One of the most effective exercises you can do is the pull up/ chin up. For any beginner who has tried, you will know how hard they are! Even individuals with a good level of fitness struggle to perform just one.

This valuable move works the back, arms and core and is definitely worth adding to your routine.

There are a few techniques you can apply to improve your ability to perform the exercise and increase your reps, as long as you are consistent.


First of all, what’s the difference between a pull up and a chin up? With a pull up, your palms face towards you when you grip the bar. With chin ups, they face away from you.

You can also perform neutral grip pull ups where your palms face each other. Chin ups are usually easier for many due to the grip but everyone will have their own preference so for the purposes of learning this exercise, find the grip that’s most comfortable for you.

It’s also worth knowing that performing pull ups is generally easier the leaner you are. Obviously the more weight you are carrying, the more challenging it will be.

The only way to get good at something is to practice, which means that you will need to include pull ups in your workout plan more than once per week. At least 3 times per week will help you to see steady results in your ability. It’s also important to ensure that you focus on good form and don’t pick up any bad habits.

How to perform a pull up:

• First of all choose your grip (palms towards or away) and hold the bar slightly wider than shoulder width. Let your arms hang so that your elbows are fully extended. Your legs should hang straight or cross them behind you, your back should be straight and head looking forwards.

• Start the movement from the shoulders, pull the shoulder blades back and down, next pull the elbows back and down to bring your chest towards the bar, your chin should come over the bar to count as one rep.

• Try to avoid bringing your hips forwards too much, this is difficult at first but practice keeping your body as straight as you can throughout the move by bracing your abs and glutes.

• Lower yourself back down in a controlled manner, don’t let yourself just drop back down. Make sure to fully extend your elbows at the bottom before you repeat the next rep.

How to do pull ups for beginners2

Ideally, the above is how you would perform a strict pull up. As a beginner, it might seem impossible but there are ways to get there, or at least make the way there easier!


To help you get used to the movement, start with assisted pull ups. There are several ways to do this depending on what you have access to. You can use a weight-assisted pull up machine at the gym.

The effect this has is that it reduces the weight you have to pull therefor making it easier. You can also use resistance bands that loop around the bar and under your feet or knees. You could also ask a friend to help by holding you and pushing you up slightly, taking away some of the weight you have to lift.

Make sure that you reduce your weight enough so that you can perform the move correctly which will enable you to focus on improving your technique.

Slow eccentric/negatives:

This is a highly effective technique for improving your strength in performing pull ups and increasing your reps. Once you are confident with the assisted pull ups you can include this.

Initially, you will need to get to the top part of the pull up with your chin over the bar, you will be focusing on the lowering part of the move.

From the top, lower as slowly and controlled as possible, for up to 30 seconds if you can (this may seem impossible at first!) Slowing down the eccentric part of the move is excellent for improving strength.

We are stronger in the eccentric phase of an exercise (when the muscle lengthens) and training in this way can actually increase strength in the concentric phase (when the muscle shortens).

Don’t worry if you can’t lower for the full 30 seconds, you will improve with consistency. When you are stronger, you can progress to jumping up to the bar and using the momentum to pull yourself up to the bar and then perform the slow eccentric phase.

Frequency and volume:

As I mentioned before, it will take more than once a week to increase your pull up reps. Since this exercise is so demanding, you might be left with quite sore shoulder blades and lats so will need to allow for enough recovery time in between sessions.

At least 3 times a week should see you progress steadily and you should aim to complete 15 to 30 pull ups in your workout at first.

If you have to break it down into several sets that’s fine, even if you’re doing 15 sets of 1 rep! At first this might take up a good portion of your workout and since it will be so demanding at first you will need to ensure at least 1 minute for your rest periods.

It may also be beneficial to use a foam roller on your lats and upper back as part of your warm up and be sure to stretch after your workout and in between sessions.

Aim to build up to sets of 10 to 12 reps and then progress by either increasing reps for endurance or adding weight to increase strength. It might also help to keep a training log of your progress to keep you on track. Good luck and be sure to let us know how you get on!

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