Pull Up Exercises
That You Can Do

Pull up exercises are hard, let's not beat around the bush. But there are ways to build up to your first pull up and continue to improve from there. These videos and instructions show you how, whilst using the correct technique to stay injury free.

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If you're thinking about skipping pull ups because they're hard, you'll be missing out on a great exercise that strengthens your arms, shoulders and back. Added to that, you'll also miss the fat burning qualities of strong Latissimus Dorsi muscles.

The Latissimus Dorsi (lats) are large muscles in your back. This large muscle mass means that when strengthened, your resting metabolism is significantly raised. That in turn leads to faster fat burning.

If you haven't done any pull up exercises for a long time (or at all), chances are that you'll have to build some basic relevant strength up to get going.

If you think about it, lifting your own bodyweight isn't a natural starting point. All exercises have progression, start light and focus on technique, then progress from there.

When it comes to pull up exercises, people tend to think it'll be fine to get on the bar and smash out a set of 10. It doesn't work like that.

Below we'll go through the technique of a full pull up (and how it can be easily varied to target different muscle groups), and then we'll take a look at some of the best progression pull up exercises that lead to full pull ups.

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Pull Up Exercises - The Full Pull Up

Start by testing yourself to see how many pull ups you can do, if any at all. Make sure you've warmed up before-hand.

  1. Standing under the bar, jump up and grip it with an overhand (palms facing forward) grip.
  2. Your hands should be a little wider than shoulder width apart. Your fingers should be doing the gripping, not your palms.
  3. Hang with straight arms, keeping your body braced. Bend your knees back and cross your ankles for greater balance.
  4. Looking at the bar, drive your elbows down, pulling your chest towards the bar in a smooth movement.
  5. Once your chin is above the bar, hold for 1 second then lower back down in a smooth and controlled motion.
  6. Repeat until you can't do any more (for the test) or until you complete your reps. If you know how many reps you want to do, you might find it easier counting down rather than up.


  • Inhale on the way down or at the bottom of the pull up. Exhale whilst pulling up or at the top.
  • Keep your core muscles braced throughout, this will take some pressure off your shoulders.
  • Keep your shoulders back and down, drive your chest up.
  • Proper form doesn't allow for cheating with momentum. Keep your legs and lower body as still as possible.
  • Change your grip to work different muscles. A wider grip works your Lats more. The underhand (palms facing backward) grip (aka chin up) works your biceps more.

Pull Up Exercises - Progression Exercises

These pull up exercises focus on making a full pull up achievable by strengthening the muscles used in pull ups.

Assisted Pull Ups

You can use a chair to provide assistance during the pull up. Place it under the bar and rest one foot on it. As you pull up, use your foot on the chair to assist only as much as you need.

Alternatively, you could get someone to help (a spotter). They can push you up whilst you pull up, by grabbing either your hips or ankles. They should only be lifting a small proportion of your weight.

Lowering Pull Ups - "Negatives"

Negatives are where you do the lowering portion of an exercise with a weight heavier than what you can lift. So in this case, that's your bodyweight. It's actually a really good way of strengthening the relevant muscles.

Get back on that chair (or stool, or bench, or box...) and step up to the highest position of the pull up (chin above the bar). Remove the chair and hold yourself in that position for 2 seconds. Then very slowly lower yourself down to the pull up starting position. Repeat 5 times. Progress by taking longer to lower yourself down.

If the negatives are too hard, then just hold yourself at the top position for 5 seconds and use the chair to step off. Progress by holding for longer, then go into the negatives from there.


This is basically doing half a pull up. Use a stool or lower the bar so that your starting position is with bent elbows (as opposed to straight elbows with a full pull up).

Do your pull ups like this at first, progress by gradually straightening your elbows at the starting point, until eventually you're doing full pull ups.

Chin Ups

Chin ups are generally easier to do than pull ups. The mechanics of your arm position (underhand grip) makes it easier to lift yourself.

Try doing a mix of chin ups and assisted pull ups. The aim is to work your body as hard as possible, slightly beyond the limits of what you can lift. That way you'll gain the strength needed to complete full pull ups and progress from there.

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Avoid Injury SideNote

Don't exercise to fatigue too often. It's easy to do with pull up exercises, but it will lead to injury if done too much. Your technique is likely to be poor in the last few reps before fatigue, and there's a danger of straining a muscle.

You want to push yourself slightly beyond your limits, that overload is what strengthens your muscles. Do this with reps and sets of the above pull up exercises, with rests in-between.

Try to only go to fatigue when you are testing your maximum in any exercise that involves lifting weight.


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Pull Up Exercises - Videos

Enjoy these pull up exercises! Check out the following quality videos for more pull up exercise technique tips:

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