Pull-ups wouldn’t be the move of Marines and movie badasses if they weren’t hard. But nailing your first one is even harder when all you do is try, and fail, at doing a strict version of the movement from the get-go.
That’s because as you ascend through your pull-up motion, different muscles are getting hit in different ways. So if you can’t pull yourself up out of the first portion of the movement, you’ll never arrive at the second portion, and so on. So instead, you need to learn to scale. Here are three movements to get you doing a full-blown, strict-as-hell, Marine-worthy pull-up — eventually.
A squat pull-up is a version of an assisted pull-up. It uses your leg strength to get you to the top of the position when your arms can’t hack it. Using a suspension-training system or resistance bands, hold yourself at the top of the position, feet on the ground, and lower yourself into a squat position, arms fully extended. Pull yourself up to the top of the position, using as little leg strength as possible.
Like the squat pull-up, you’re still using a little leg power to get yourself out of the hole. Do your best to use as much upper-body strength as possible, but push from the leg if you’re stuck in any part of the movement. Start by hanging from the straps, then squat with one leg extended. Pull yourself back up into the top of the position.
Doing banded pull-ups takes your legs out of the equation, but still gives you a little extra help on the way up. Most gyms have a range of resistance bands that offer, you guessed it, different levels of resistance. To do a banded pull-up, loop a band around a pull-up bar, then pull one of the loop ends through so it creates a knot. Climb up on a box next to your band so you can lower one foot into the bottom of the loop. Wrap your other foot around your first foot so the band can’t slip out of place. Slowly lower yourself to the bottom of the position, then pull yourself up to the top.
This is it. Grab a pull-up bar and hang so your arms are fully extended. Pull yourself up to the top of the position. High-five yourself in your head.