How to train to do a pull up: Personal Trainer near Old Market Square Nottingham

Pull ups are by far one of the hardest exercises. You are lifting your whole bodyweight and not only that, you need a lot of muscles to work together effectively, otherwise the movement will become even harder. In this Blog we will look at how to do a Pull Up, as well as some accessory exercises that will help you achieve one.

What muscles are used during a pull up?

So, what are the prime muscle movers during a Pull Up? The muscles used most heavily in a Pull Up are the lats, bicep, core and mid-lower traps. So ultimately, if we can strengthen these areas then a Pull Up will be a lot easier.

Improving grip strength will also be beneficial. When doing a Pull Up the grip width we decide to use is going to be crucial. For example, the wider the grip, the harder the movement. So, for your first pull up we recommend using a neutral grip.

During this blog you will see that it is broken down into two main sections. This is an exercise difficulty level. I would recommend everyone to start at Section One, however if you are currently able to perform 1-3 Pull Ups and wish to be able to do more, then starting at step two may be more beneficial for you.

Section one – Exercise to strengthen your prime movers

In this next part of the blog we will talk about the best exercises that will help strengthen those prime movers.

Inverted Row

The first exercise we will do to help improve Pull Up strength will be an inverted row. This exercise will help strengthen all those areas we mentioned previously. Here is our step-by-step guide on how to do an inverted row.

  1. Start by hanging from a bar shoulder width apart with your legs extended straight out in front
  2. Pull your chest towards the bar by squeezing your back and shoulder blades together.
  3. Hold at the top for 1 second and slowly lower down

Tip 1 – Focus on squeezing your shoulders back and down on this movement.

Tip 2 – To simply make this exercise harder, lower the bar or have your feet on a raised surface so that your body becomes more horizontal.

Kneeling Cable Pull Down

The next exercise variation we want to do in order to improve our pull up is a Kneeling Cable Pull Down. The reason a Kneeling version is superior to the traditional seated pull down is because the kneeling engages the core to a higher level and like we mentioned earlier, core strength is a limiting factor on why so many people can’t do a pull up.

  1. Start kneeling just in front of the cable with your hips stacked directly over your knees
  2. Pull the cable attachment (recommend a neutral/close grip) vertically down till it reaches your chest
  3. Hold at the bottom for 1 second and release slowly back up

Tip – When the arms are extended out above, try to initiate the movement by pulling your shoulders down towards your trouser pockets.

Grip Strength

The last exercise in this section is going to improve Grip Strength. Try holding a Dumbbell or Kettlebell etc as heavy as you can for 30-40secs. Perform this three times.

Our recommended structure to help you train to do a proper pull up:

Exercise Sets Reps
Inverted Row 3 8-10
Kneeling Cable Pull Down 3 10-12
Dumbbell Grip 3 30-40secs


Section 2 – How to utilise your bodyweight in order to train you to do a pull up

The next three exercises we will perform will utilise the most strength in order to help you train to do a pull up. These will help you to get stronger as you use your bodyweight.

Banded Pull Up

The first exercise will be a banded pull up. This exercise is the closest replica to a traditional pull up. This will also give you a good confidence boost.

  1. Tie a band around the top of your pull up bar
  2. From there, place your foot into the band
  3. Grab the bar in a neutral grip and allow the band to take your weight
  4. Pull yourself up from the bottom all the way until your chin comes over the bar

Remember with Banded Pull Ups to change the resistance of the band every so often in order for the exercise to keep challenging you.

Scapular Pull Up

The second exercise to help strengthen your pull up will be a Scapular Pull Up. These are a great exercise to help strengthen the lower traps as they help move and stabilise the Scapular. This exercise will also help grip strength.

  1. Hang on a bar (neutral grip)
  2. Let shoulders relax down into a dead hang
  3. Try to pull body up by pulling the shoulders down without bending the elbows
  4. Hold at the top for a second and then come back down slowly

This exercise has a very short range of motion so don’t be alarmed if you feel like you aren’t doing much! This exercise replicates the first portion of the Pull Up known as Scapular Depression (bringing the shoulder blades down).

Negative Pull Up

And the last exercise to help strengthen will be a Negative Pull Up. Negative Pull Ups are a great way at getting you stronger holding your own body weight.

  1. Start at the top of a pull up position (you can jump up or use a box to achieve this)
  2. From there slowly lower yourself all the way down into the bottom position/hang
  3. Bring yourself back up to the top position by means of jumping or using a box again and repeat
Exercise Sets Reps
Banded Pull Ups 4 8
Scapular Pull Ups 3 10
Negative Pull Ups 3 5

With both of these workout programs you don’t need to perform every exercise each session. What I would recommend is alternating each session between picking 1-2 of the exercises and performing those in order to help you train to do a pull up.

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