they have the goal of getting their first pull-up. And rightly so, as the pull-up is one of the best exercises out there, as it works pretty much every back muscle as well as the core and the grip.

So how do we attack this exercise for those who have never been able to do one?

The first step is being able to hang onto the bar. Even if it is only for 10 seconds. So, one of the first exercises we will do is 10-second hangs with active shoulders (shoulder blades retracted) until we are able to hold between 30-45 seconds nonstop.

Another exercise we pair with this movement is inverted rows. When learning the pull-up, I prefer doing these with a barbell instead of TRX or rings as we want this to be as similar to pulling up to a bar as possible. So we are using the same grip as our hang from the pull-up bar and we want to progressively work on doing inverted rows with our body as close to parallel to the ground as possible. This will help build pulling strength.

Then, our third exercise will be eccentric pull-ups, which is where we will jump to the top of the pull-up, and lower ourselves on the eccentric (negative) for about 3-5 seconds depending on the level of strength.

Since most people will not have the capacity for pull-ups just yet, we keep the number of reps small to focus on quality over quantity. Once we have built up a decent level of strength in the hang and with pulling, we will start to add in banded pull-ups. One of the main things we want to watch for with the band is to pause at the bottom of each rep so we are not getting the slingshot effect to help propel us up to the bar. We want the muscles doing all the work here.

As we get stronger in this movement, we gradually move to a smaller band, thus allowing us to pull more of our body weight until we are finally able to get that elusive pull-up!

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