Pull-Up Progression Introduction

Can’t do a pull-up? Or perhaps you can do one or two or three but want to do 15-20 without dropping off the bar? What is needed is a structured pull-up progression that walks you through step-by-step on how to do pull-ups.

This pull-up progression is designed for two types of people.

  1. The first type is for people who can’t do a pull-up yet. Perhaps you’ve done countless band pull-ups, rows, or lat pull-downs and that strategy hasn’t translated into meaningful progress yet. Or perhaps you’re just starting out on wanting a well-structured program to guide you through the process. For those people, this pull-up progression will help guide you step-by-step to your first pull-up, to getting multiple in a row, and then all the way to 15 to 20.
  2. The second type is for those who might have a few pull-ups but aren’t sure what exercises and workouts should be used to get to the next level. Perhaps you can do a ‘pull-up’ but it’s ugly or with bad form. Perhaps you kick your legs or start with bent arms. Or perhaps you can do one REALLY good pull-up but just need help getting more. For those people who fall into this category, this pull-up program will guide you to doing pull-ups well.

(If you can already complete 5 to 10 strict pull-ups with the great form then this progression will be a little too easy for you.)

In this pull-up program, you’ll have everything you need to master the pull-up. This includes the following:

  • A proven progression pull-up routine that is ideal for beginners.
  • Videos of each movement used in the program to you how to perform pull-ups exercise correctly.
  • Lifetime access to this course and software will always be accessible from your phone, tablet, or computer. No more fussing with PDFs, spreadsheets, or books, Hooray! An easy-to-follow program with even easier software supporting it.
  • Email and chat support.

What To Expect

By the end of the program, you can expect to perform 15-20 strict pull-ups. Once you’ve attained that goal I’ll provide a simple template (Level 8) to maintain the ability to do ~15 strict pull-ups. From here, it is recommended that you then focus your efforts on a new pulling movement while maintaining pull-ups. Four good options are Muscle Ups, weighted pull-ups, legless rope-climbing, or one-arm pull-ups.

Pull-Up Progression Overview

First off, what is a pull-up?

A proper pull-up is simply the act of using your arms and back muscles to pull one’s body up so that their chin is over the bar (or whatever apparatus they are holding onto, don’t get cute on me).

Here is a video of me performing strict pull-ups on a pull-up bar:

{Strict pull-up video}

And here is a diagram showing you the side view of a bodyweight pull-up. You can see the figure starts off by hanging from the bar. Then as they start moving on the first pull they engage their lats and biceps as the primary muscle movers. They do this until the chin is over the bar. Once they are moving down they perform a negative pull-up. A negative pull-up is simply when you control your way down rather than lowering yourself.

Alright, we are now all on the same page on what a proper pull-up looks like. Now, let’s dig in a little bit on how the pull-up progression is structured.

Pull-Up Progression Design

The pull-up progression is set up into 8 Levels.

Each level has the following attributes:

  • There is a Level overview lesson. The lesson overview will tell you what the primary goal of the level is. Once that goal is complete, then you can move to the next level. For example, the goal of Level 3 is 3 sets of 10 to 12 reps of Straight Leg Assisted Pull-Up. Once you are able to do that, then you can move to level 4. The lesson overview may also have secondary goals. For example, in level 3 there is a focus on grip strength by using dumbbell farmer’s walks and also back strength by using lat pull-downs, face pulls, and barbell curls. The overview will also have notes on proper form for the primary movement being developed at that level. Finally, the overview will discuss what the weekly microcycle is and the volume and intensity used (see the Periodization article if you want to know what a microcycle is). You can read the Level 1 Overview if you like.
  • Each level will have three to eight sub-levels. Each sub-level has a goal. Once the goal of a sub-level is complete then you move to the next sub-level. Once you complete the last sub-level of a Level then you are done with that level.
  • Within each sub-level, there will be 2 or 3 workouts that will be done within that week. You will cycle through those workouts until you are able to complete the sub-level goal.

This is the underlying logic of the ‘Level Up’ program. That there is a long string of levels to reach the performance goal. Each time you finish a level, you are able to Level Up!

Pull-Up Exercises

Each Level has a primary movement that you are working on. Since there are 8 Levels in the pull-up progression then there are eight primary movements being worked on. Here are the primary movements in each level.

  1. Body Row at a 45 degrees angle.
  2. 30 Degree Knee Bend Leg Assisted Pull-Up.
  3. Straight Leg Assisted Pull-Up.
  4. 18″ Elevated Straight Leg Assisted Pull-Up.
  5. 20 seconds Elevated Leg Assisted Pull-Up Hold with a controlled 5-second descent at a 12-18″ elevation.
  6. 8 seconds Pull-Up Hold with a 5-second descent.
  7. 15-20 strict pull-ups unbroken.
  8. Maintenance phase.

Preparatory Phase and Maintenance Phase

If you’ve read the Periodization article you may recall that I break the progression of a movement into two primary phases.

  • The Prep Phase. This is the time where we develop the skill to the level we set out to. In the case of the Pull-Up, we set out to be able to perform 15-20 Strict Pull-Ups in a row. During this time, we are spending a not-insignificant portion of our training time towards developing that skill. The Prep phase is Levels 1 through 7.
  • The Maintenance Phase. In this phase, we are spending the least amount of our training time/volume in order to maintain the skill. For example, in Level 7 of the pull-up program, you’ll have three workouts a week and additionally may have been greasing the groove and doing more reps throughout the week. This means you may have been doing pull-ups 3-6 days a week! The great thing is that once we can do 15-20 pull-ups then it doesn’t take much effort to keep it. The maintenance phase is level 8.

Getting Started on the Pull-Up Progression

I hope that’s given you a good overview of the pull-up progression program. If it hasn’t, feel free to message me and I’ll clear things up.

If you haven’t already done so, you can purchase the Pull-Up Program.

If you’ve already purchased then great! Getting started will be very simple. What you need to do is locate the level which is appropriate for you to start from. This can be done by reading the Overview of the levels and determine if that level is too easy or too hard. Also, there is no problem with starting from Level 1 even if you are a little bit farther along. In fact, I recommend it!

If you have no idea on where to start, then I would suggest beginning from Level 1 :).

Marking a Level as Complete

You will notice that each lesson has a “Complete” button at the bottom. This is how you have shown that you have been able to ‘Level Up’ from that Level or sub-level.

Go ahead and hit ‘Complete’ below to get a hang of it.  You must be logged in to see the complete button.