HOW TO: Dominate Pull-ups




What if my upper body is super weak? What if my grip strength sucks? What if I just super hate pull-ups?


I am going to show you the best way to get your first pull-up and then how to dominate them once you do.

Here are 4 reasons why you want to dominate pull-ups:

1. Strengthen your back muscles

Pull-ups are the most effective exercise for strengthening your back muscles: it targets your upper back, neck and shoulders, mid-back, and assists with shoulder extension. You know that bra strap back fat? Pull-ups are your solution. Stronger back muscles will also help with posture and did you know that good posture helps with better breathing, self-confidence, improved mood, optimal digestion, and can reduce headaches?!

2. Strengthen your arms and shoulders

Pull-ups also strengthen and tone your arm and shoulder muscles. You know how really built guys get teased for skipping leg day because they get super focused on their upper body? I feel like we women are opposite. I know for myself, I put more emphasis on my lower body: legs, butt, calves, and maybe slightly neglect my arms because they just aren’t as strong and I feel like it is harder for us women to get that upper body strength. Pull-ups are a good solution.

3. Improve grip strength

Want to be the MVP of your next tug of war team? I kind of do…. But seriously, in your daily life, grip strength will help you hold on to your weights, sucessfully grab things out of your kids’ hands and  your dog’s mouth and dominate your next Spartan race.

4. Improve overall body strength and fitness level

When you are doing a pull-up, you are lifting your entire body weight with the movement. This can greatly improve your body strength and even improve your health. Studies show that strength training promotes bone development, enhances heart health, reduces visceral fat (fat that wraps around your abdominal organs deep inside your body), reduce blood pressure, back pain, and even symptoms associated with arthritis and fibromyalgia.

4 Steps: How To Do A Pull-up and Dominate

I have a confession…

I still cannot do an unassisted pull-up so I am writing this for myself just as much as I am for you. I have been working on getting my first pull-up for about 9 years and have had many obstacles along the way.

I was diagnosed with scoliosis when I was 13 and by the time I was 30, it had progressed so much that it required surgery. I had most of my discs removed and 2 metal rods screwed into my spine. More about that here.

Having this back surgery prevents me from arching my back at all which has since forced me to adapt my form in many exercises such as knees-to-elbows, sit-ups, and pull-ups.

You will never realize how much you do that requires your back to bend until you can’t do it anymore. Adaptation is possible and I am never going to quit trying until I can achieve it.

4 Steps: How To Do A Pull-up and Dominate


STEP 1: work on your overall fitness

Increasing your endurance and overall strength will help you to get your first pull-up, so make sure you are doing the WOD 5 days a week.

STEP 2: inverted bodyweight rows

These will build up the same muscles you will use to do your first pull-up. You are still pulling up your body weight, just at a different angle. Here is a video of a cool guy showing you all the different ways you can row at home or at a gym and you will love the pants he is wearing halfway through. #merica

(You can also put a broomstick between 2 chairs or 2 couches and do them that way.)

STEP 3: practice pull-up holds

The final step in building up the muscles and grip strength you need to do strict pull-ups is to do various bar hangs. This video will take you through them.

STEP 4: assisted pull-ups

When a WOD comes up with pull-ups in it, do as many assisted pull-ups as you can and then finish the reps with inverted rows until you are strong enough to do all of the pull-up reps. The more you keep attempting and using those pull-up muscles, the stronger those muscles will become and you will eventually be able to do unassisted pull-ups.

Options for assisted pull-ups:

1.Chair assist- use a chair under the bar to step with one foot and assist your way up to the bar.

2. Band assist- use a workout band around the bar and use one foot to assist your way up to the bar.

3. Jumping pull-ups- jump yourself up to the bar. On all of these assists, hold your weight unassisted at the top and SLOWLY lower down. You can also scale your holds on the way down as the video above showed.


A kip is a swinging motion that creates momentum to help drive your body weight up to the bar.

Once you are able to do at least 3 strict pull-ups in a row unassisted, kipping can be used in the WODS to keep your workout moving along at a good cardiovascular pace.

Watch this video for kipping instructions:

How many of us, including myself, have put “do a pull-up” as a New Year’s resolution? Anyone?? No? Just me? Ha ha. Well, writing this post all about pull-ups has totally inspired me! I am going to work on it and I am going to get one. Who’s with me?!




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