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Pull-Up Workout Plan For Beginners: 28-Day Challenge

Pull ups
(Image credit: Unknown)

The pull-up is one of the very best bodyweight exercises you can do, working a large portion of your upper body and core muscles. However, that’s only if you can actually do them. Many people find that they have to tap out after just one or two pull-ups and move on to another exercise instead.

Instead of doing that, take the time to build the strength required to complete a full set of perfect-form pull-ups. That’s what this four-week training plan from coaching app Freeletics (opens in new tab) is intended to do.

“If pull-ups have never been part of your workout regime then you should gradually introduce them instead of attempting them straight away,” says David Wiener, who’s a training specialist at Freeletics.

“Begin by doing an easier exercise called the passive hang, which will allow your shoulders and grip to get used to being on the bar. Once this becomes comfortable, you can move on to jumping pull-ups – these focus on the negative, or lowering, movement which engages all the major muscle groups and can be modified as you improve.”

The plan involves doing assisted or modified pull-ups or pull-up assistance moves on the first six days of the week, resting on the seventh day. Much like God. The exercises involved won’t take much time and can be added on to the end of a workout or done separately.

You will need a pull-up bar, some long resistance bands and a suitable bar to do inverted rows from – a table can work for this, if it's sturdy enough, or if you're using a telescopic pull-up bar set it up at the right height for rows instead of pull-ups. We have a great selection of pull-up bars to buy for your home set-up – including telescopic (opens in new tab)hook (opens in new tab)wall-mounted (opens in new tab)ceiling-mounted (opens in new tab) and free-standing (opens in new tab) options – and for long resistance bands we recommend FREETOO (opens in new tab).

Four-Week Pull-Up Workout Plan For Beginners

Day 1: Assisted pull-up

Attach a light, long-looped resistance band to your pull-up bar and put one foot or knee in it to help you as you perform a pull-up. Hold the bar with your hands shoulder-width apart and palms facing forwards. With your core braced and keeping your shoulders back, pull yourself up until your chin is above the bar. Lower under control.

Week 1Sets 3 Reps 2
Week 2Sets 3 Reps 2
Week 3Sets 3 Reps 2
Week 4Sets 3 Reps 2

Day 2: Negative pull-up

This modified pull-up skips the pulling and requires you just to master the descent. Jump up to start with your chin above the bar. Lower yourself slowly under control.

Week 1Sets 3 Reps 6
Week 2Sets 3 Reps 6
Week 3Sets 3 Reps 6
Week 4Sets 3 Reps 6

Day 3: Shoulder pull-up

Hang from the pull-up bar. Keeping your arms extended, use your shoulders to pull yourself up just a little, then lower back to the start.

Week 1Sets 3 Reps 12
Week 2Sets 3 Reps 14
Week 3Sets 3 Reps 12
Week 4Sets 3 Reps 14

Day 4: Negative pull-up

Week 1Sets 1 Reps 6
Week 2Sets 1 Reps 6
Week 3Sets 1 Reps 6
Week 4Sets 1 Reps 6

Day 5: Assisted pull-up

Use a medium resistance band to provide more assistance than on day one.

Week 1Sets 3 Reps 4
Week 2Sets 3 Reps 5
Week 3Sets 3 Reps 4
Week 4Sets 3 Reps 5

Day 6: Inverted row

Once you’ve selected an appropriate bar (or table) to row from, lie beneath it and grab the bar in both hands with an overhand grip. Form a straight line from head to heels, then pull yourself up until your chest touches the bar, then lower slowly back to the start. The further your feet are from the bar, the harder the inverted row is, so adjust to make sure you can complete all the reps.

Week 1Sets 3 Reps 10
Week 2Sets 3 Reps 12
Week 3Sets 3 Reps 10
Week 4Sets 3 Reps 12
Nick Harris-Fry
Nick Harris-Fry

Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.