Pull Up Progressions

Second to deadlifts, pull-ups are one of my all-time favourite exercises to do in the gym.

Being female, we tend to have a hard time completing multiple full-extension pull-ups. But this doesn’t mean to say the ladies can’t out-pull-up our male counterparts. It can be done! They key is progressions. You don’t do your first pull-up overnight after not being able to pull yourself up band-assisted. I used to not be able to to even complete one full-extension chin up. Now, I am one pull-up shy of reaching my personal 10 rep goal.

First, I’d like you to read Neghar Fonooni’s post How I Stopped Sucking at Pullups . Neghar, of Eat Lift & Be Happy, has an excellent perspective on the mental aspect of doing pull-ups.

Next, I’ve brought in fitness and strength expert Jason Maxwell, of Jmax Fitness, to help us ladies out in the pull up department. Jason is the most amazing and cutest trainer ever (ok, I’m biased). But he really does know what he’s doing, practices what he preaches, and is the man behind my pull up PR’s (personal records). Here is Jason’s pull up progression program he created for us.

The progressions are to be added to your existing workout routine, preferably after your warm-up, and are to be the focus of your workout.

Start here, with the easiest progression, down to a full pull-up.

1. Quadruped Pull-Down

Perform 5-10 reps for 4-6 sets, with as much weight at possible.


2. Kneeling Cable Pull-Down

Perform 8 reps, with 4-6 sets.


3. Pull-Up Iso-Hold


Hold for a total time of 2 minutes (however many sets needed).


4. Band-Assisted Pull-Up


Perform 10 total reps with as least amount of sets as possible.

5. Pull-Ups!



*Inverted Rows (TRX/ Bar)

5 sets of as many reps as possible, to supplement every progression

Accessory Exercises:

These will strengthen your back and help your pulling muscles in completing pull-ups. Add them to every workout or every other workout to assist your progressions.

Rack Deadlifts

-Perform 2 reps, 5 sets

-For grip and glute strength because glutes are attached to the core and should be contracted during pul-ups.

Hard-Style Plank

-start with 5-10 seconds, work up to three 30-second holds.

-For stabilizing the core. Essentially, a pull-up is just like a vertical moving plank.


Hope this program helps you with your pull-ups, whether its to complete your first one, or reach your 10-rep goal. Let me know how it works for you!

All Rights Reserved.  ©anArchitectAbroad