Can you do a pull-up Or several? If not, we have the perfect entry-level program for you. Because our colleague Andrea from Brand Management took up exactly this challenge. And first of all a recommendation to everyone who wants taut arms: Here is our highly effective training plan against “wink fat”.
Andrea is actually more of a runner, and fitness exercises are not really her thing. So far. So this month she’s facing a completely different challenge. The goal: You finally want to do a pull-up. Well, at least. Do you want to try it too? With their exercises and the tips of our experts, you will definitely make it.
What is a pull-up?
The pull-up is one of the most effective exercises for the upper body – unfortunately, it is also one of the toughest. A “real” pull-up is only used if you manage to pull yourself up on a crossbar with the strength of your upper body so that your chin passes the bar. Don’t have a pull-up bar yet? This one for the door frame can be set individually.
What do you do with pull-ups?
The pull-up is an upper body all-rounder. It ensures a strong back, trained arms, defined shoulders and an efficient interaction of precisely those parts of the body.
The reach and the type of grip determine which muscles are particularly activated and take on the main part of the work (see next point).
How wide should you reach for a pull-up?
There is no right or wrong when it comes to reach. How wide you grip the bar when doing a pull-up only has an impact on which muscle group is particularly trained. There are basically 4 different pull-up variants:
- Shoulder-wide underhand grip: Here you grasp the bar from below, that is, the palms of the hands are facing you. When reaching under, the biceps are activated more strongly. No wonder, because the arm movement is very similar to a biceps curl. The latissimus (the broad back muscle) also participates in the movement.
- Shoulder-wide overhand grip: With this variant, you grip the bar shoulder-wide from above, i.e. the backs of the hands point towards you. The broad back muscle does most of the work. The shoulders are also trained, but not quite as strong as in the other variants.
- Further overriding: With the wide overhand grip, you grasp the bar wider than shoulder width, the backs of the hands point towards you. The shoulders are strongly activated, as is the latissimus.
- Hammer handle: To be able to do the hammer grip, you will need two parallel bars. The palms point towards each other. When the grip is very tight, the biceps in particular are active. The further apart the 2 bars are, the more your broad back muscle is activated.
The best way to find out which grip width is right for you is to try it out. Most of the time, a variant is easier for you even without training. You can then set yourself the goal of doing at least one pull-up of this variant. You should still incorporate the other grip widths and types into your training regularly. We show you the best exercises for a healthy, trained back here.
Which pull-ups are suitable for practicing?
There are different methods and grip techniques to train your pull-up power. Here are the main ones:
- Weird pull-ups
Hang your hands on a bar about waist-high. Feet are on the floor. Pull chest to the bar, then down again.
- Increased pushups
Place your hands on a raised area (like a weight bench). The higher the lighter. Lower your chest, then push up. By the way: This is how you can do real pushups.
- Pull-up slope
This is about grip strength. Hang from under the handle on a pull-up bar. And hold now! Keep your arms straight.
- Pull-ups with support
Attach a resistance band to the pull-up bar. Step into the loop with one knee, then pull up.
- Negative pull-ups
Grasp a pull-up bar under the handle and jump up explosively until your chin has passed the bar. Slow down.
How does the chin-up work?
We gave our colleague Andrea 4 weeks to look over the bar: with the right strength exercises for the upper body and muscle lining that was tailored to her by our expert Nico Airone.
4 weeks is a pretty tight time frame to train yourself the strength for a pull-up. Our colleague Nico, men’s health coach and head of the coaching zone, has therefore drawn up a crisp plan for Andrea:
“Every weekly plan primarily calls for the muscles responsible for pulling movements, i.e. the upper back and biceps. Andrea feels her way from week to week from the oblique to the negative variant of the underhand pull-up, thumbs pointing to the sides.” says the expert. “In addition to the practical first exercise, she always expects another pulling exercise to build up the decisive strength. Even if the pulling movement is the focus here, a workout should never be one-sided.”
Therefore, the plan provides for more exercises for the opponents (chest and triceps). In the first two weeks Andrea should train a total of 6 times, always alternating workout 1 and 2, in the last two weeks a total of 8 times alternating the two workouts. Important for copying: When doing a pull-up, you shouldn’t swing, but hang firmly on the bar. Therefore, every workout should end with a core part.
The chin-up training plan for weeks 1 and 2
Now we’ll show you what Andrea’s training plan looks like for the first two weeks. But first there is a warm-up:
The warm-up is important to prepare the muscles and avoid injuries. Then the workouts follow. Important: During the 6 training units per week, workout 1 and 2 alternate again and again:
Tempo: given in seconds, exc. = Eccentric, yielding to the resistance, conc. = concentric, overcoming the resistance
Experience report: “Are those calluses on my hands?”
All right, my coach Nico has arm muscles that look like they have been chiseled. Better not even ask him how many pull-ups he can do, far too depressing. On the other hand, during the test, I should see how far I can pull myself up in the pull-up position on the horizontal bar – and I move: Zero. Zero centimeters. Nico tries to encourage me: “We can do that!”
Okay, I guess, but before I take a look at the training plan he’s writing down for me. After that I just think: Help! I have never heard of most of the exercises he prescribes for me – no wonder, I am a runner.
Fortunately, a colleague took pity on training with me according to the motto: “Together we are strong!” But that doesn’t help against the pain I feel when I type an email on the computer the day after the first training session. Are these calluses on my hands?
Think about the pull-up at breakfast
By the way, I should also stick to a nutrition plan. Very important: few carbohydrates, because in the worst case they turn into fat. “You have to pull up every ounce of your body, so it’s good not to add an ounce of fat,” says Nico. I should rather eat a lot of protein for strength gain. Also important: I should no longer have a sweet breakfast, but a hearty one – that better prepares the body for the upcoming stress.
In plain language this means: 4 eggs for breakfast or 180 grams of beef. Did I mention that I usually eat yogurt with fruit? It’s not good for my mood. Incidentally, not even that my colleagues smirk: “You look so muscular” whenever I put my jacket on with my face contorted with pain.
The coach increases the workload
Nico tells me that we have to tighten the training plan a bit. Because two days ago I should try again to see how far I can pull myself up on the horizontal bar – at least 2 centimeters! But that was probably not enough. Now there are even nastier exercises, longer stamina, more weights and, above all, more training days.
This is also a time challenge: 1 hour of training 4 times a week – I have to find the time first. Most of the time my colleague Susanne and I are driven to the studio during the lunch break. Advantage: At that time it is not that full, so you embarrass yourself in front of fewer people if you do the first real pull-up again – and fail. So that you don’t even get that far: We show the best arm training for women here.
Andreas pull-up training plan for weeks 3 and 4
From now on, 8 training units per week are on the schedule – again workout 1 and 2 are always alternated. Important: The warm-up remains as usual! First workout:
And because it’s so much fun, here’s the 2nd workout:
Tempo: Specification in seconds, exc. = eccentric, yielding to resistance, conc. = concentric, overcoming the resistance
The pull-up training is having an effect
A look in the mirror shows success after a relatively short time: My arms are getting really muscular. I really have to wear a sleeveless top soon! Unfortunately, there are also disadvantages when it comes to clothing: I have to take out my blazer for an appointment – and I don’t fit in anymore. Much too tight on the arms and the cross.
Conclusion: from 0 to 1 in 4 weeks
4 weeks of hard training and countless lunch breaks, during which meals with colleagues had to give way to a workout – now I am here for the final exam. And really: I can do a pull-up! Nice side effect: I’ve never had as few waving arms as I do today. What do I do with it now? Look forward to summer when your taut arms peek out from under your T-shirt sleeve.
Pull-ups are doable. If you want to do the same for Andrea, stick to her plans. For closer support, contact the coaching team in our coaching zone. Otherwise you can also download our highly effective training plan for tight arms here: