The benefits of exercise are innumerable. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), exercise packs the potential to prevent one in 10 premature deaths, one in five heart problems or complications from heart disease, and one in eight instances of breast cancer. One of the most important and rewarding exercises is the pullup.

Add pullups to your exercise routine for a stronger grip, a slimmer waist, and more defined back, arm, and shoulder muscles. Plus, mastering pullups means you are physically fit enough to enlist, something one in four U.S. men and women are too heavy and unhealthy to do, the CDC continues.

Doing a pullup without pain takes practice. Build up to it. Use good form. Treat your body with care, so you can continue reaping the benefits of this impactful move. Use these five exercises to learn how to get your first pullup.


How It’s Done

  • To begin, position your chin above the bar. Use a step or solid object or jump up to get into position.
  • Tighten your core and glutes and tuck your tailbone. Assume a standing plank position.
  • Keep your elbows tucked in by your sides.
  • Hold this position for 3-5 seconds.
  • Maintaining good form, slowly lower yourself down from the bar.

The eccentric or negative pullup targets your lats, arms, and core muscles, all the same muscles you will ultimately use to do a full pullup. This variation is suitable for all skill levels.


How It’s Done

  • Use a closed-loop resistance band. Place the band over the top of the bar. Pull one end through the other. When you’re done, there should be a tight loop secured around the bar, and a much longer loop hanging down by your midsection or feet.
  • Pull the resistance band tight. The top should be securely attached to the bar.
  • Put your foot at the bottom of the long loop. Make sure your foot is stable.
  • Place your hands on the bar with a wide grip, slightly wider than your shoulders.
  • With your core and glutes tightened and elbows tucked, pull yourself up to the bar.
  • Pull until your chin is above the bar. Briefly hold this position.
  • Slowly lower yourself into starting position, maintaining good form.

Repeat at least 10 times with proper technique and form before swapping out the band for one with less assistance. Do banded pullups to work your lats, arms, upper traps, serratus, biceps, and forearms. Once again, this exercise builds the strength you need to do a full pullup when you are ready. It is a great way to get your body and muscles familiar with the proper form required for your first pullup.


How It’s Done

  • This exercise requires an assisted pullup machine or a lower bar with rig attachment to complete.
  • For pullup machine
    • Kneel on the cushioned platform. Adjust to your desired amount of weight. The more weight you add, the easier the assisted pullup.
    • Grab the handles or bar with an overhand grip. Begin with your arms completely straight.
  • For low bar attached to rig
    • Kneel on the floor with backside resting against your legs. Adjust bar overhead to fit arms so that arms are fully extended.
    • Grab the handles or bar with an overhand grip.
  • With your core and glutes engaged, pull yourself up until your chin is above the handles on each side.
  • Slowly lower down into starting position, maintaining good form and control.

Kneeling pullups target your forearms, biceps, and lats. The machine helps support your bodyweight giving you the opportunity to build foundational strength for a full, unassisted pullup.


How It’s Done

  • Stand squarely facing the lat-pulldown machine. Keep your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Using a cable stack, attached desired weight or use bands and a PVC pipe to simulate this movement.
  • Take hold of the lat-pulldown bar with an overhand grip. Use a wide grip.
  • Start with the bar at shoulder-height, knees bent slightly.
  • Engage your core.
  • Keeping your arms extended and straight, pull the bar down to your thighs.
  • Slowly release to the starting position with control.

This exercise will help you complete your first full pullup by targeting and strengthening your lat muscles. Strong lat muscles are an important foundation or precursor for a full, unassisted pullup.


How It’s Done

  • Start in a regular pullup position with your arms straight and your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  • From a full hang, bring your scapula or shoulder blades down and then together.
  •  Do not bend your elbows. Your body will rise up, but only slightly.
  • To achieve proper form, think of the move as a reverse shrug.
  • Hold your shoulder blades together for a few seconds.
  • Return to the starting position slowly and with control.

Scap pull exercises target your shoulders and scapula, Men’s Health writes. Targeting and isolating these muscles promotes shoulder mobility, drastically decreasing your chances of injury when you move onto a full pullup.

Perform these five exercises to target muscles, promote mobility, and increase foundational strength to prepare for your first pullup. Work closely with the experts at Peak Physiotherapy and Performance as you learn how to get your first pullup and do it injury-free. Contact us today to schedule a free phone consultation.

About the Author

Dr. Andrew Junak is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and Board-Certified Orthopedic Specialist. Dr. Junak received his Doctorate of Physical Therapy from Walsh University and completed his Orthopedic Specialist training at the Cleveland Clinic. He is the owner of Peak Physiotherapy and Performance, a physical therapy clinic in Canal Winchester and Blacklick, Ohio. He serves the local communities of Lancaster, Grove City, Blacklick, Pickerington, and Columbus. Dr. Junak is passionate about helping people solve their problems in order to get them back to doing the things they love.