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IMPORTANT SITE ANNOUNCEMENT


The Bodyweight666 and other programs offered here are no longer supported. The site will remain live for the time being but you can find the new and updated strength training program and bodyweight progressions at: STARTBODYWEIGHT.COM




Saturday, 16 June 2012

Pull up progression


Whilst some people may think of push ups as ‘the king of bodyweight exercises’, pull ups are a favourite of mine and a particularly devilish compound exercise! They will work the muscles in your upper back (the latissimus dorsi, and the trapezius), in your shoulders (the anterior deltoids), and in your arms (the biceps and brachialis). The closer together the hands are placed, the more the emphasis is on the biceps. And of course, pull ups will also test your grip strength.

Pull ups are normally performed with your hands facing away from you, while chin ups are done with your hands facing towards you (and chin ups also emphasize the biceps more). Chin ups are generally considered to be slightly easier version.


The following progression can be done with both pull ups and chin ups, even if you do not have a pull up bar (How to do pull ups without a pull up bar).

 Start at whichever point of the progression  is relevant to you.

Unless otherwise indicated, you should be aiming to complete 6 sets of 6 repetitions of the given exercise within a workout.  
The first set is a warm up set: go back two or three levels in the progression and perform that variation for 6 reps. 
Perform each following set ‘to failure’ (e.g. 6,6,5,5,4).  

In each new workout, you should aim to improve on the number of reps you performed previously by at least 1, e.g.: (6,6,5,5,4) (6,6,6,5,4) 
Once you manage 6 sets of 6 reps, you are ready to move on to the next variation in the progression.


If you find yourself not progressing any longer, take a few rest days, then resume training.

Finally, if you are still struggling to achieve your first pull up, make sure to read How to do one pull up.

door pull, let me in, pull up progression
1. Vertical pulls (also known as door pulls, or let me ins). Place your feet on both sides of the door, grab hold of the door knob on each side, and lean back. Keep your elbows close to your body as you pull, and squeeze your shoulders together on top of the movement. You should breathe in as you lower yourself, and breathe out as you pull. Lower yourself over 3 seconds on the way down.






horizontal pull, pull up progression
2. Inverted rows (also known as a horizontal pull), bent legs - performed on a low horizontal bar, with bent legs, feet resting on the floor. Lower yourself slowly over 3 seconds. Squeeze your shoulder blades together as you reach the top of the movement to engage your rhomboids.




horizontal pull, pull up progression
3. Inverted rows, straight legs - performed on a low horizontal bar, with straight legs, feet resting on the floor. 3 seconds on the way down.






horizontal pull, pull up progression
4. Inverted rows, one elevated leg. 3 seconds on the way down. Performed here between 2 table tops, with a broom.










pull up progression
5. Eccentric pull ups. Jump up in the pull up position (chin above the bar, then slowly lower yourself down to the count of 3 seconds).










 6. Half pull ups. Start in mid range, and pull yourself up through half the range of motion, until your chin clears the bar. Lower yourself to the count of 3 seconds.









7. Jumping pull ups. Standing underneath the bar, jump into the pull up, which should give you a slight head start. 3 seconds on the way down.










pull up progression
8. Pull ups. Start with a slight bend in your arms, and pull up till your chin clears the bar.










pull up progression
 9. Close grip pull up. Same as a pull up, but with your hands close together.











pull up progression
 10. Sternum pull up. This move shifts the emphasis away from the latissimus dorsi, but it is a key step in the progression towards a muscle up. Perform a pull up until the bar is at chest level. Make sure your elbows remain close to your body throughout the later part of the move, and that they drive back past your shoulders. This move is not to be confused with the 'gironda sternum pull up', through which your back is arched.






pull up progression
11. Belly button pull up. Same as above, but pull more explosively until your belly button is level with the bar. Again, your elbows should brush past your sides, and drive back past your shoulders.

53 comments:

  1. I love these progressions you have been posting! They're really useful to me! Thanks!

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  2. I´m trying to go from eccentric one arm pull ups to full one arm pull ups, but I´m finding the transition difficult... It does require a LOT of grip strength!

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    Replies
    1. Try adding some farmers walks to your training, 3 times a week in sets of 3 - of as much length or time as you can (I prefer timing it). This will strengthen your grip and lower arms.

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    2. You may want to try static holds, one with arms down and then with arms bent. You may want to stand on a chair to get into the initial position.

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    3. Try one arm pullups with an assist on the way up (second arm grabs bar to help pull you up, then you descend using only one arm). Another option is gripping one arm's wrist with the other arm.

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  3. These progressions are great! Anyway, I was wondering... is there a good alternative if you don't have any bars to do pull ups from? I'd pretty much be starting from the beginning, and I know some suggest using a kitchen table but I don't trust mine to stay upright.

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  4. Door frames, tree branches, some staircases, anything you can hang from... Also, if you have dumbbells, bent-over rows.

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  5. Do you have to fully extend your arm when doing the pull ups?And,what is the difference between doing these exercises everyday and doing them every other day?Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The general consensus is that no, you shouldn't lock your elbows, but rather keep a slight bend in them.
      If yo work up to your rep max, then you should probably only work out every other day -or more- to give your muscles time to repair and grow.

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  6. Hi EL Diablo.I have a question,do these exercise progressions build muscle along with strength?Thank you!

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  7. They certainly do! In order to build muscles you will have to follow two main nutritional principles though:
    - you must ensure your intake of proteins is adequate. The rule of thumb is that you need between 1 and 1.5 times your body weight in grams of protein. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, you should eat between 150 and 225 grams of protein per day.
    - as a rule of thumb, you should also aim to eat 500 calories a day more than your maintenance calories.

    I hope this helps.

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  8. Very informative,thanks!

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  9. Hi,I can do 5 pull ups in my first set,but when I try to do it again after 1 min,I could barely do 3.At the final set,I can only do 1.What should I do?Thank you

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    Replies
    1. Go back one step in the progression until you can do three sets of 10. If you still don't manage three sets of 5 pull ups after that, then increase the number of jumping pull ups to 4 sets of 10.

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    2. Thank you.But,by jumping pull ups,does it mean that I have to jump every rep?

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    3. Hi again,I was just wondering,instead of going back one step in the progression,can I just start from 3 sets of 3 pull ups,and continue from there?Thanks

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  10. I can do 6 sets of 6 close grip pull ups but I can't do the sternum pull ups what should I do to get to that progression? Also how much rest between sets should you take?

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    Replies
    1. This is actually quite surprising, as you should fairly easily manage 6 sets of 3 at this stage. A couple of questions: have you been training pull ups or chin ups? Are you getting your chin over the bar without overstretching your neck?
      Make sure to take 3 to 5 mins between sets, and try to get just a little bit higher every sessionas well as increasing your reps: start with collar bone pull ups, then aim for a height between collar bone and nipples, then sternum pull ups. This should help.

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    2. I have been training pull ups. Most of the time I get my chin over bar without overstretching my neck however sometimes on the last set and the last reps of the set I have to stretch my neck further to get over it. When you do the sternum pull ups you are supposed to do them without kipping right also for the sternum pull ups are you supposed to switch back to a standard grip instead of a close grip? Thank you for the tips.

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    3. Ahhh... yes you are supposed to switch back to a standard grip (this would definitely explain why you might have struggled to do sternum pull ups!), and no: no kipping.

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  11. I have a question do you mean 6x6 for like vertical rows and another 6x6 for the next progression? Or just start at one progression and then end up doing 36 in total of all the pullup progressions?

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    Replies
    1. you choose one exercise in a progression and you do 6x6. Then you move on to the next progression and choose another exercises... The sample programs tell you which progressions to follow on which days:
      http://www.fitness666.com/p/bodyweight-666.html

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  12. I'm pretty sure it is just 36 in total but just want to make sure. Thanks.

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  13. It seems like a great workout I guess I just don't really understand the progressions and how much to do each workout

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    Replies
    1. have a look at the sample programme I linked to... it should make it clear for you.

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  14. Hey Diablo, right now I am stuck between close grip pull ups and sternum pullups. Any tips to get past this? I can't get anywhere near doing sternum pullup.

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    Replies
    1. Well, sure: these are only guidelines... So if you can only manage to your collarbone, start with that.
      Then everytime go a little higher on your pullpus, until you reach your sternum. You need slightly more explosiveness when you start working on these, so it tends to take longer than the other steps in the progression, but just be patient and keep trying to go a little higher and you'll get there

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    2. Thanks for the tips man. I'll try it and see how it goes.

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  15. Hey Diablo,

    Why did you switch from 3 sets of 10 reps (increasing as you get stronger) to 6 sets of 6 reps? I feel like doing such a low number of reps makes things a lot easier.

    Thanks.

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    Replies
    1. Working within the 4-8 reps range has been shown to be optimal for strength development, whereas the 8-12 range is typically used for hypertrophy. Whilst it might seem easier to you to do sets of 6 reps, once you start working towards the harder variations, sets of 6 reps ensure more strength gains and smoother progressions.

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    2. Hey Diablo,

      I just have a question. If 6 sets of 6 reps is for strength gains, would doing a routine like 9 sets of 9 reps be good for muscle gains?
      You said that the 8-12 range is for hypertrophy so my question is just a result of me thinking about what you said.

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  16. hey diablo,

    how about rest between the set? (according to 6 set of 6 rep workout)

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    Replies
    1. 2 to 3 mins if you're looking for pure strength development. One minute if you're pressed for time, in which case, you'll be working more towards strength-endurance.

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  17. I can do 3 pulls ups but when I come to do the 4th I struggle ... Any suggestions ??

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    Replies
    1. Do half pull ups so far.. aim for at least 5 sets of 3. Alternate between doing the top half of the movement on one day, then the bottom half of the movement on another day. When you can do 5 sets of 6, you should be ready for 5 sets of 3 full pull ups. Then build up from there.

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    2. In my first attempt, I barely did 3 pull-ups.
      That was about a year ago.
      Now, I am maxing out at 18. So just keep pulling.
      My goal is 30+.

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  18. I'm confused

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  19. Would you recommend doing this progression with both chin ups and pull ups in my programe? Or should I stick to just pull ups?

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    Replies
    1. If you can cope with them, stick with pull ups... I find it helps if you switch to chin ups when training one arm chins personally, but this is a matter of personal preference.

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  20. Hi, for the inverted rows, do you need to touch your chest to the bar? I have been doing convict conditioning, and in that program it tells you to come up till your chest hits the bar, but I cannot do it; I can get to a certain point close to it, but just cannot go any further. If I put my feet on the floor the I can get closer by a little bit, but I wonder how important it is to get right up to touch it??

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    Replies
    1. No, it's not that critical... just come as close as you can.

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  21. I seem to be progressing a lot slower in this progression than in all the others. Am I doing something wrong or is this normal?

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    Replies
    1. no, you're not foing anything wrong... we all have our strength and weaknesses. Just stick with it.

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  22. I'm doing the inverted rows on rings because I can't find a bar at the right height, does this make a difference in difficulty?

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  23. Hello El diablo!
    First of all: kudos for all your work! As an absolute newbie to exercise i am finding your progression useful, easy to understand and rewarding!

    I have a question: I started out with pretty weak arms, and i am slowly working my way up the different progression, but whereas my triceps often feel sore (which is a good thing I reckon!), I rarely get that from the biceps. I do the inverted rows in each workout, is there another exercise I can add (and that I can perform with bodyweight or standard stuff I can find in the house) to work my biceps a bit more?

    Thank you very very much and greetings from Italy!

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    Replies
    1. Hey there. I'm obviously not El diablo, but I do have some advice. If you mix in some chinups with your hands closer to eachother, it will work out the biceps more.

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  24. Hey El Diablo

    I am a complete beginner but will start following the various progressions you have put up because i think it is a really great website and gives me a great starting point.

    Would it be possible for you to make pdf documents which can be downloaded for 'the essential 6 bodyweight progressions' and the 'further progressions' on each page of the various exercises. I think this will be great for all your users such as me as it will make it much easier to follow by for example having the pdf on the wall like a poster to follow the various progressions.

    Thanks in advance for your reply.


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  25. Can you show me a link or make a video to explain the sternum pull-up form. All I'm finding is the gironda sternum pull-up.

    Having a hard time progressing to this stage.

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  26. On level 10 & 11 pull ups do you have to be explosive or are you supposed to be able to lift in a controlled manner past your chin and then up to your belly button? In the pictures you seem to be raising your legs in front of you is this how these pulls ups are done? Do you use any kipping?

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  27. Hi,

    Awesome site and sooooo helpful.

    Should I rest every other day when trying these progressions or do it daily?

    thanks

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    Replies
    1. For most people, I would recommend to only do these every other day. Some will need more rest, some can cope with doing them daily... Your body will let you know though.

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