By Sam Cortes, Communications Coordinator

Pull-ups are a great compound exercise to strengthen the upper body and core. However, the idea of lifting your entire body weight can be a daunting task. 

But fear not! This blog will guide you through the progression to doing a standard pull-up.


A Standard Pull-up

A standard pull-up is performed by grabbing a bar with your hands facing away from you and slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. 

Keep your shoulder blades down and retracted to increase shoulder stability throughout the movement (Ronai & Scibek, 2014). Engage your core to prevent your body from swinging. Lift yourself up, until your chin is at or slightly above the bar. 



We can progress to a standard pull-up faster when we train with similar movements.

Step 1: Kneeling Lat Pull-Downs
The muscle activation during kneeling lat pull-downs and standard pull-ups are more similar than seated lat pull-downs or assisted pull-ups (Hewit et al., 2018). 

Lean your body slightly backwards, so that the bar can move straight up and down without hitting your face. Grip the bar as you would for a standard pull-up (palms facing away from body and slightly wider than shoulder-width apart). Pull down the bar by using your lats until the bar is at or slightly below your chin.

  1. Try to start with 3 sets of 8 repetitions
  2. Gradually increase the amount of repetitions per set to do 3 sets of 12 repetitions
  3. Increase the weight and start with 3 sets of 8 repetitions
  4. Repeat step 2 and 3 until you are able lift 80% of your body weight for 3 sets of 12 repetitions



Step 2: Negative Pull-Ups
The form and technique of pull-ups and negative pull-ups are the same, except for one thing: you will jump to the top of the movement instead of raising yourself up with your arms and back. 

Try to descend for three to five seconds.

  1. Try to start with three sets of five repetitions
  2. Gradually increase the amount of repetitions per set to do 10 repetitions per set
  3. Increase the amount of sets to do four sets and start with six repetitions in each set
  4. Increase the amount of repetitions per set to do four sets of eight repetitions 



Step 3: Pull-Ups

If you have followed step one and two, you are now ready to do pull-ups! 

To ensure your safety, please make sure to use the proper form and technique outlined above. 

You can begin each set with standard pull-ups and transition into negative pull-ups to finish your set. 



This is only a rough guideline and may not be the optimal timeline for your progression to a standard pull-up. Some people may need more time or less time to progress between each step. 

Try to do more with each workout and enjoy the process regardless of the results!

Please put safety first and email us at if you have any questions!











Hewit, J. K., Jaffe, D. A., & Crowder, T. (2018). A comparison of muscle activation during the  pull-up and three alternative pulling exercises. Journal of Physical Fitness, Medicine, and Treatment in Sports, 5(4). 

Ronai, P. & Scibek, E. (2014). The pull-up. Strength and Conditioning Journal, 36(3), 88-90.