Perfect Pull-Up Progression

In terms of at-home exercises, there are few as potent and versatile as pull-ups. With just a single bar, whether it’s a door frame bar or permanent installation, you can execute highly effective, yet simple, compound exercises for your arms, shoulders, back and core. And you don’t have to bore yourself with the one standard movement. Try these nine variations next time you’re in the mood for a challenge. Can’t do a pull-up quite yet? No problem, the first series is for you!

Beginner’s Series (For those working up to a pull-up)

Dead Hang

Using an overhand grip, grab onto the bar and let your body hang all the way through the toes for 30 seconds. This movement improves spinal traction, grip strength and shoulder mobility. It’s a great exercise for those brand new to pull-ups.

Negative Pull-up

This is also a great movement for those who don’t have a full pull-up yet. Stand on a box or other stable object that allows you to start in the full, raised pull-up position. As slow as you can, lower your body into a dead hang. Repeat 10 to 12 times. This will begin to build the muscles you need for the complete exercise.

Scapular Pull-ups

From a dead hang, engage through the shoulders and raise your body just a few inches. Don’t bend your arms or worry about pulling the body to the bar. Just isolate and strengthen the scapula muscles. Repeat 10 to 12 times.

Advanced Series (For those who can do one or more pull-ups)

Climber Pull-up

Using an overhand grip, pull yourself up to the bar as if you were doing a standard pull-up. At the apex of the pull-up, stay engaged through the arms and core, and slowly shift your body to the left and then the right. Carefully lower your body to a hanging position and repeat.

Push-up pull-up

If you want to add a little a cardio into your pull-up series, try adding a push-up (or squat or other dynamic movement) into the mix. You can amp up the exercise by dropping to the ground in between pull-ups and doing a push-up or two.

Skin the Cat

This is the most advanced version of the movement and requires a lot of shoulder mobility and strength. At the bottom of the pull-up, lift your legs toward the bar and allow the toes to lead the legs through the hands, stretching the shoulders. Go only as far as you feel comfortable. Slowly, uncurl the legs and return to hanging.

Core Series – (For anyone)

Knee Raises and L-Sits

From a dead hang, simply raise your knees to hip height and return to the starting position. To advance the exercise, keep the legs straight and raise the toes to hip height. Repeat 12 to 15 times.

Toes to bar

When you are able to perform 10 to 12 L-sits, try upping the ante by raising the toes past your hips. The goal is to eventually touch your toes to the bar. This is one of the most dynamic core movements.

Windshield Wipers

From an L-sit, slowly shift the legs as far to the left and then as far to the right as possible. The twisting motion adds some challenge to the standard L-sit. Keep the legs straight and perform 10 to 12 times

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