The Definitive Pull Up Progression Program

Everybody knows the pull-up is one of the tougher bodyweight exercises out there. For this reason, I’ve come up with this article to help you prepare for a powerful pull up progression program to set your back, shoulder, and arm muscles on fire.

If you’ve ever tried to crush a set in the gym or even simply pull yourself up in a real-world situation, you know pull-ups are taxing enough to challenge your upper body strength.

For your back, the lats, traps, and rhomboids get to take the full force of this movement while you can also put tension on the different parts of the arms as you change your grip.

As you might know by this time, doing perfect pull-ups strengthen your core and leave your upper body bearing up against fatigue when you’re training at home or at the gym.

Male doing a pull up with chin up to bar.

Along with the benefits of pull-ups and the steps for executing this move correctly, you’ll find some really helpful moves in this article to prepare you for an effective pull up progression program. 

Why Are Pull-Ups Important?

The pull-up is one of the ideal tests of muscular strength in your upper body. It’s also one of the few bodyweight movements that engage your back and your biceps.

Muscular male doing a pull up.

While many guys have become obsessed over setting records for their bench press, I believe the efforts that you make in doing pull-ups is a much better indicator of how strong and stable your upper body is. This strength should also translate well into functional movements and real-life performance and capabilities.

Most often for beginners in strength training and newbie athletes, the perfect pull-up will be one of the most difficult moves to master.

A well-executed pull-up requires great upper body strength.

Plus, you need a consistent approach to make the most of your pull-up performance.

For this reason, you should check out the following tips and sample moves to guide you in mastering your pull-ups and getting the full benefit out of your performance. 

Related: How To Do The Perfect Pull-Up

Basic Steps In Performing the Perfect Pull-Up 

First, you need to be aware of, understand, and follow these steps from start to finish so you can pull off the perfect pull-up.

  1. Hold and grip the pull-up bar with both of your hands with your palms facing away from you. Your hands should be slightly wider than shoulder-width.
  2. For a moment, hang to the bar with your arms and legs straight off the floor.
  3. Pull your elbows to the floor, engage your core, and compact your shoulders by pulling them down and back.
  4. Pull your chin all the way over the bar.
  5. Keep steady and hold for 1 count.
  6. In a controlled manner, lower yourself until your arms are extended and you’re in the starting position again.

Again, your grip is crucial to achieving pull-up efficiency. For the overhand pull-up that’s the most popular, your grip should just be slightly wider than shoulder-width. 

What If I Can’t Do A Pull-Up?

If you’re having trouble executing a perfect pull-up, you can still try the band-assisted pull-up. It’s one of the better options out there if you’re unable to do the full move unassisted. 

Related: The 7 Best Resistance Bands You Can Buy

However, there are many things to consider and remember to avoid common mistakes. Many newbie lifters are prone to body swinging, and this shouldn’t be the case as this means you’re lacking body tension.

Many have also shown poor, careless repetitions that are just all over the place. If you don’t have enough muscular control throughout the entire movement, this won’t produce the results you want. 

Moreover, with the band-assisted pull-up, many beginner lifters tend to rely too much on the bands. They don’t even force themselves to pull their bodies up for sets of at least 2 to 3 reps (this builds real strength needed to pull your weight up as compared to a higher number of reps of 10 or more). 

Remember, if your main goal is to perfect the pull-up, you don’t have to keep it as a timed workout. Rather, you must focus on strength building without necessarily putting on high amounts of body fatigue.

Female hanging onto a bar, ready to do a pull up.

You can also go for additional accessory movements or the pull-up progression program below to fully strengthen your back and increase muscle mass.

Exercises to Improve Your Pull-Ups

In this pull-up progression program, our goal is to make use of these variations for you to build a stronger back and gain muscle mass. 


When doing a chin-up, you’re pulling your weight up so that you can bring your chin all the way above the pull-up bar. You’re using a grip with which your palms are facing you.

Most lifters can execute a chin-up before a pull-up, mainly because their arms are more engaged. This is an ideal exercise to build some serious upper body strength, but it’s best to do it properly and not overuse this move. 

Tempo Banded Pull-Ups

As mentioned, doing pull-ups with resistance bands is a great pull-up option for beginners. Moreover, incorporating tempos (like tempo pull-ups) can make the most of this movement to gain muscle growth and strength.

This is such a helpful thing for beginners to establish excellent muscle coordination and growth.

Lat Pulldowns

Machine-based training will allow you to isolate specific muscle groups that should be engaged when doing pull-ups.

Although many band pull-up variations can help out beginners (and even advanced lifters), machine-based training will allow you to increase loading and add enough stress to muscle fibers. You can do all these without being limited by your grip, body control, and total body fatigue.

Isometric Pull-Up Holds

Isometrics are an incredible way of increasing strength in the muscles that are needed for a pull-up. Both beginners and advanced lifters can benefit from doing these, which you can check out from the pull-up progression program below.

How to Master the Pull-Up in only a Month: 2-Day Pull-Up Progression Program for Beginners

Within this pull-up progression program, you can find workouts good for 2 days to help you pull off your first proper pull-up in one month or less. 

This pull-up progression program is specifically designed to aid beginners in being able to do their first rep unassisted. However, it can also be used to help non-beginners get back on track if they’ve stopped working out for the past months or so.

You can also use this program to support your usual back routine for athletes who are into strength training or just want to increase their fitness level. 

Related: The Best Back Exercises To Build Muscle

Perform these 2 workouts each week for at least a month. You’ll find 3 to 4 exercises in each workout. It will total to around 30 minutes for every workout. 

Progressive overload can be reached using heavier weights as these are done specifically to build muscle and gain strength. Set a challenge for yourself by gradually increasing the weight every week. Just make sure you’ll still be able to feel your back muscles contracting and being engaged.

Day 1

Isometric Pull-Up Hold

4 x sets of 10 second holds

90 seconds rest between each set

Do a 10-second hold when you reach the top of the pull-up. Make sure your shoulders are compacted (pulled down and back).

Towel-Grip Dead Hang

3 to 4 x sets of 30 second holds

60 seconds rest between each set

Try adding some weight by wearing a weight belt and attaching a plate to it

Inverted Barbell Row

4 x sets of 5 reps

90 seconds rest between each set

Go for a grip that’s wider than shoulder-width (but only slightly), or a pronated grip. Add some weight and lift heavy.

Lat Pull-down

4 x sets of 6-8 reps

90 seconds rest between each set

Add some weight and lift heavy. Lower the weight back down in an extremely controlled manner (2 to 3 seconds) and make sure your lats are fully stretched between your reps as you extend your arms at the top. 

Day 2

Eccentric Pull-Up

3 to 4 x sets of 5 to 6 reps (Control each rep down for 5 seconds)

90 seconds rest between each set

Begin at the top of the barbell with your chin over the bar, and do a 5-second negative. Be aware of your back muscles being stretched and fully extend as you go lower and straighten your elbows. 

Dead Hang

4 sets of 30 seconds

60 seconds rest between each set.

You can also try adding weight by wearing a weight belt around your waist and attaching a plate too it.

Band Assisted Pull-Up

4 x sets of 5 reps

90 seconds rest between each set

Go for a grip that’s slightly wider than shoulder-width, or a pronated grip. Pick a resistance band that is challenging when you reach your final rep, but allow you to maintain proper form. You should pause for one second at the top of each rep and at the bottom when fully stretched.

Supinated-Grip Dumbbell Bench Supported Row

3 to 4 x sets of 10 reps

90 seconds rest between each set

Your palms should be facing forwards as you perform the row. Your elbows should drive towards your hips before going up. This movement won’t be a straight upward pulling row; rather, it’s more of backward and upward motion. 

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