How Young Athletes & Adolescents Can Nail Their First Ever Pullup...
Pull-ups and Chin-ups. They’ve stood the test of time and have often been the barrier that separates the amateurs from the pros. They’re a phenomenal movement for both strengthening the back and helping to add size to it. And yet, unfortunately, many young athletes & adolescents don’t have the strength required to perform even one of these most basic movements… Luckily, here’s a step-by-step process to how you can nail your first ever pull-up (and then go on to do them for reps)
I remember my childhood vividly. We were generally always outside during the holidays and weekends. Running around, playing games, riding bikes, climbing trees. Yes, I was always overweight, but I could move my body around. I credit these hours spent being a kid with my abilities to perform on the sporting field regardless of my physique
And yet, the one thing that always eluded me was a chin-up. All of my friends could bust them out on tree’s - and that hurt
And when we began transitioning into the gym setting in our mid-teens, they still eluded me as the other kids got stronger at them. I did more and more pulldowns, and yet my pull-up never progressed…
What the hell?
But then, I found Pavel Tsatsouline and his “grease the groove” methodology… I broke the movement down into it’s most basic parts, and focused on strengthening each one before moving on to the next…
I like to think that getting your first pull-up is like baking a damn good chocolate chip cookie - follow the recipe and focus on one part at a time before moving on
Within a month of following these principles, I’d nailed my first pull-up. Within the next month, I was repping out sets of 6 with ease
Here’s how you can too…
Firstly, grease the groove… what does this mean? Pavel calls it, “every time you walk past a pull-up bar, knock out a pull-up or two”… I call it working on your pull-ups 5 to 7 days a week. Why? We’re not focusing on a ton of volume, so you’ll recover very quickly and we will “grease that groove"
1) Focus on a Dead Hang: Grab the bar and hang, arms fully extended. Go for as long as you can and then simply drop. Your goal here is to work up to 3 sets of 10seconds + holds. When you can do that, move on to the next
2) Pull-up Holds: now we essentially do the same, but we change the position from a dead hang to a hold at the top of the movement - i.e. chins above the bar. Have someone help you up, or jump and pull yourself up, then hold your chin above that bar. Focus on keeping your elbows tucked to your ribs and aim to hold for as long as you can. Again, we progress up to 3 sets of 10-second holds before moving on
3) Controlled Eccentrics: once we can perform comfortably 10-second holds at the top, we move onto controlled eccentrics. This simply means that we control ourselves as we come down from the top of the movement (i.e. toward the ground). This is done by focusing on keeping the elbows “tucked into our sides” and fighting gravity as we come down. Again, your goal is 3 sets of 10 seconds before moving on
4) Weighted Controlled Eccentrics: the same as above, but we add some extra weight to the movement. Either use a chin-up/dip belt or throw a dumbbell between your feet and go to work. 3 sets of 10 seconds with an extra 10/15kg will set you up perfectly
5) Banded Chinups/Pull-Ups: grab a band, wrap it around the pull-up bar, and hook your foot through the bottom. This will take some of your weight out of the movement and make it easier. Focus on correct technique by picturing a string attaching your elbow to your rib, and drive those elbows to your ribs on the “pull”. Again, aim for 3 sets of 10
6) Welcome to Pull-up Town: Population: You! Now, you will be able to nail your first ever pull-up, congrats!! The focus now is essentially on greasing that groove. Do one pull-up between every set of every exercise you do. Over the course of a session, you may have acclimated 20+ pull-ups in single reps - perfect! Focus on this for the majority of the week, and then, on one day, go for one set of max reps - you may get 2 or 3… then next week, do the same… on this max rep day, you might 5 reps - and so on your “grease the groove" reps during the week, you’ll now aim for two instead of one
Keep doing this and soon you’ll be knocking out higher rep sets with ease 😃
As a personal example, I do a set of 6-8 pull-ups 5 days a week between every set of movements I do. And now I can knock out a good set of 15 when I want to really push it. Adding volume via the use of 6-8 reps (which are pretty comfortable) allows me to get that volume in without fatiguing the body