5 Ways to get your first pull up

Let’s clear the air about pull ups. Women can do pull ups! Ladies don’t feel defeated. It’s just gonna take some work. Some will say “we can’t, we don’t have the upper body strength.” Sure, maybe not at first, but over time we have the capacity to get strong and be able to do them!


If you’re up for the challenge, I have 5 strategies/tools to help you get stronger and get your first pull up, also known as a chin – up. Once you get your first one, the second and the third will be calling your name. Trust me; you will want to do them all the time.


I have a love for pull ups that run so deep. It’s one of the very first things I wanted to achieve when I began my quest for better health. The second was pushups.


The pull up is the Holy Grail IMO me in regards to strength. It’s a bad ass move, to say the least. Pretty much everyone wants to be able to do 1, even if it’s just one. The pull up demonstrates that you can pull your body weight against gravity.


“The pull – up is arguably the Ultimate Measure of upper body strength.”


The pull up is no easy feat. It will take time, practice, effort, and patience to get to your first one.


Several factors go into getting your first coveted pull-up/chin-up.


I’m saying pull – ups, but the focus is more on the chin – up  (palms facing up, also known as supination grip) or neutral grip (hands facing each other), as they tend to be a bit easier than the overhand grip.


The pull – up activates a whole ton of muscles in the back: Lats, biceps, triceps, external obliques, pecs (chest), erector spinae (muscles that run along your back), to name a few.


As you can see it’s a big bang for your buck exercise. That’s why I love it!


Let’s break down the differences between the different Pulling Grips:

Neutral Grip – Palms are facing each other.

Underhand or Supination Grip, otherwise known as the chin – up Grip: This grip is probably the best for beginners because it will recruit more of your arm muscles, specifically your biceps. Not that all the pulling should come from your arms.

Overhand Grip – palms facing away from you (Pronated) otherwise known as Pull – ups.


Muscles worked:

Pretty much all your muscles in your back and your arms. You will be isometrically engaging your glutes, and your core as well. So those will be getting worked too.

It’s not uncommon to not only feel your back, but you will also feel like you really worked your abs/core the next day.


Frequency – Practice often, do them often. There was a time when I would do them every day, even if it were just jumping up and holding myself up over the bar (Iso – Hold) for as long as I could. Also, doing them multiple times a day. Get yourself a pull – up bar for home. You know the ones that you stick in the door jam or the ones that hang over the door frame?  They work just fine for practicing.

If you are starting out, I will recommend 2 – 3 days a week!

I currently still train the pull up various times a week and different styles. I’ve been getting creative too. I share some of the variations that I am doing at the end of the blog.


Where to start?

Here are your 5 strategies to get started:


  1. Dead Hang: Although it says to hang. You don’t just let your weight hang dead. You will still want to brace and engage your core, and keep your shoulders packed – shoulders down and back. Dead hangs are great to build shoulder stability and grip strength. So get to hanging!

  1. Iso – Hold: You will probably want a box to stand on for these, or you can just jump up if you have the strength and can reach the bar without a box. If not, no biggie, you’ll get there. So, grab your box. Stand on top of it and jump up to get your chin over the bar, and hold yourself there for as long as you can!

Do a few sets – 2 to 3 to start, and then up to 5 sets.

Record your time so that you can compare your progress over time.

  1. Eccentric: With the eccentric pull up, your gonna jump up to get your chin over the bar like the iso hold – hold for a few seconds and then slowly let yourself down – anywhere from 3 -5 seconds. Let yourself down really really slow.

As above, start with 3 sets, 3-5 reps per set

  1. Band Assisted: Grab yourself a thick superband. You will want to use a band without handles.
  • Grab your box and loop the band around the bar or squat rack.
  • Stand on top of the box, put one of your feet in the loop and grab the bar.
  • Slowly inch yourself off of the box, while doing that, cross your legs and make sure create tension throughout the body – you will want to be in front of the box when you inch off.
  • Brace your core, squeeze your glutes, and remember to create tension. This will help you feel lighter and keep your mind muscle engagement.
  • Initiate the movement by pulling from your back muscles before you pull with the arms. Pull all the way up to the bar and slowly come back down.

Complete anywhere from 5 to 6 reps for 2 or 3 sets!

Here are the Superbands that I have: Serious Steel Assisted Pull-Up Band, Resistance & Stretch Band

I also have a few Superbands from Walmart; they are the Golds Gym ones.  They are really affordable and work great!

  1. Inverted Rows (Horizontal Pulling): All my clients will start here. It’s a great movement to get you used to pulling your body weight through gravity and help you to build strength.

You can also use the TRX suspension system to train the inverted row.

When doing either of the styles of inverted rows, you can control the intensity by how horizontal you are or how close you are to the anchor point with the TRX.

Play around with your position to find the sweet to execute some solid reps.

Some at home options for doing Inverted Rows:

That pretty much sums it up ladies as far as training specifically to get your first pull up. There are several other drills you can, but the list above is a great place to start.

Lastly, it’s also important to train overall to get stronger. When you are stronger, that strength can translate over to getting your first pull-up as well.

Train with compound movements. Specifically train your upper body, where we as women sometimes tend to lack strength. It’s easy for us to skip over getting serious with training upper body because we would rather train lower body because we feel stronger in that area of training.

You can feel that same sense of satisfaction if you train and treat your upper body strength the same way you do as training legs. The only way to get better at something is to do it and practice it. Remember practice makes better!

Trust me on this one. I now love training upper almost more than lower.

P.S. Some fun variations that I like to do for pull ups to challenge myself even more:


  • Cluster sets: I do 2 pull ups and rest for 10 sec and then repeat. With this method, I have gotten up to 7 cluster sets, which means 14 reps! Whoop whoop!
  • I sometimes take a mixed grip: One palm facing and the other one not facing me, I do a few reps, and then switch the grips. Wooo hoo, those can be challenging.
  • I’ve added a weight vest, held a dumbbell between my feet and a kettlebell to get stronger. Fewer reps, but doing them this way will help build my strength and translate over to my body weight pull-up reps.
  • 1.5 Reps: Pull all the way up, then 1/2 down and then pull back up, that’s one rep. These are killer. I think my max is 3 or 4 reps.

Those are a few of the various pull – up variations I like to play with.


I hope you found this blog helpful! I am so serious; you can one day do a pull-up. Just believe in yourself and extend some grace to yourself. You’ll get there! You can do this.

If you have any questions or need help with your Strength Training routine, don’t hesitate to reach out. Contact me at candace@candacersmith.com. I’d love to hop on a STRONGER You Discovery Call with you. Click >> here << to book a call!