How to Get Your First Pull Up (and Then Many More!)

Pulling your entire body weight can seem like an insurmountable task but with some persistence and increase in mobility, men and women alike can tackle the pull up!




  1. Assess your mobility. Before taking the steps to increase strength, you must check your shoulder mobility. Here’s a simple test. Stand against the wall with your butt, shoulders and head touching the wall. Heels should be a couple of inches off the wall. Raise your arms overhead. Your butt, shoulders and head should remain touching the wall. If not, take several weeks or months (depending on how limited you are) to focus on overhead mobility. This will require a large focus on lats, chest and thoracic region.
  2. Hang out! Specifically, we are looking to see if you can hang from the bar with active shoulders. To activate the shoulders, lift the chest up and squeeze your shoulders down
    and back. This is a small but critical movement. Learning how to set up properly will set you up safely and efficient for all future pulling work. These scapular pull ups can be done daily in sets of three for max active hang time.
  3. Control the descent. There are many ways to practice negatives and they are beneficial for all stages of pull up ability. Some of you may need to jump up the the pull up bar, while others may be able to do a pull up to get your chin up past the bar. Once above the bar, hold yourself there for several seconds then slowly lower yourself down while keeping your elbows close to your body.(Don’t let them flare out.) Once your arms are in full extension, complete two controlled scapular pull ups as mentioned above. See the video for options to modify for your goals. Don’t fret if you can’t control the way down yet. It will come with practice. In the meantime, practice holding your chin over the bar and completing your scapular pull ups at the bottom of the hang.

If you are currently working through step one, you can complete mobility tasks daily. For steps two and three, I recommend three times per week. Twice is just not enough and four or more times per week can potentially set you up for shoulder overuse injury, especially if you are training with other shoulder and upper back workouts. Keep up posted on your progress!