How to do a Pull Up When You Can Not Do a Pull Up

Pull-ups are one of the best exercises that you can do, but so many people don’t do them because they can’t do them.  Is Yogi Berra in the hiz-ouse? In this article we are going to explain how to benefits-of-pullupsdo pull ups for beginners, and how to do pull ups properly.

Nevertheless, here’s a strategy that will help you do that first, key pull up. And once you can do one pull up you’ll be amazed at the progress that you will make…

The pull up is one of the top-5 exercises and everyone should strive to do them.  Pull-ups can be used to determine, and are an indicator of, a persons’ physical fitness level, as the service academies expect that all applicants be able to perform 8 pull-ups.

The problem is that because some people have a problem doing them, they don’t do them and don’t even try.  Pull-ups are hard and a lot of people who can’t do one – even if they want to be able to do them – don’t know how to go about developing their strength and technique.

First, let’s get some terminology straight.  A pull up is done when you grip the bar with a “palms away” grip and chin-ups are done with a “palms facing” grip.  Chins are a bit easier becausethis grip allows for more biceps involvement.  For the sake of this discussion, I will refer to pull ups.  However, you can apply this fitness tip to either variation.  Work on the pull up; they’re harder and ultimately do more for you.

If you can’t do one pull up there are two very effective variations to use; the flexed arm hang and negative pull-ups.

For the flexed arm hang boost yourself up – either have a friend spot you or step upon a bench – so that your chin is above the bar.  Once in this position, pull the elbows down and slightly back, keep your chest up and tighten your lats before you take your feet off the bench. The idea here is to hold yourself in this “chin over the bar” position for as long as possible.  At first shoot for a 15 second hold and take a 2-minute rest before your next hold.  Four sets of holds is a good place to start.  Add time as your strength increases.

When you are hanging, bend your knees so that your feet are behind you and your torso and thighs form a straight line.  Don’t lift your knees up in front as this will develop a bad habit that will retard your progress.  Work to minimize or eliminate the body from swinging as this wastes precious strength.

Negative pull-ups will help develop the strength necessary to perform pull-ups.  Get into the “chin over the bar” position but instead of staying in the flexed arm position, you will lower yourself down to the “dead hang” position.  Try to lower your body on a 5-count and don’t just drop and flop.  There will be a point just before the dead hang position where there’s the urge to relax, but continue to exert control.

Use the same initial position and form doing the negative pull up that’s used in the flexed arm hang.  Lock in with your lats, bend your knees and keep your feet behind you.  Maintain control as you start your decent and keep your lats tight.  If you have a spotter they can help steady you before the drop.

The goal should be to do four single 5-count negative pull-ups with 2-minutes rest in between each.  As you progress – and as your confidence grows – add reps to the routine.

There’s no hard and fast rule as to when you’ll be able to crank out your first pull-up, as the mental component of getting to this point is huge.  You have to be able to make a complete, 100% effort, from both the mental and physical standpoints, to perform a pull-up. Employ both of these strategies in the effort to be able to perform that first, elusive pull-up.

Don’t get psyched out by the pull-up. Be patient and make use of this approach and you will be able to do pull-ups, and improve your level of physical fitness and health – before you know it.

Here are some additional resources to help you get started:

7 Tips to get you started with pull ups

The Best Upper-Body Exercises When You Can’t Do a Pull-Up (Yet!)


Women and Pull Ups: 3 Secrets for Success You’ve Probably Never Tried



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