An Iron-Clad Plan to Complete Your First Pull-Up

pull-up training

One of the most satisfying exercises around is a pull-up. There is just something so cool about the ability to grab onto something and lift our entire bodies over it as if we were on the edge of a cliff fighting for our life!

For some, the strength to do a pull-up comes naturally. For others, it is the HARDEST exercise they have ever attempted. You may even feel like doing a pull-up is impossible, but I assure you, it is not.

While it is not impossible, it’s definitely not easy. Your ability to do this exercise will come down to your strength, body weight, and determination to practice these drills and follow a plan to get you there. If all of these things are in line and improved, you should be able to get that long-awaited pull-up within about 6 weeks.

Pull-ups, much like push-ups, come down to strength and conditioning. The more you try, the stronger you get and the sooner you’ll succeed. For every client that I encounter who truly wants to hit this benchmark, I give them these drills to practice 2-3 times a week.

Before You Get Started, Keep in Mind:

  1. The warm-up should be done before every drill for the entire program. The last thing you want to do is pull your latissimus dorsi (your lats). I can tell you from experience that it is not fun!
  2. Your resistance in these exercises should increase weekly. Remember, you are working toward pulling your entire body weight. Every time you do these exercises, make sure that the weight is so difficult that you can barely finish the set. The more you give, the closer you get to your goal.
  3. Try to get past your body weight when you get to the lat pull-downs.
  4. These drills should be done before your actual workout, not after. Give your best by practicing these before you wear yourself out.
  5. There’s a benchmark every two weeks to test your strength. If you do not meet the mark, spend more time working on those drills with as much resistance as you can manage until you do.

Note: This drill set is written for males ranging from 150-215 lbs. and females 100-150 lbs. If you are over this weight, you can still do it! Just keep at it, persevere, and please let us know when you accomplish it!  

Your Six-Week Pull-Up Plan


Do each exercise for 30 seconds, three rounds.

  • Resistance Band Swimmer Rows – Make sure to keep your arms straight and elbows locked. 
  • Lat Pull-Downs – Start in supinated position (palms up) and pull the bar to your collar bone. Focus on squeezing your shoulders together and getting your elbows as far behind your back as possible.   

Drill Set #1 | Weeks 1 & 2

Do all three of these back-to-back for one set. Repeat for a total of three sets, with adequate rest in between. 

  • 15 Resistance Band Pull-Downs
  • 15 Resistance Band Bent-Over Vertical Pulls
  • 15 Lat Pull-Downs

Benchmark: You should be able to do a lat pull-down with at least 75% of your body weight (wt * .75).

Drill Set #2 | Weeks 3 & 4

For these sets, allow 90-120 seconds of rest in between each set. 4 total sets.

  • 5 Mixed Grip Lat Pull-Downs with one hand supinated and one pronated
  • 5 Negative Pull-Ups with resistance band 

Benchmark: You should be able to do a lat pull-down with at least 90% of your body weight (wt * .9)

Drill Set #3 | Weeks 5 & 6

For these sets, allow 90-120 seconds of rest in between each set. 4 total sets.

  • 5-10 Resistance Band Pull-Ups
  • 5 Negative Pull-Ups with no assistance

Benchmark: You’re done! Get your pull-up on and tell us how it goes! 

Watch the video illustrating all of these pull-up prep exercises.

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Luke Andrus is a certified personal trainer, ACE health coach, writer, folk music drummer, husband, and a father. Most of his writing experience is in poetry and fictional short stories, and he also proposed to his wife with a self-published children's book. He is a Narnia nerd with a degree in History, a minor in English, and a semi-obsession with the French language. He believes that fitness is not just about vanity, but about lifestyle, integrity, and the ability to take control of your life.