How to Train for Pullups?

monkeybusinessimages/iStock/Getty Images

A compound exercise involving several major muscle groups, pull-ups work your lats, deltoids, teres major and biceps muscles. This makes pull-ups an efficient choice to include in your eight to 10 strength-training exercises that you perform at least twice a week, as suggested by the American College of Sports Medicine. Pull-ups also have the advantage of being easy to perform at home with the installation of a door-frame-mounted pull-up bar. Always warm up with five to 10 minutes of aerobic activity before you train for pull-ups.

Lat Pulldowns

Sit on an exercise bench facing a lat pulldown exercise machine. Grip a straight bar overhead with your hands shoulders-width apart, palms forward and arms straight. Wrap your thumb around the bar or align it with your fingers.

Pull the bar down until it touches or nears your chest, bending your elbows to bring them as close to your sides as possible.

Return the bar to the overhead starting position for one rep.

Assisted Pull-Up Machine

Grasp the bar of an assisted pull-up machine with your palms facing forward and hands shoulder-width apart, arms straight.

Pull your body up as high as you can, bringing your chin up over the bar.

Lower back to the starting position for one rep.

Assisted Pull-Ups

Grip a pull-up bar with your palms facing forward, hands shoulders-width apart and arms straight.

Lift your feet off the ground, bending your knees so that your feet extend behind you. Cross your legs at your ankles.

Pull up as far as you can, trying to bring your chin above the bar. When you can’t pull up anymore, have a partner push up on your feet to assist you in completing the upward motion.

Hold this position as long as you can, with or without assistance as needed, and then lower as slowly as you can to the starting position for one rep.


For lat pull-downs and the assisted pull-up machine, do one warm-up set of 10 to 12 reps, followed by two sets of one to five reps with the weight as heavy as possible, as recommended for training power by ShapeFit online.

Before doing assisted pull-ups with a partner, warm up with a set of 10 to 12 lat pulldowns or assisted pull-ups on the pull-up machine.

Do not perform all three of these exercises in one session. Alternate them or choose the exercise that works best for your lifestyle and schedule.

Take at least one day off in between each pull-up training session, and don't train if your muscles are still sore from the previous session.

Start training for pull-ups slowly. Include only one to three sets of 10 to 12 reps at a moderate level of intensity in your first few sessions. When you're not getting sore from these sessions, implement the lower-rep, higher-intensity training plan.

Follow each training session with stretching to promote circulation and flexibility.

To help avoid muscle imbalances, perform a complementary exercise in conjunction with your pull-up training plan, such as bench presses or push-ups.


Don't begin a pull-up training program without receiving approval from a physician.

Pull-ups are notorious for causing elbow tendinitis. To avoid this, do not lower to a totally straight-armed position at the bottom of each pull-up. Instead, maintain a slight amount of tension in your arms and shoulders.

If you feel any sharp pain in your elbows or shoulders, stop doing pull-ups and consult with a medical professional.