Becoming a Superhero - Strength Goals: Slaying Your First Pull Up

Becoming a Superhero - Strength Goals: Slaying Your First Pull Up

Is achieving a pull-up part of your new year's resolution or do you have an ongoing fitness goal to attain 5 pull-ups? Busy people who have multiple goals to slay, well, there are efficient & effective ways to get there!

You know how in action flicks, when the hero is hanging on to her dear life on a ledge of a 100-storey building, or is cornered in an alley by zombies and the only escape is to climb over the fence? If you were the hero, do you think you would have the adequate pulling strength to be able to save yourself?

This is where pull-ups come in.


Pull-ups are a great measure of strength. The full body movement engages your latissimus dorsi (lats), shoulders, biceps, core, and glutes for total body tension. And...there’s absolutely nothing like the feeling of empowerment the very first time you lift your head above the bar with your very own power. Feel good? Gain confidence? (YES!!)

For many women, pull ups, heck, even a single push up - seemed like wishful thinking. It really is not as out of reach as you think. As with everything in life, you just have to put in the work and eventually, you will reap the rewards.

Here are six quick tips on how to conquer your very first pull up.

1. Believe That You Can

CrossFit athlete and four-time “Fittest Man On Earth” title holder Rich Froning Jr. said, “The human body is an incredible machine, but most people only get out of that machine what their mind allows them to.” The first step is to believe that your body is capable of doing incredible things, and that you can master the pull up.


2. Scapular Pull Ups

The first move in a pull up involves activation of your back muscles, specifically the lats. Scapular pull ups are a great way to learn how to initiate a pull up with your lats and make your back stronger for pulling. From a dead hang, lift your body up without bending your arms (think "bend the bar") then pull your shoulders down your back to starting position. Loop a resistance band around the bar or get your SweatBuddy to offer you a lift from your legs for some assistance.

3. Dead Hangs

To build shoulder stability and grip strength, spend some time doing dead hangs on the bar. Find your grip on an overhead bar or rings, extend your arms and let your feet hang suspended from the floor. Sustain the dead hang hold for as long as possible without starting to lose form. Start with 10 seconds and eventually build up to longer durations of time.


4. Bent Over Rows

A very effective drill to increase pulling power. Even for those who have already achieved pull ups, accessory work with bent over rows will only increase your pull up number. With a barbell or dumbbells, bend your knees slightly and bend over the bar or dumbbells with a straight back. Grasp the bar or dumbbells with a wide overhand grip, pull to the bottom of the ribcage and hold it there for two counts. Return until arms are extended and shoulders are stretched downward and repeat.

5. Ring Rows

The ring row is like a reverse push up that teaches you to keep your body locked and get your upper back working properly. Using the TRX or gymnastic rings, stand with your feet on the ground and close together then lean back. With arms held straight, using your arms and your back, pull your chest forward as high as possible and then back down. Start with a 45-degree lean and as you get stronger, lean back and even closer to the ground. Make sure you pull your elbows back and keep your body in a straight line throughout the movement.

6. Negative Pull Ups

The only kind of negativity that’s good in a gym setting, as they are very effective at building strength. Use a box or jump to get your body to get your chin to the top and over the bar. Start with your throat level to the bar, hold that top position for a few seconds, and lower yourself very slowly until your arms are straight. Start with a three-second controlled descent and build to longer durations of time.


Article contributed by The Busy Woman Project Community Ambassador Vanessa B.. Vanessa is also a Nike+ Training Club Trainer, Indoor Cycling Instructor at Ride Jakarta and a Functional Strength & Conditioning Coach at Empire Fit Club.