There’s nothing like banging out a pullup or 10 to let everyone in the gym know not to mess with you. Maybe that’s why so many of us want to learn how to conquer the notoriously intimidating exercise.
“Pull-ups are associated with military bootcamp training, hot fitness professionals, Olympic lifters and everyone else who is badass. They represent the epitome of pure strength,” says Rachel Vaziralli, co-creator of Pure Strength and creative manager of group fitness at Equinox. “Plus we all have memories of the presidential fitness assessment in elementary school and the humiliation that ensued if we were unable to do the pullup test!”
The secret to success isn’t such a secret: You need to do pullups. “To get strong at a movement, you must do that exact movement,” Vaziralli explains. “Pullups are not just about having a strong back and biceps, but also about the body’s core strength and neuromuscular coordination too, so you must do that specific movement pattern to adapt.”
Luckily, there are exercises you can do to strengthen your grip and the key muscles you need to work your way up to pullups.
Your Pullup Training Program
Start with Circuit 1. Do the circuit on nonconsecutive days 2–3 times a week. When that circuit feels easy, move on to Circuit 2 and eventually Circuit 3.