Pull-ups are a compound exercise, meaning your muscles might burn like crazy, but it's an exceptional sort of burn. It produces the sort of sore that says you just got in (half of) a full-body calisthenics workout. Calisthenics is an exercise style that relies only on a person's body weight and is highly effective at developing functional strength. As I like to say, functional strength is actually useful muscle for life outside the gym.
But if you have ever thought, "I could never do a pull-up. So why am I reading this? I'm not going to try," don't worry, we have a cheat sheet. (Also, how reassuring is it to know you'll be able to pull yourself up from an edge or take that coveted pole class with confidence?)
Use other gym equipment to work up to your body weight. For example, use other equipment strategically by incorporating a pull-up training day into your weekly workout schedule. These exercises could include any combination of assisted pull-ups, bent-over dumbbell rows, hanging hold, dumbbell hammer curls, or wide-grip lat pull-downs—work toward being able to lift your weight.
Fix your mindset, don't be embarrassed. Struggling to do a pull-up may seem like the ultimate gym fail, but everyone who can do one started where you're at— with not being able to do one. But if you need some preparation before you start dangling from it and grunting, refer to Cheat One with the addition of using "mind-to-muscle connection."
The mind-to-muscle connection allows athletes to avoid injury and move with the proper muscles. A simple definition is that you contract the exact muscle you want when you want to. "It's the ability to focus the tension you create."
Just knowing this cheat may be all the encouragement you need in itself. So we're just going to drop it with you below:
"The sheer rate of improvement can be exciting for pull-ups, especially as compared to typical compound exercises that may not see significant changes for several months. Despite struggling to complete just one or two pull-ups at first, daily practice will allow you to up the ante quickly. With dedication, you could reach ten or more pull-ups in a matter of weeks."
Cheat Three and a Half
On cardio days try the rowing machine. This cardio machine works the biceps in a pulling motion similar to a push-up and offers a full-body workout.
Furthermore, if you're not exactly eager to struggle publicly on the pull-up bar, then try it in the privacy of your home or an empty park first. Gyms can be a little intimidating; it's okay if you want to have your first couple goes at it in private. This pull-up/dip station is under $100 and supports individuals up to 300 hundred pounds.
Connect the dots. We talked about functional strength earlier, but here's your chance to connect the dots and determine how being able to do a pull-up (is hard) but a blessing.
Do you rock-climb? Do you want to learn how to pole dance? How about breakdancing? Do you have kids? Have trouble getting out of bed? Weak posture causing back pain? Pull-ups can make you a master at handling high-intensity activities, like those above, where you'll be swinging around bodyweight.