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    Articles | first pull up

    3 Steps To Your First Pull Up

    By David (Jacko) Jackson

    We love teaching people to redefine their impossible. When you achieve that first ‘impossible’ it feels amazing… you feel invincible! It makes you think, “what else could I do that feels impossible”! For some of us that first impossible is your first pull up.

    We all start at different points on the calisthenics journey but one thing I can guarantee is, everyone starts their own journey at the start!

    If you’re like many of our followers, you might still be working on your first pull up or trying to increase the number of pull ups you can achieve. But what’s the best way? What’s the most effective way? What’s the most efficient use of the limited and precious life allocation you have to go to the gym or train?

    Your First Pull Up Is Not Impossible!

    The pull up is an important fundamental strength exercise to master when starting calisthenics, but it’s not easy… however, just remember it’s not impossible either!

    Even if it feels impossible to you right now, we’ll show you 3 steps to redefining your impossible and building the strength for your first pull up.

    The video below shows 3 steps we use to develop the maximal strength you need to achieve your first pull up. It uses 3 tools from what we call ‘the locker’ to make any exercise we prescribe to be more achievable and most importantly progressive. These 3 steps help you to adapt each exercises to your strength level, allowing you to ‘earn the right to progress’ as Tim always says (and it’s great advice too).

    3 Steps to Your First Pull Up

    So you can use assisted (banded), eccentrics (controlled lowers) and isometrics (static holds) or a combination of each to help you build up the maximal strength needed for your first pull up. But how many reps and sets should you do?

    How Many Reps + Sets

    We’re looking to build strength and maximal strength at that. But what does that mean? We’re trying to increase the maximal force your muscle involved in the pull up can produce. It involves both muscular and neural adaptations when trained correctly. Rather than building the size of the muscle or the endurance of the muscle, we’re looking to increase the muscle fibre recruitment as well as the peak force you can produce as part of that recruitment. So you need to hit a rep range and rest period between sets that will help create this adaptation.

    So 1 to 5 reps with up to 5 minutes rest between 3 to 6 sets is what’s recommended in the strength training literature. What does that mean to you? We suggest working across a 5-week period where you start at 5 reps and 3 sets, reducing the number of reps by 1 each week but increasing the sets by 1 each week, keeping to a 2 to 3 minutes rest period between sets.

    Maximal rest is important, but often hard to stick to. We often feel like we should be doing something rather than resting. Many of us are used to conditioning and circuit-based bodyweight training with little or no rest between exercises. This is great for your overall conditioning and endurance but it’s not going to build the maximal strength you need for your first pull up. So pull up a chair and take a seat in the ‘throne of gainz’ and make sure you’re recovering fully between sets!

    How Many Times Per Week?

    We can train for maximal strength effectively once or twice a week. We can’t go in everyday and work on our pull ups. You just won’t recover in time. You won’t adapt and you’ll feel like you’re not improving and that puts us in danger of giving up on our first ‘impossible’!

    Training Workout

    Below is an example training workout you can follow that includes some warm up and preparation exercises. All these are included in our FREE Beginners Programme – available here.

    Training workout for first pull up

    Learn Your First Pull Up Program

    Need some extra help?

    Try these lower body assisted pull up progressions…

    First Pull Up Technique

    Make sure you’ve got the correct technique for those perfect pull ups. Watch the video below and take in all the specific coaching cues from this video coaching tutorial from the Bodyweight Basics Training Programme, which is just one of the many courses you can following to help redefine your impossible through online training in the Virtual Classroom.

    Perfect Pull Up Technique

    We are committed to helping you along your calisthenics journey and teaching you to redefine your impossible. We want to see your progress so we can help and advise you along the way. Feel free to contact us via Facebook, Twitter or Instagram with any questions you have.

    Finally if you know anyone who’s struggling with their first pull up please share this blog article with them!

    Class dismissed!


    Interested in learning more with us? Our Virtual Classroom allows you to learn and train online with us. If you’re a beginner, you’re in the right place.

    Try our FREE Beginners Programme
    It’s a great place to start your calisthenics journey. We introduce you to some foundational exercises to help you move better, get strong and have more fun with your training.

    Ready for more? Take a look at Bodyweight Basics
    Bodyweight Basics is designed specifically for beginners and those wanting to build the foundations for more advanced calisthenics movements. With it comes our Principles for Movemwent, Strength and Play training programme for free. It’s a perfect follow-on from our free beginner’s training programme!

    Get started today!

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