Pull up progressions

Catchy title huh? I really need to work on some better titles for these things…


Anyways, when I get a new client in, I have a challenge for them – to get a good pull up done. It’s a great marker of strength to weight ratio and it looks pretty bad ass too 🙂

Now let’s be clear, I’m not talking about the kipping pullup or the flail around and try to kick your way up option you often see. I mean a full bodyweight, deadhang, chin over the bar pull up that everyone can recognise as awesome.

Not this…

My own thoughts on progressions were to use the assisted pull up station to provide a way to gain the strength to lift more and more of your bodyweight until you got close enough to be able to work on some eccentric (lowering only ) variations and BOOM!! pull ups were just around the corner.

Alas, I was sadly mistaken.

I came to realise that the help that the assisted pull ups gave was too uniform i.e. it gave the same help at all the way through the movement, where in fact more help is needed towards the top of the movement. Bands don’t help as they give all the help at the bottom, precisely where you don’t need it. So, what to do…?

Trx progressions are the missing link between assisted and full pull ups. They allow you to get the assistance you need (at the top, remember?) and start to “feel” what a pull up really feel like.

The set up on this is straightforward, shorten the TRX straps as much as needed to allow you to sit or kneel below the anchor point holding the handles with your arms fully extended above you.  Now, pull. That’s it, all the way till your chin passes your hands and your elbows are neatly tucked in at your sides. Then control the lowering phase till you reach full extension again. Repeat.

Simple right?

The great thing about this option is it gives you the ability to use your feet to help as they are still on the ground and you can push as much as needed with them to get you to the top, as you get stronger, you need the assistance less and less and the transition to full pull ups is not far away.


  • Start with TRX rows, aiming to get to inverted rows. Once you hit a really good 2 or 3 reps, you can transition to TRX pull ups
  • Option 1 is in a seated position with your feet out in front. Pushing your heels into the floor helps and you can lean back into it a little.
  • Option 2 is seated with your feet up on a box. Makes the pull harder, and the assistance is less.
  • Option 3 is on your knees, this keeps you from leaning back and makes the pull up vertical.
  • Think about pulling your elbows down to your sides and not about pulling you up. This helps get the lats doing the work as they should be and not trying to focus on the biceps.

From here full weight eccentric (lowering only) holds come round. Jump up to the bar and hold the top position for 2-3 seconds before lowering yourself slowly to the bottom. Repeat for 4-5 reps.

From here, with a bit of practice, a full range pull up and lower is right around the corner.

Once you have 1 good rep, this simple finisher will help build the volume without the need for high reps.

Push up x8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1,

Pull up x 1-3

KB swing x 10

Rest as needed.

It would look like this, 8 push up, 1-3 pull ups (as you are able), 10 KB swings, 7 push ups, 1-3 pull ups, 10 swings, etc etc etc


Have fun, stay strong.



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