Pull Up Program for Beginners

I’m pleased to announce the launch of the pull-up program for beginners. This is the first of dozens of programs that focus on the development of individual bodyweight exercises. Which is in contrast of my other fitness program that are are more holistic programs in nature focusing on multiple movements and attributes at the same time.

If you’re interested in getting started, please read the pull-up program overview.


The goal of each of these new individual programs is to guide a trainee to have a high level of competence over that single movement. For example, the pull-up program for beginners aims to take a person from zero to 15 strict pull-ups. This is in contrast with other programs that you’ll come find from other trainers that have some of the following flawed attributes when only trying to master the pull-up or chin-up:

  • Are part of another larger program with other movements. Well, what if you just want to work on pull-ups or chin-ups for now?
  • Assumes that the trainee already has a strict pull-up and simply wants to do more or start adding weight to perform weighted pull-ups or chin-ups. Well, what if the trainee doesn’t know how to get their first few pull-ups?
  • The program is aimed at trainees who are unable to perform a strict pull-up but it has unstructured and loose guidelines on how to get their first solid pull-up.

The pull-up program for beginners is based on the following core principles.

  •  Extremely detailed instructions, videos, and programming to guide complete beginners on how to progress towards going from zero to 15 pull-ups. Nothing is left to chance or ‘filling in the gaps’.
  • Well designed software on this website to make the week-to-week task of following an exercise program. No fussing with ebooks, pdfs, spreadsheets, books, forum posts, or blog posts. Take a look for yourself and check out the pull-up course software.
  • Utilizes well-thought-out and researched Exercise Science. You can read about this in my Periodization post if you want to geek out a bit. If not, do not worry. The program is set up so that one can follow along and not get marred in the muck of terms like periodization, microcycles, and supercompensation.

Pull Up Program for Beginners Overview

In this section, let’s dig in a little deeper so you have a better understanding of how the program is structured.

What is a Level?

The program is set up into 8 levels. The purpose of a level is to progress to a new strength level for an individual movement. Each level has one movement that is the primary movement but each level will have multiple exercises.

Let’s use Level 2 as an example. In Level 2 the primary movement is a 30 Degree Knee Bend Leg Assisted Pull-Up. By the end of the Level, the trainee will be able to perform 3 sets of 8 reps of a  30 Degree Knee Bend Leg Assisted Pull-Up.

Once the trainee can perform the goal of a Level, they move to the next level. For example, after a trainee can complete 3 sets of 8 reps of a  30 Degree Knee Bend Leg Assisted Pull-Up they move to Level 3 pull-up. In Level 3 they will focus on Straight Leg Assisted Pull-Ups.

With me so far? Good.

What is a sub-level?

A level is broken up into sub-levels. For example, Level 2 has 7 sub-levels.

A sub-level contains the workouts a trainee is working on. A sub-level can have multiple workouts that should be done in a given week. For example, here is the first workout for sub-level 2.1

OrderFocusMovementSetsReps or Hold Length RestTempo
A1Specific Warm UpWalking Dumbbell farmers hold as heavy as possible160 Secondsas needed
StrengthSquat Assisted Pull-Ups55 to 8 as needed3x11
D1Hypertrophy AccessoryWide Grip Lat Pull Down Pull-Up Grip412 to 15 Reps180 Seconds3x11
D2Hypertrophy AccessoryDumbbell Row48 to 12 Reps180 Seconds3x11

Each sub-level has a goal. Once the trainee completes the goal of that sub-level, the move to the next. So 2.1, then 2.2, then 2.3, and so on until they move to level 3.

Still with me? Lovely.

Levels and sub-levels recap

The pull-up program for beginners has 8 levels. Each level has sub-levels. You progress through each level and sub-level. As you progress, you work on more challenging progressions.

By the time you get to level 7, you will have a strict pull-up. It is at this point you begin working up from 1 to 15 pull-ups.

When does it end?

Levels 1 through 7 are considered preparation levels. This is all the work that goes into getting to 15 pull-ups. It brings someone very far from being able to do a pull-up to having high competence over the movement.

Level 8 is the maintenance level. This is a weekly or bi-monthly workout that you do that maintains your ability to perform 15 strict pull-ups. From here, you can then take on more challenging upper-body pulling movements if you wish. For example, one-arm pull-ups, legless rope climbs, L pull-ups, weighted chins ups, and so on. It’s up to you. But a solid pull-up foundation is needed first. That’s what level 1 through 7 is for.

Mission Statement

Long time readers may mostly know me for my expertise in Cross-Training. And there is a good reason for that.

From 2006 to 2013 I lived and breathed Cross-Training. I competed in the Cross-Training Games, Regionals, and Open. I competed in Olympic Lifting and Powerlifting. I coached Cross-Training full-time. This included group classes, clinics, personal training, and weight loss programs. All this while finishing up an undergrad in Exercise Science. This is also when I built my cross-training programs that became so popular Most notably, my cross-training gymnastics program.

When my Cross-Training ‘career’ was coming to an end I didn’t leave it without capturing my learnings somehow. I could have done a few blog posts, a book, or seminars – but I decided on building out some high production value Cross-Training Programs.

Since 2013 and no longer being active in Cross-Training, I’ve been in research mode. Figuring things out again. Not coaching. Not earning a full income from fitness. Experimenting. Having fun. Getting injured. Not embracing a single fitness paradigm. Moving away from calling myself an expert. Shedding pretense. Getting coached, not being a coach. Being a beginner again.

It’s 2018 (time of writing this) and I’m starting to come out the other end. I’ve learned a lot. I’ve changed my ideas about movement even more. I have a new vision and am building something new. I am calling it The Level Up Method. And this pull-up program for beginners is my first foray into building out my own methods. All of it based on now 15 years with an insatiable interest in fitness.

Part of that new vision is getting behind a purpose that I can truly dedicate myself to. Something that I can spend years if not decades on. Which is summed out nicely right below and on the About page.

My new mission statement for this site.

This body of work is dedicated to providing educational resources that aid in initiating & nurturing lifelong strength training habits.

So what does that mission statement mean in practical terms? If I were to look back at the results of all of the work that culminated in it I don’t want it all to be for naught. I believe strength training is a lever that can be pulled on to increase one’s quality of life and length. For me, success will look like providing resources that compel people to self educate and by doing so learn why and how to stay strong throughout their life.

My new training programs are not focused on Cross-Trainingter in mind. With that said, some of these programs will be useful in addition to Cross-Training. For example, would it be helpful for a Cross-Trainingter to have a sense of mastery over a strict pull-up? You bet.

With Level Up, I am branching out towards a general fitness population. This is so that I can work towards my mission statement more effectively.