“Not much impresses me more in the gym than watching a female knock out a few perfect chest-to-bar pull-ups.” – Andrew Read

If you’re comfortable with chin-ups (palms facing you), the next advancement is the pull-up (palms face away from you). The pull-up is more difficult to perform but is one of the ultimate strength exercises.

Why do pull-ups?

• Toned shoulders and arms. Although the pull-up is typically considered a back exercise, it also hits the rest of the upper body muscles
• Tones the core. When performing pull-ups (like other bodyweight exercises), you have to keep your core tight.
• Creates a tiny waist. Pull-ups help create that upper body v-taper, which gives the appearance of a smaller waist.
• Strengthens the back. This exercise will help add lean muscle and create nice back definition.
• Improves posture. The byproduct of increasing the strength of the back and core.
• Increases confidence. Repping out a set of pull-ups in the gym is empowering.

In my own training, I became interested in advancing to a pull-up just over three years ago. I experimented with different exercises and machines to help me get to where I could do a pull-up, and I have four exercises that I think worked best. This is the routine I still use a couple days a week to keep improving.

Graduate from the Chin-up to a Pull-up Workout Series

1. Pull-up

Simple, but practicing the exercise is the best way to engage the muscles you will need to perform it.

• If you cannot do a pull-up, start by doing a few reps of going as far as you can (it might not even be halfway) and soon you’ll start to be able to pull further and further up.
• If you can do pull-ups (even if it’s just one), start this series by doing two to three sets of as many as you can get.

2. Opposite grip pull-ups

One hand is in the pull-up position (palm away) and the other hand is in the chin-up position (palm toward you).

• Do one set as many reps as you can. Then flip your grip and get the same number in the second set. Repeat both sets.
• If you cannot do these, skip to the next exercise. You will be able to soon!

3. Negatives

Jump up to the top of the pull-up position and lower as slowly as you can. (I try to count to 10)

• Do these for one minute. After you finish one, just jump up for the next one. Try to do as few reps as possible.

4. One-arm pull-ups on the pull-up assist

This is an exercise that isolates one half of your back at a time.

• Start with your non-dominant arm and do 10-15 reps. Then match it with your other arm.
• Do two to three sets for each arm.

“Whether you think you can or can’t, you’re right.” –Henry Ford

The most important thing is to believe that you can do pull-ups. Once you get to where you can do a full rep, the next reps come along much easier. Good luck!

Photos by Jodie Stockdale, the coolest Australian fit chick I know. Anti-Cellulite pants are by Delfin Spa.