Pull-Ups For Beginners

Pull-ups for beginners. Carolyn Parker, co-founder of Ripple Effect Training and AMGA Rock Guide, demonstrates good pull-up form.

Pull-Ups For Beginners. Carolyn Parker, founder Ripple Effect Training, AMGA Rock Guide, demonstrates good pull-up form using a band for assistance.

Pull-Ups For Beginners is a training program for anyone who has ever wanted to do a pull-up.

Why are pull-ups so hard?

Over the years, I’ve trained many women (some over 60!) to do their first pull-up ever and let me tell you, every first is as thrilling as the last. It’s truly empowering to be able to hold on and lift your own body off the ground.

Of course, being able to do a pull-up won’t hurt your climbing either!  ( :

How to do your first pull-up?

Over 8-weeks the Pull Ups For Beginners program will teach you how to start doing pull-ups.

I won’t lie to you. Fully unassisted, body-weight movements like pull-ups are challenging!

Many women shy away from trying to do pull-ups because they feel embarrassed.

Time to get over it.

How to get better at pull-ups you wonder?

  1. You need to train
  2. And, you need to learn proper form.

You see, learning a pull-up is like learning any new sport.

First, you must develop a base. Being unfit is not good for anything, let alone sports or pull-ups!

Find more information on developing a general fitness base at Training For Mountaineering | Back to Basics.

Second, you must learn the technique. Your body needs to understand the movement.

Third, you must increase your strength.

Fourth, voila! Crank a pull up.

Breaking it down like that makes it sound easy doesn’t it?

That’s because, in essence, doing a pull-up is easy. However, in practice, doing a pull-up takes dedicated work.

So let’s go!

Pull-Ups For Beginners | Chicks Training


In addition to your regular training you will add focused pull-up work twice a week.

Begin practicing pull-ups using assistance. An assistance band is best because it allows you to practice the movement in the purest form with no external stabilizing.

Note: beginners should not drop all the way into their shoulders. Dropping all the way into shoulders can be hard on an un-practiced shoulder joint.

Learn Proper Pull-Up Form

5 Steps to a good pull up.

  1. Arch your back slightly to activate your lats
  2. Pull with your lats,
  3. Pinch your shoulder blades together
  4. Pull up with your arms. Your elbows should end up slightly behind you.
  5. Lead with your sternum not your chin.

Week One:

Do 2 sets of 10 pull-ups twice a week

Use appropriate assistance—you should be able to execute proper form but also feel a challenge on the last few reps of each set.

Rest for a few minutes between sets.

Week Two:

If week one went well do 3 sets of 10 pull-ups twice a week.

Again, without sacrificing proper form it should feel challenging for the last few reps of each set.

Week Three:

Do 3 – 4 sets of 10. Same plan.

Week Four:

Do 4 sets of 10. Same Plan.

After week four, you should have a pull-up base. Your body knows the movement and you have some strength.

Now we need to increase your strength. We increase strength by increasing challenge and we increase challenge by decreasing reps and assistance.

Week Five:

Use the amount of assistance that allows five repetitions to feel difficult.

Do 5 sets of 5 reps.

Rest for a couple of minutes between sets.

Rep 4 and 5 should feel hard.

Reminder: this is twice a week in addition to your other training.

Week Six:

Repeat 5 sets of 5 reps like week 5.

Reminder: Focus on form!

Week Seven:

Decrease assistance again.

Do 5-6 sets of 3 repetitions.

Rest a couple of minutes between sets.

Reminder: Do this workout 2 x a week, with really good form.

Week Eight:

Decrease the assistance again.

Do 5-6 sets of 2 repetitions.

Rest for a couple of minutes between sets.

Reminder: Twice a week.

Pull-Ups For Beginners (Week Nine):

Here it is!

Voile. Time to crank a pull-up.

Warm up properly as for any workout, then add a few assisted pull ups, make them easy, maybe 5 reps focusing on form for a couple of sets. Rest 5 minutes and then give it a go, try hard, it doesn’t have to be pretty, you can lift your knees, kick your legs, whatever just try! Have a friend there to cheer you on or give you the tiniest little bit of help for confidence!!

And remember, Even if you didn’t quite do that pull up you are stronger and you will, repeat the above eight week process with less assistance on all. Remember difficult things are just that, difficult. They require lots of hard work to achieve and focused training. That’s what makes the achievement so special!!

Side note: if you have any injuries or limitations that create shoulder pain or discomfort, address those injuries with a professional before trying to add this to your training plan.

If you need information for a specific climb or trip of any nature you can contact me at:



Carolyn Parker

Founder Ripple Effect Training

Gym Jones, Fully Certified Instructor

AMGA Certified Rock Guide