Master The Pull-Up

Learn the basic & unconventional styles

Master The Pull-Up
Pull-ups are an incredible exercise to train your upper body, develop great looking lean muscle and get a nice tapered look through your upper back. A lot of women struggle with pull-ups, and as a result, they tend to stick to rows, lat pull downs and other upper back work. While these exercises are good, they won’t give you the incredible strength and muscle shaping results that the pull-up does.


So, how do you master the pull-up? The best way to develop the strength needed in your lats, rhomboids and grip is to do negative pull-ups:

Stand on a bench or a box, grab the bar and jump up to where you would be in the top position of a pull-up. Then, slowly (4-5 seconds) lower yourself down to the starting point. Repeat this for 4-5 repetitions. Perform 3-5 sets, depending on what other exercises you have planned for the day.

Work on the negatives twice a week for at least three weeks and assess your progress. Some women will be ready to attempt a pull-up, some will need a few more weeks. Once you feel strong and ready, here is the set up:

Grab the bar, and let your body hang with your toes slightly touching the floor or a box. Engage your lats by squeezing your shoulder blades down and back. Drive your elbows down toward your ribcage, and squeeze your lats as you pull up. When you get to the top, touch your chest to the bar and slowly lower down. Repeat, if possible. If you can only get one, rest 30 seconds and try for another.

Continue to build up your strength by doing one day of negatives and one day of split repetitions (1-2 at a time until you get 5-8 repetitions).


Once your pull-ups are a constant in your training routine, it’s time to spice it up. Below are four unconventional pull-up styles that you can mix into your training. You can use a different grip each time you train, or complete one set of each style during a training session.

[vid file=”/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/callie-pullups-march2013.mp4″ image=”/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/SPICE-UP-YOUR-PULLUPS.jpg” width=”640″ height=”360″]

Reverse Grip Chin-Ups. This one is a bit easier than a traditional wider grip pull-up, because you will get more recruitment from the biceps. Also, the angle makes it easier to get your chest to the bar.

Ring/Handle Pull-Ups. This exercise allows for more mobility through the shoulders, and it’s not as strict as pulling up over a fixed bar. You can adjust the handles to a comfortable position for your own body. It is also very comfortable for the wrists and rotator cuff.

Parallel Bar Pull-Ups. If you have access to a parallel bar set up, as I show in the video, give it a try. It feels very comfortable on the shoulders and allows for great lat recruitment as you pull your head through the bars.

Rope Pull-Ups.
This is the most challenging of the bunch, because your grip is extremely taxed in this movement. You can get a great range of motion and excellent lat engagement at the top of the movement, but it requires a great deal of strength to overcome the difference in the grip and handle. You will likely do fewer repetitions with this variation.

Give these pull up variations a try. These pull-up options will help keep your training sessions fresh, and give you a new challenge each week. Each week, challenge yourself to complete 1-2 more total repetitions than you did the week before.

No time to make it to the gym? You can do pull-ups at home. Fitness-Mad features several different styles of pull-up bars. Now you can do pull-ups, anywhere and anytime you like.

Callie Durbrow

Callie Durbrow is the owner of Durbrow Performance Training and the author of Strong and Sexy in 25 Minutes.

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