Pull ups for Beginners

Band assisted pull ups for beginners

Here are some great ways to do pull ups for beginners.

(Then go watch the video of me being silly and doing  resistance band pull ups in 6 inch heels!)

Pull ups (along with their sister– push ups) are the quintessential body weight exercise. Not only will pull ups give you an awesome looking back and strong shapely arms, they are essential for shoulder health. Over head pulling is not a movement that most of us do in our daily lives and we end up limiting our shoulder range of motion and start getting….shoulder pain!

Pulling is an oft neglected part of people’s workout plans. Lots of us are doing push ups and bench presses, but when you overdevelop the pushing muscles at the expense of the pulling muscles you are in for some serious trouble! Like possible major SHOULDER SURGERY! Don’t let it happen to you.

Plus, you feel really cool when you can bust out 5 pull ups like nuthin’. I think everyone needs to include them in their workout program, regardless of whether your goal is fat loss, muscle gain, increased strength, or health.

Before you start with pull ups for beginners, you’ll want to progressively strengthen the shoulders with some basic rowing exercises.

Bent over rows/kettlebell rows

Rows can be done with barbell, dumbbell, or kettlebell. You bend over at the waist, slight bend in the knees. Holding the weight with arm extended toward the floor, pull the weight back toward your hip (like starting a lawn mower). You are NOT shrugging the shoulders, you are pulling with the middle of your back, right in between your shoulder blades.

You can hold onto a bench or chair with your non-working hand to steady yourself.

Inverted rows

For inverted rows, you will need a very heavy table that won’t move when you pull on it, or a TRX or Jungle Gym suspension trainer, or a set of rings. If you have gym access then you can use a power rack with a bar. With your legs extended under the bar, you pull your body toward the bar as one unit. The higher you set the bar and the more vertical you are the easier this will be. The lower you are and the more horizontal you are the harder it will be. When you can do at least 5 reps nearly horizontal, it’s time to move on to hanging from the bar.

Pull Ups for Beginners: Ways to Work up to Your Very First Pull Up

First, find some sort of bar or ledge you can hang from. I’ll be honest with you, it is easier to have a bar you can wrap your hands around, but if all you have is a door ledge that’ll work. Playgrounds are great places to do your pull up practice. I have done many of my pull ups at  local playgrounds on the monkey bars. (Don’t worry about the kids or their parents giving you funny looks–you will be stronger than they are). You can also get some decent door way pull up bars that work great, or of course, go to the gym.

Hang for time below the bar. Keep your shoulders pulled into their sockets. In other words, keep your shoulders down away from your neck. Keep your abs ready for a punch and your spine aligned. Work up to 30 seconds.

Hang for time above the bar. Jump up and hold yourself with your chin above the bar. Progress to 30 seconds.

Eccentric pull ups. Start at the top and slooowwly lower yourself down. Start every rep at the top of the bar.

Band-assisted pull ups for beginners
Whoever invented resistance bands– I love you! Resistance bands are useful for so many things and assisted pull ups are a great use for them. Start with the thickest/strongest band you have and loop it over your bar and snug it up. Place one knee in the loop and do your pull ups. As you get stronger, keep moving to a thinner/lighter resistance band.

Half Pull ups
Start with your elbows bent instead of straight and pull from the middle of your range of motion to the top with chin over the bar. You can also work the other half of your range of motion, going from straight arms at the bottom, to half way up.

Just do it!  Once you’ve been doing half pull ups for awhile or using the lightest resistance band, you’re going to have to make the jump to full pull up. Even if you can’t quite get your chin over the bar, making the effort will yield you results. Keep it up!

Keep it in mind that this whole process may take you a good year or more, depending on where you are at strength-wise. It also helps if you don’t have a lot of extra weight to pull. The stronger your upper body is in relation to your total body weight the easier it will be.

Want to see how to include pull ups into a body weight circuit training workout? Click HERE.

Now pick a pull up variation and GO DO IT!

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