Get Your First PULL UP! With these 4 Exercises

By Marcherry Garnica
Feb 14 2024

Get Your First PULL UP! With these 4 Exercises

If your goal is to do a pull-up or chin-up on your own, this is the article for you. Training for this skill can be difficult, especially if you can’t do a full rep on your own. In this article, I will be showing you four different exercises to include in your training to help you achieve your very first pull-up and improve your technique. 

Scapular retraction and Upper back activation.

The first exercise is very simple and will help you build strength in the first part of your pull-up.

You’re going step up or jump to a pull-up bar or a bar at a decent height, and you’ll be grabbing the bar overhand grip just about shoulder width or slightly wider, and you’ll be hanging from the bar. We will work on sliding those shoulder blades in towards each other and activating our back muscles. Now, we want to make sure we’re activating our back because this places our shoulders in a better technical position and allows us to move freely through our pull-up without over-activating our neck or other muscles.

Making sure we’re coming into a dead hang so completely relaxing the shoulders. Allowing the shoulders to come up to the ears and feeling really heavy on the bar. Start to begin that scapular retraction so the shoulder blades slide in towards each other. Begin to pull the shoulders away from the ears, feeling the shoulder blades slide. We will hold at the top for three seconds and slowly release down until we return to that dead hang.

If you’re doing this exercise for the very first time, we want to aim for between three to six reps. If you feel your next rep is really not the best, jump down off the bar, shake your arms, have a little reset, and then get back into it. 

This is also a great warm-up exercise for those who can do pull-ups; it’s an excellent way to activate the upper back muscles and get that nice gliding shoulder blade movement exercise.

Rack Barbell Pull Up: 

Number two is an excellent little progression from exercise number one. That lets you achieve a full pull-up without lifting your whole body weight. 

This exercise requires a barbell set up just above shoulder height. We will come down into a kneeling position, hanging on the bar and just making sure our feet are directly under the bar and knees in front. Like exercise number one, we want to make sure we’re in that hang position so, allowing the shoulders to creep up towards the ears. If you need a bit more height, place the barbell a bit higher on the rack. From here, we will come into scapular retraction again, just like exercise number one. The shoulder blades slide in towards each other, lengthening through the neck. You can push through the feet as much as you need to to get into a nice strong position, feeling that upper back activation.  

Using your legs, we’re going to push through the toes, starting to come into our full pull-up, bringing the chin up and over the bar and aiming to get the chest up towards the bar rather than the shoulders to the bar, so squeezing through the upper back and really opening through the front of the chest. Have a second pause at the top, keep your neck nice and long, and begin to lower down.

The great thing about this exercise is that you can use as much or as little assistance with your legs as you need, so it’s a really great way to offer progression in your pull-up. Now that you’re able to practice that full pull-up movement with this exercise, it’s really important to note here that we want to do each rep to its full range of motion. First, a complete dead hang allows us to really hang through our shoulders and then all the way up to the bar, opening through the chest and aiming for the center of the chest to come to bar level. The reason we want to do this is because when we do a full pull-up, we will be hanging our whole body weight on the bar, which means we have to come from that full dead hang.

There’s no cheating here. Make sure we’re using our back muscles so we don’t get into any ugly technique at the top of the bar, especially that forward rounding of the shoulders. Keep everything open at the front and squeeze those shoulder blades in towards each other. The goal is to do as many reps as possible with incredible technique. If that means you’re just doing three reps, that’s completely fine. Come down off the bar, have a little bit of a reset, and then get back into it.

Box Jump Pull Up

Exercise number three is something you can begin to incorporate into your training once you feel confident at the top of the bar, especially holding that nice open chest position and activating through the back. 

For this exercise, we will need a box with our bar just above. Standing onto the box, find your grip on the bar. Again, we’re going to come into that nice long dead hang, allow the shoulders to come up towards the ears, and you want to feel like your whole body weight is hanging here. 

We will use the legs here to jump. Bring the chest to the bar, hold it at the top, and then slowly lower down as slowly as possible. The key here is to find that nice neat technique at the top and hold that locked-in back position all the way down until your feet meet the box.

This exercise also works on the lowering phase of our pull-up rather than the upward face, as we saw in exercise two. The goal for this exercise is to hold the top position, maybe for three seconds, and then lower down as slowly as you can.

Pull Up with Resistance Bands

Exercise number four is probably the closest you’re going to get to doing pull-ups on your own. We’re going to be using resistance bands here. The thicker the band is, the easier the pull-up will be, so you can start with a thicker band and then work your way down. You can use a box to get up on the same level. 

Hook the band through the arch of the foot. Make sure the band is on securely. Remember, you can use as many bands as you want here and as many different thicknesses. Make sure you’re adjusting to your ability level. 

We want to make sure the band is in between our grip; then we will press our leg down until it’s straight and then hang on to the bar. As you’re hanging, you’ll probably feel the resistance of the band. Come into that dead hang, release the shoulders down, bringing the shoulders towards the ears. Back activate, start to pull the shoulders away from the ears and use the resistance of the band to bring you all the way up to the bar again, chest up to the bar, and back is squeezing slowly lower down. 

Once you want to get out of the band, you’re going to step onto the box or platform next to you and grip onto the bar so you’ve got something to hold on to, and then you can unhook the band. 

The best part of this exercise is, like I mentioned before, you can use a really thick resistance to start with so you get a lot of assistance, and then you can work your way down in resistance until you can do a full pull-up. 

The Best Resistance Bands for Pull Up

As a rule of thumb, if you cannot perform at least five banded pull-ups with proper technique, then the band is not strong enough. If you can effortlessly complete more than fifteen pull-ups, the band might be too strong.

For high-quality resistance bands that won’t let you down, I recommend 


Please remember that we are all at different stages of our training. Some of you have already done pull-ups before, or maybe you’ve never done a pull-up in your life. These exercises are here to help inspire you to find different ways to train your pull-up. 

There are lots of different ways that you can practice and get stronger and better. You can use all of these exercises in combination. For all four, maybe you’ve found one or two that you like and want to try in your training. Remember that technique is key. We want to ensure we activate the correct muscles at the right time. The key is to keep consistent and keep training hard. 

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