How to do your first pull-up for calisthenics beginners

One crucial exercise I think everybody should be able to do is the pull-up. It may look simple, but you underestimate how many people aren’t capable of pulling themselves up at least once. Besides it being a very good back exercise, it is also a way to test how much body control you have. It is not for nothing that the military fitness-tests attach so much value to this exercise. The pull-up gives much more functional-strength than the bench press, for example.

In other words, the pull-up is quite a crucial exercise. Therefore, I made a pull-up tutorial for people who are willing to learn this beneficial move.

The pull-up itself

If we take a closer look at the pull-up, the main muscles you use are in your upper back and your biceps. Other muscles that can feel sore after a pull-up workout are your core and forearm muscles.

To do a clean version of the pull-up, you start off from just hanging, also known as the dead hand. Then, pull yourself up until your chin is over the bar. Slowly lower yourself back into the dead hang. Pull yourself back-up and repeat this traject until you can’t do any more repetition.

Now we got that out of the way. It is time to learn the pull-up, probably the whole reason you clicked on this article. To be able to learn this move, we need to make the exercise a little bit easier. We are going to build our way up through less challenging exercises.

Australian pull-ups


We begin with the Australian pull-up, also known as the bodyweight row. With the Australian pull-up, you need a bar that is lower than usual. Place your feet on the floor and make sure your body is in a straight line. Pull yourself up till you reach the bar with your chest, slowly lower yourself again. Watch this video for a visual demonstration.

To make the Australian pull-up a little bit more challenging, you need to place your feet further from the bar. This way, you change the lever making it harder.

Negative pull-ups


Another exercise that could help you achieve the pull-up is by performing negative pull-ups. Grab the bar and jump up, so your chin is over the bar. Lower yourself as slow as possible. Jump back up and repeat.

The kipping pull-ups

Usually, I don’t like it when people you momentum when performing exercises. However, kipping can be really helpful when learning the pull-up. If you swing your legs, it will generate some momentum that could help you perform your pull-up. Over time you will use less and less momentum until you are able to do a clean full pull-up.

Resistance band pull-up

The last and also the most effective exercise is the resistance band-assisted pull-up. The only item you need is a resistance band. If you have a gym membership, your can most likely borrow these for a moment. And if not, you can always order these online.

With resistance bands, you can make the pull-up as easy as you want. There are different types of resistance bands, one stronger than the other. Begin with a strong resistance band, you are probably able to do a couple of pull-ups. You progress by decreasing the assistance the resistance band gives you. Slowly advance to a weaker resistance band. Until you don’t need one and you can do it without any.

Combine all these exercises, and I will ensure you will achieve this move in the next few months.

Tips and tricks

Grip strength
The first tip I have for you is to focus on grip strength. If you hang on to something, your forearm muscle will do a lot of the work. The days after I did a pull-up workout, my wrist muscles feel sore. I strongly suggest you train your grip strength if you want to learn the pull-up. So when you are training pull-ups, squeeze your hands as hard as you can. It will definitely make a difference.

Elbow trick
A mental trick that could help some of you, it didn’t for me, but for other people it does. Instead of pulling yourself up, try to pull your elbows down to your hips. It makes it feel easier for some people.

Squeeze your core and glutes
The last tip I have for you to squeeze your core and glutes as much as possible. There are a lot more muscles involved with the pull-up than just your back and biceps. So don’t let your upper body do all the work, and support it with more of your muscles.