Pull-up Progressions for Women (they’re secretly for everyone!) – UPDATED!

Coach Chris here!  There are two things that everyone should be doing when starting a program- screening (getting screened) and grading movements.  When people come to my facility we use the Functional Movement Screen and a static postural assessment before taking people through some simple progressions of the major compound exercises that we will [probably] program for them.  We do two things with these progressions- see where people fall in terms of skill from day one, and then program and progress them through each one appropriately to build movement proficiency.  Then we go all 70’s Venice Muscle Beach style on your ass (See Franco for reference point)…

Today I am going to present to you a continuum of some pull-up progressions that we use (the first three are influenced by a post that Tony Gentilcore did a while back on his blog- you can see the link for that at the bottom of this post).Check out the video to see them all, in order, and then read about each one in more detail below:

YouTube Preview Image

Level 1 Suspension Pull-ups*

  • Use your legs as little as possible, many of our members spend quite a few weeks on this movement alone and progressively use less and less leg drive before moving on to level 2
  • Common errors: leaning back too much like an inverted row, not pulling up tight enough (think of the natural path of a pull-up)

Level 2 Suspension Pull-ups*

  • Much like the level 1 pull-ups, stay with the natural path of a pull-up but now you can’t use your legs too get out of the bottom position
  • Common errors: leaning back too much to make it an inverted row

Level 3 Suspension Pull-ups*

  • With the legs elevated you now lose the leg drive altogether, but you are still not pulling your full bodyweight
  • Common errors: once again, leaning back too much

Band Assisted Pull-ups (leg)

  • Closer to the natural path of a pull-up, band assisted pulls with the band around the knee are a great way to get used to being in the air and gripping the bar
  • Common errors: not keeping the thigh straight down from the body (allowing the band to flex your hip)

Band Assisted Pull-ups (arms)

  • The closest you can get to performing pull-ups while still using assistance.  I must warn you though, pressing the band up and reaching for the bar takes strength in itself and can be scary for a lot of people
  • Common errors: not too many, this one is pretty hard to screw up

Eccentric Emphasis Pull-ups

  • So you’re ready for pull-ups but can only get one or two?  Enter eccentric pull-ups.  Either jump from a box/bench as seen in the video, or have a higher box and grab the bar before tucking your knees and resisting the descent at a controlled pace
  • Common errors: Swinging after the jump, dropping uncontrolled (you’re probably not strong enough for this, work back a step or two in the continuum)

Pull-up Clusters

  • Once you’re able to knock out a few reps on your own it’s time for clusters.  Perform a few reps and then rest a few seconds before repeating.  You can either repeat for a desired set of clusters within a set, repeat them for time, etc…
  • Common errors: Uhhhh, sucking at pull-ups?  Don’t do these if form isn’t there yet!  Be humble enough drop back a few levels and get it right

Pull-up EQI

  • The pull-up EQI is the mack daddy of them all… even women will sprout a beard from a few of these bad mothers.  Hold the top of the pull for desired time, drop half half way and hold again, and then drop to just short of the bottom to hold one final time
  • Common errors: Not staying still and owning the position.  You have to learn to relax on these or you’ll flame out QUICKLY!
YouTube Preview Image

All of these pull-ups could be done supinated (underhand- “chin-ups”), as well as neutral.  Most of the women go through the initial phase of all of these with supinated version.

Diane busting out some pull-ups at 52 years young!

I could go really in depth on pull-ups, but Todd already knocked out one of the sickest books ever to grace the face of this earth on pull-ups.  You can pick it up for free up above on the right!  I can’t reccomend it enough!!  What are you waiting for??  It should be in your inbox at midnight after you fill out the form.

* Props to Tony Gentilcore for presenting the suspension versions on his blog a while back… You can check out that post here: http://www.tonygentilcore.com/blog/chin-up-progressions-for-women-the-one-rep-hump-part-i/



YouTube Preview Image (6519)

The following two tabs change content below.
Chris Merritt
Strength Coach/ B.S. Kinesiology, Pennsylvania State University/ FMS/ Functional Range Conditioning Mobility Specialist/ Certified Kettlebell Instructor/ Owner of Beyond Strength Performance and Beyond Strength Performance NOVA
Chris Merritt
About the author

Strength Coach/ B.S. Kinesiology, Pennsylvania State University/ FMS/ Functional Range Conditioning Mobility Specialist/ Certified Kettlebell Instructor/ Owner of Beyond Strength Performance and Beyond Strength Performance NOVA
2 Responses
  1. Rachel

    I’m rather new to this type of training, and am interested in working out with these moves at home, but I am not familiar with the straps you used for the suspension pull-ups. What is that equipment called? I hope this isn’t too silly of a question, I honestly don’t know what to look for online to get that. Thanks for posting this btw, this is very motivating to help me achieve a life-time goal of doing a pull-up on my own!

Leave a Reply