Finally learn to do a pull-up: With the training progression from Supz Nutrition, the chances are very good that your first chin-up will be successful. Training pull-ups correctly is an art that everyone who does structured strength training wants to master sooner or later. For women in particular, the challenge of being able to train or learn to do pull-ups is often a long-term goal. What are the right exercises to specifically train the muscle groups involved? What repetition pattern should you use? How often should you start a new training plan? All of these questions are answered here and nothing stands in the way of your first pull-up!

In short: This is how the pull-up progression works

The last article, " Learning to do pull-ups ," described how to do a correct pull-up and which muscles are trained in the process. In order to make these muscles strong enough to pull up your own body weight, they should be trained in two ways: Negative pull-ups, i.e. the controlled lowering from the upper to the lower position, gets the nervous system used to the movement and strengthens the muscle groups holistically. In parallel, isolated additional exercises for the individual muscles should be carried out. The back (latissimus dorsi muscle) and the arm flexor muscles (brachialis and brachioradialis), as well as the teres major muscle that supports the shoulder blade, are the most important for the shoulder-width neutral grip. This grip is also used for the first pull-up because it is easier to learn than an overhand grip.

Since the large chest muscle (pectoralis major), the abdominal muscles, the shoulders (deltoids) and the inner shoulder blade muscles on the back (rhomboids) also have a supporting function during pull-ups, these should also be trained in isolation.

Background information on the training programs

The following training plans assume that the person trains 3-4 times a week and does a two-split. This is divided into a lower body and an upper body plan. The lower body and upper body should always be trained alternately. The abdominal muscles should be trained in isolation on the lower body day. One exercise for three sets at the end of the workout is enough.

Each training plan (training phase) lasts for around four weeks. Ideally, the upper body plan is then trained 8 times. The same program is trained for four weeks, but the weights, repetitions or time in seconds for eccentric pull-ups should be increased each time you train, if possible. It is best to document each individual training session.

The exercise (A, B, C) and the names are always on the far left - most exercises are done alternately (superset). It is important that all parameters are taken into account. You can always tell this by the letters, the respective letters always belong together. For example, exercise A1 is done alternately with A2. The break mentioned is described in seconds and occurs after each completed set. The parameters repetitions (abbreviated to WH below) and sets should be self-explanatory.

Apart from the pull-up, all other exercises are performed in a fast concentric movement (1s push or pull) and a rather slow eccentric movement (3-4s lowering the weight). This slow, controlled movement is given in seconds at tempo.

Training phase 1

A1) Eccentric pull-up, neutral, shoulder width, 30s lowering – 4 sets – 1 rep à 30 sec. – Rest: 90 sec.
(If 30s is possible, use additional weight – dip belt):

With dip belt:

A2) Dumbbell incline bench press 35⁰ neutral – 4 sets – 8-10 reps x 4 sec. – Rest: 90 sec.

B1) Seated rowing on the cable pull – 4 sets – individual reps of 4 seconds each – rest: 75 seconds

B2) KH shoulder press pronated – 4 sets – individual reps à 4 sec. – rest: 75 sec.

C1) EZ Curl standing pronated shoulder width – 3 sets – 10-12 reps x 3 sec. – Rest: 60 sec.

C2) KH external rotation on the cable – 3 sets – 10-12 reps of 3 seconds each – rest: 60 seconds.

Training phase 2

A1) Eccentric pull-up, supinated, 3 positions, 5s pause each – 5 sets – 1-3 reps, hold for 5s each – rest: 120s.

A2) KH flat bench press neutral – 5 sets – 6-8 reps x 5 sec. – Rest: 120 sec.

B1) Bent over neutral dumbbell rowing – 3 sets – 8-10 reps x 4 sec. – Rest: 90 sec.

B2) KH shoulder presses neutral standing – 3 sets – 8-10 reps x 4 seconds – rest: 90 seconds

C1) KH incline bench curl 45⁰ neutral – 3 sets – 8-10 reps x 3 sec. – rest: 75 sec.


C2) KH Pullover – 3 sets – 8-10 reps of 3 seconds each – rest: 75 seconds

Training phase 3

A1) Eccentric pull-up, neutral shoulder width, 4s eccentric – 4 sets – 4-7 reps of 3 sec. – Rest: 90 sec.

(climb up again for each repetition)

A2) LH bench press 55° – 4 sets – 7-9 reps of 3 seconds each – rest: 90 seconds

B1) Rowing to the neck with rope – 4 sets – 9-11 reps of 4 seconds each – rest: 75 seconds

B2) KH shoulder press seated neutral – 4 sets – 9-11 reps x 4 seconds – rest: 75 seconds

C) KH Zottmann Curl upright – 4 sets – 10-12 reps of 3 seconds each – rest: 75 seconds

Training phase 4

A1) Eccentric pull-up, neutral shoulder width, 30s lowering with additional weight – 6 sets – 1 rep à 30 sec. – rest: 120 sec.

(With 10-15% additional weight in relation to body weight, the first attempt at pulling up can be made, possibly with a little help from someone)

A2) KH flat bench press neutral – 6 sets – 4-6 reps of 4 seconds each – rest: 120 seconds

B1) EZ Pullover High Pulley Cable – 3 sets – 6-8 reps x 4 sec. – Rest: 75 sec.

B2) LH bench press 55⁰ – 3 sets – 6-8 reps x 4 sec. – Rest: 75 sec.

C) EZ Scott Curl supinated – 2-3 sets – 6-8 reps of 3 seconds each – rest: 75 seconds

How quickly you can do your first pull-up when training is very individual. For women in particular, it can sometimes take up to a year. But some manage it after just three months. Success depends on genetics, anatomical conditions (short arms are an advantage), inner strength and body fat percentage. Sometimes it is also muscular imbalances that limit you. If you try everything for too long and don't make any progress, you should seek out a professional coach and get individual training on site or online:

Good luck with your first pull-up!

Ines Schulz
Ines Maria Schulz, born on December 1st, 1992 in Basel, Switzerland, also completed her Master of Education in Biology and WAH there, laying the foundation for understanding physiology and anatomy as well as nutrition. She is also a trained primary school sports teacher. For two years she has been a coach at MTM Personal Training, the most successful personal training studio in Berlin. There she supports customers every day who want to exploit their maximum potential in terms of mental and physical health and performance. In cooperation with doctors such as Dr. Dominik Nischwitz and a laboratory for intestinal health as well as constant exchange within the team, she can give her customers optimal advice on training, nutrition, micronutrients and lifestyle. She has already written a breakfast book and a large part of a lifestyle booklet for MTM. She also writes the weekly newsletter, which publishes nutritional tips and recipes she has created. Ines has completed seminars and certificates with various successful coaches and specialists and is constantly expanding her skills. The young trainer has been writing blog articles for Supz Nutrition since January 2019.

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