Today’s question is about which exercises to use to improve your pull ups, when you are working on going from zero to one pull up. I’ll teach you how to do a pull up, even if you’ve never done one before.

I received this question from a reader:

I want to add chin ups & pull ups to my workout. I am a young 50 and can’t do one. I can’t do a single pull up. What exercises can I do to help with adding chin/pull ups?

Pull Up Paul

Hi Paul,

Pull ups are my favorite exercise so I think it’s great you want to add them to your routine. You can build up a lot of strength just by using a pull up and push up routine at home.

How to train to do a pull up

There are two main ways I suggest you get from 0 to 1 pull up: lat pull downs and assisted pull ups.

Lat pull down.

Lat pull downs are easily done on a lat pulldown machine at most gyms. This is the one where you sit down on a small chair with your knees under a padded bar, grab a handle over your head, and pull it down to your chest.

This will work your pulling muscles similarly to doing pull ups, but it allows you to use loads less than your body weight. It is a good way to start out, but I suggest moving to assisted pull ups as soon as possible.

Assisted pull ups.

Assisted pull ups require a pull up bar and a resistance band. You are basically doing real pull ups, but you have a resistance band to help you along the way.

You loop the band around the middle of the bar and then either stand or kneel into the band. As you pull yourself up like a normal pull up, the band provides some assistance. The heavier the band, the more help it will provide you.

As you progress, you can go from a heavy band to a medium band to a light band, and then you should be strong enough to do unassisted pull ups!

Here is a short Youtube video showing how to do an assisted pull up:

Inverted rows (Bodyweight rows).

If you have a bar at the right height, or perhaps a suspension trainer, you can also do bodyweight rows.

Good luck and have fun!

Weight loss helps, too.

Losing weight is also going to help you do pull ups. The lighter you are, the easier it is to pull up your body.

So, improve your diet.

Do your cardio, too.

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  1. Great video, where can purchase those bands?

  2. Good question Jim, I should have mentioned that!

    I have Iron Woody bands at home. You can buy them in pairs or even buy an “assisted pull up” package. You can get them here:

    I’ve also heard good things about JumpStretch bands.

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