• Evan Schwerbrock

A Simple Pull-up Progression

When building a basic arsenal of exercises for your workout regime, the pull-up is a highly beneficial movement to master. Not only are pull-ups as cool as all get out, but they're also effective as all get out! Unfortunately, most either can't perform the pull-up, or aren't performing it strictly. Here is a basic program to get your pull-ups up to par!


This was inspired by Charles Poliquin’s eccentric, isometric, concentric phasic approach with a twist to simplify set-up. Credit where it’s due.


For Phase 2, you will be performing eccentric pull-ups. This will constitute you jumping up to the top position of your pull-up and lowering down slowly. Make sure whatever you jump off of, be it a bench or a box, is sturdy and won’t slide on you. Also make sure the bench or box is high enough for you to be able to hold onto the bar while standing on the bench or box. It is also important to be able to squat down plenty while holding the bar to give yourself a lot of help to get to the top position of the pullup. We want you to struggle on the way down, not on the way up. This will reign true for Phase 3 as well.


Now that we have that housekeeping out of the way, we can focus on the workout.


Phase 1


Warmup:

Big arm circles: 10 forward and backward, really open the shoulders up

Lat pull-down: 3 sets of 12 reps, not to fatigue, just get some blood flowing.


Main Workout:

Lat pull-downs in pull-up grip: 5 sets of 6 with 5 second eccentrics, 45 seconds between sets. Explosively pull down, let the bar back up fluidly for 5 seconds.


Chest- supported rows: 3 sets of 15 reps, 45 seconds rest between sets


This workout will serve to increase your muscular capacity and work movement patterns for future phases. This workout can be done twice a week. Complete 4-6 times and move on to Phase 2.


Phase 2


Warm-up:

Big arm circles: 10 forward and backward, really open the shoulders up!

Lat pull-down: 3 sets of 12 reps, not to fatigue, just get some blood flowing.

Eccentric Pull-ups: 2 reps of 5 second lowers.


Main Workout:

Max reps of 10 second lowers, jump right back up after each rep to minimize rest.

After achieving failure, rest 2 minutes. Repeat this twice more for 3 total rounds.


Hanging Shoulder Depressions: 3 sets of max reps

Hanging with locked out arms, relax shoulders up towards the ears then shrug them down towards your back pocket and hold for a 2 count. Be sure to keep arms long and let your back do the work, not the biceps.


Close-grip pull-downs: 3 sets of 10-12 reps, rest 60 sec between sets

Use underhand shoulder-width grip.


When you can perform 15 total reps in 3 sets for the eccentric pullups, move on to Phase 3.


Phase 3

This phase will include isometric pull-ups. You will jump up and hold at certain points in the movement to increase difficulty and strengthen more positions. These positions will be:

1. At the very top

2. About halfway down, when your elbows are at a 90 degree angle

3. A couple inches from locked out at the bottom

With these spots, you will work most common sticking points in the pull-up.


Warm-up:

Big arm circles: 10 forward and backward, really open the shoulders up


Lat pull-down: 3 sets of 12 reps, not to fatigue, just get some blood flowing.


Eccentric Pull-ups, 2 reps of 5 second lowers


Isometric Pull-ups: 2 reps of 3 seconds in each position


Main Workout:

Isometric pullups: 3 sets of max isometric reps with 6 second holds in each spot on the way down. Minimal rest between sets, 3 minutes rest between sets.


Eccentric pullups: 3 sets of 3 reps, 12 second lowers each rep


When you can do 15 total reps in 3 sets for isometric pullups, move on to Phase 4.


Phase 4

In Phase 4, you will be performing big boy and big girl pull-ups. If you are nervous the first session, warm up, then jump up to the bar, lower for about 3 seconds and pull yourself back up. Trust me, you’ll be able to by now.


Warmup:

Big arm circles: 10 forward and backward, really open the shoulders up


Lat pulldown: 3 sets of 12 reps, not to fatigue, just get some blood flowing.


Eccentric Pullups, 2 reps of 5 second lowers


Isometric Pullups: 2 reps with 3 seconds in each position


Main Workout:

Perform as many reps of concentric pullups as you can in 15 minutes. Do only singles, doubles, and triples and don’t reach the point of failure. Try to top this number each time you do the workout.



Congrats! You can now do pull-ups better than before. Now you can mix them in with the rest of your workouts.

One option I have to bring up before I end is utilizing an underhand grip. If the overhand grip is super difficult for you, you could run the program through with an underhand grip for all pull-up variants but overhand for all pull-down variants. Then run the program again with the overhand grip and you’ll be much more ready for it.


Have fun with this program. It will be tough but more than worthwhile.


Evan