Pull Up Progressions

Published by Kelvin on

Multiple people performing pull ups


Pull-ups are a multi-joint exercise that require minimal equipment to perform. Pull-ups can either be progressed or regressed to increase and improve upper body muscular strength, endurance, hypertrophy, and performance of tasks that require upper body pulling strength. The pull-up is an arm exercise using a horizontal bar called a pull-up bar. This exercise involves placing both hands on a bar positioned above the head, and using the muscles of the arms and back to raise the body until the chin is level with the bar. Pull-ups work several different muscle groups, and can be used to significantly increase lean muscle mass and upper body strength, according to Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport.

Therefore, the pull-up may be beneficial for improving functions of daily living, aiding in the transfer of power in throwing movements, and preventing injuries of the shoulder joint complex.

Muscles involved in Pull-up

The muscles of the upper body and the arms are main muscles involved during pull-up exercise. They include:

  1. Latissimus Dorsi (lats)
  2. Biceps
  3. Teres major
  4. Rhomboids
  5. Middle trapezius and lower trapezius
  6. Abdominals
  7. Deltoids

Pull-up progression series

Pull-up progressions consist of raising, lowering, and static exercises on a pull-up bar with the body in a vertical position. There are three general categories of pull-up progressions. The first pull-up progression involves doing partial range-of-motion (ROM) pull-ups at full body weight. For example, if at the moment pulling yourself all the way up seem impossible, why not practice just part of the pull-up?

Examples are negatives, jumping pull-ups, and half/quarter (partial ROM) pull-ups from the top and bottom positions.


To do a partial ROM pull-up from the bottom position:

  1. Start by grabbing the bar with your palms away from you.
  2. Come to a complete dead-hang (this is important) then pull yourself half way up (or as far as you can go), lower yourself, and repeat.

To do a partial ROM pull-up from the top position:

  1. Start by getting your chin above the bar.
  2. Lower yourself half way down or to your forehead if half way down is too far, then pull yourself back up until your chin is above the bar, and repeat.

The second pull-up progression involves full ROM pull-ups at partial body weight. Pull-up bands helps to reduce lifting resistance. The idea of this progression is to lift more weight in gradual intervals over time, with the goal to eventually lift 100% body weight. In other words, if you can’t raise your full body weight, why not practice lifting part of it with the aid of bands or a spotter? This approach appears advisable because it seems to be training the motor pattern of the pull-up.

Instructions – Spotter Assist

  1. Start by grabbing the bar with your palms away from you.
  2. Begin by pulling yourself up as far as you can go. Your partner should wait to spot you until you have no more upward momentum. In so doing, the athlete is doing a partial range-of motion (ROM) pull-up at full body-weight before being assisted.

The third pull-up progression involves different forms of exercises that directly target the pull-up muscles while hanging from a pull-up bar. Examples are dead-hangs, L-sits, hanging leg-raises, scapular retractions, and isometric holds.

Instructions – Pull Up

  1. Start by grabbing the bar, grip it about shoulder-width apart.
  2. Hang and Raise your feet off the floor by bending your knees.
  3. Pull yourself up by pulling your elbows down to the floor.
  4. Pull yourself all the way up until your chin above the bar.
  5. Lower yourself all the way down until your arms are straight and repeat recommended number.


Kelvin enjoys taking part in health and fitness activities, and while not exercising, enjoys writing about health and fitness