• Misbah Haque

Top 3 Mistakes In Getting Your First Strict Pull Up

It sucks when your body won't do what you tell it to. How many years have you spent trying to get that first pull up?


You've been doing ring rows and banded pull ups until it snaps.


"WHERE IS MY PULL UP?! 😭"


The top mistakes I've seen when people go after developing a movement ability:


#1 - Not getting enough exposure to the pattern.


If you practice your pull ups once every two weeks...it's going to take a long time to make adaptations. Pick a skill that you really want to hone in on. And start by dosing yourself at least twice per week with dedicated skill progression work. You may be able to handle more depending on what your program and recovery looks like.


But just watering the garden a tad bit more can work wonders.


#2 - Not prioritizing the right types of muscle contractions.


Banded pull ups are getting exposure to the pattern you want to improve. But if you're doing them super fast and always in a high intensity style, chances are that you are biasing the CONCENTRIC part of the contraction. This is the explosive (upward) part of the movement.


First and foremost, you need to prioritize ISOMETRIC contractions. You can inject these into your program like steroids. There's minimal to no muscle damage with these. Think:

  • Side Planks

  • Glute Bridge Holds

  • Planks


For the pull up, you want to do Active Bar Hangs and Chin Over Bar Holds. You gotta get used to just hanging there with good scapular positioning. And lets your hands feel the tension for 60 seconds.


Chin Over Bar holds are way harder. So I like to use assistance here by default for most clients. Use enough band assistance to help you accumulate at least 15 seconds at a time.


This is where you develop stability in the range of motion you are trying to improve. Muscles start working that you may not have tapped into in a while.


After this, focus on ECCENTRIC contractions. Be more careful with dosage on these because this is the portion that does cause muscle damage. It isn't a bad thing, just be sure you're eating your protein to recover from it.


In the pull up, this is the lowering portion of the movement. AKA Pull Up Negatives.


You MUST master every millimeter of this range.


It is the most boring, mundane, and repetitive work you will do. It's not sexy.


But it works.


Strengthening these two parts of the contraction will allow you to better express your CONCENTRIC or more explosive contractions.


#3 - Not utilizing other exercises to support what the skill demands.


Doing more pull ups is not the only way to improve your pull ups. If it was, then why doesn't Cindy have 30 unbroken pull ups? She does them EVERY day in her workout.


Pull ups demand good core control and lat engagement. How else can you practice these?


Well, you could focus on improving your upper pulling abilities overall. Do some Single Arm DB Rows for horizontal pulling. Do some Single Arm DB Upright Rows for this upward pulling pattern. (Pull Up is actually a downward pulling motion even though you pull "up").


You could also make sure to do some Hollow Holds to ensure that your core is not leaking power once you hang on that bar.


The point is to do these intentionally versus passively. Understand how this is helping you support the higher demand of doing the full movement. There's a lot of learning that can happen when you branch out with this approach.


You can shore up deficiencies that were holding you back from expressing your true potential in a given skill.


So what I'm trying to say here is...

  • Spend more time focused on progressing that skill without taking away from your ability to recover.

  • Make sure you balance the types of contractions you are doing. Water all the plants. Not just the roses.

  • Look for different movement opportunities to practice and then apply back to the full skill.

If you're a coach interested in leveling up, be sure to check out this free mini-course.

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