What It Takes To Achieve Your 1st Chin Up Or Pull Up (10/02/2023)

When a theme runs through the gym as a repeated conversation between members and coaches about a specific, similar goal, it sparks the need to discuss the topic.

One exercise that is an awesome display of useful strength, and a builder of confidence, is the Unassisted Body Weight Pull Up. Being able to pull oneself from a dead hang to the top of a bar is invigorating, rewarding and a feat of strength!

Many people who walk into our gym for the first time tell us they want to be able to do “just one pull up.” There’s a sparkle in their eyes and you can tell this is a goal they have thought about for a while and there’s a true desire to achieve it.

There are members who have been with us for some time who have witnessed other members work through the progressions to achieving their first Body Weight Pull Up, becoming inspired to achieve the same.

Let’s be candid, Pull Ups take a lot of practice developing stability along with overall strength. You will only be able to achieve a goal like this if the variables that impact your training are in line with your Pull Up objective.
James Clear has said, “Your current habits are perfectly designed to deliver your current results.”

When it comes to the Pull Up, this is very accurate.

  • If you aren’t sleeping at least 6 quality hours a night, your training is going to suffer, which means your progress will be slower. Recovery between sessions is as important as the actual training.
  • If you’re not consistent in your exercise routine, your performance is going to feel stale. Consistency is crucial to your exercise success.
  • If you don’t give proper attention to your shoulder mobility, an exercise like Pull Ups might be out of the question if you want to remain healthy and pain-free. Your mobility practice and warm ups are important.
  • If you are eating a tub of ice cream (in my house is frozen m&m’s) or putting back a few beers before bed, your performance is going to suffer, which means your progress is going to be slower. Your nutrition and hydration habits are critical.

Following that last point up, if your body weight is more than you can lift, an exercise as demanding as the Pull Up is going to be even more challenging to achieve. This is a sensitive point, but you cannot evade that weighing less leads to improved Pull Up progress, especially if fat-loss is also a goal. Habit stacking your nutrition and training will lead to greater compliance.

A great coach isn’t going to put extra frosting on your cake and tell you that you can achieve all of your goals just because they like you. They are going to let you know how much work goes into the Pull Up and that there are no short cuts.

Your consistency in these four pillars: exercise, nutrition, recovery, and mindset all play an important role in your fitness performance and achievements.

Here is the this of our most critical Pull Up progression milestones that have repeatedly led many of our members to their first Pull Up: 

  1. Inverted Row for 3 sets x 10 reps with belt/waist line under rig mounting point
  2. Straight Arm Hang for 3 sets x 45 seconds per set (hands pronated)
  3. Scap Pull Up for 3 sets x 10 reps
  4. Flexed Arm Hang for 3 sets x 30 seconds per set (hands neutral or supinated)
  5. Eccentric Chin Up Lower for 3 sets x 2-3 reps (hands neutral or supinated)
  6. Band Assisted Neutral Grip Chin Up for 3 sets x 5-7 reps before decreasing band size
  7. Neutral or Supinated Grip Body Weight Chin Up for 3 sets x 5-8 reps
  8. Body Weight Pull Up for 3 sets x AMATP (as many reps as technically possible)

When members have made their way through all of the steps, most of the time they’re completing 3 solid Pull Ups on their first attempt! This all happens following the entire recipe above.

To wrap this up, the biggest factors going into achieving your first Pull Up (or any specific exercise goal) is to reinforce all the habits that impact your performance.

Don’t rush the process or skip steps. Embrace the journey. Then achieve your first Pull Up!