3 Progressions To A Full Pull Up

In today’s blog, you’ll learn 3 Progressions To A Full Pull Up and how each exercise choice links back to your anatomy and physiology knowledge as a FITPRO

You’ll discover:

  • Why the Pull-Up needs regressions and easier options
  • What Muscles Are Worked In a Pull-Up?
  • 3 Progressions To A Full Pull Up
  • How to chose Progressions and Regressions For any exercise
  • Test Your Knowledge With Three Mock Questions

[Share this with a client or friend that wants to achieve a full pull-up]

Why the Pull-Up needs regressions and easier options

The Pull-Up is a fantastic bodyweight exercise,

but it is highly likely that your clients are not ready to do a FULL pull-up right away.

Understanding the progressions towards a full pull-up starts with understanding the anatomy and physiology

Once you know the demand that a full pull-up places on the anatomy and physiology of the body, you can mimic that same demand, with less intensity, so the client can gradually progress.

What Muscles Are Worked In a Pull-Up?

The Pull-Up is a big compound, multi joint exercise. Which means it is demanding on multiple large muscles. So let’s see what muscles are worked in a pull up:

Prime Mover: Latissimus Dorsi

Synergist Muscles: Biceps, Trapezius, Core stabilizers, forearm for grip

Main Joint Actions: Shoulder Adduction, and Elbow Flexion

Plane of Motion: Frontal Plane

Axis of Movement: Anterior-Posterior Axis

Once you know the demand of the full version of the exercise, start considering “lower intensity options” that adapt the same muscles, use the same plane of motion, and mimic the same joint actions

Pull Up Progression 1: Dead Hang

The idea of this first step is to address the big fundamental skills and stability required as the foundations of the move.

The client should be able to hold their body weight whilst suspended from the pull-up-bar for at least the duration it would take to complete a full set of pull-ups.

A good target is 40 seconds, based on 10 repetitions at 4 seconds per repetition.

This will challenge the forearm grip endurance And encourage recruitment of core stabilizing muscles, to hold the torso still without swaying or disengagement

Pull Up Progression 2: Negative Pull-Up

If an exercise is so hard that you cannot do ONE rep in the concentric phase, then negatives can be a great way to build strength. We are stronger in the eccentric phase (lowering phase) as we are not resisting gravity.

This means your client can lower down with good technique, but can’t lift up without assistance.

This involves your client “jumping” the concentric (lifting) phase, and then lowering down under control. The biggest benefit of this is that you are now incorporating the exact same joint actions, and the plane of motion as the full pull-up but without the intensity.

The client is stressing the ligaments, tendons and muscles during the eccentric phase, which will help them become stronger in the concentric phase

Pull Up Progression 3: Banded Pull-Up

This final progression is essentially the exact same action as the full pull-up, however with less resistance.

By wrapping a resistance band around the pull-up bar and then hooking this under your client’s knees or feet, part of their body weight will be distributed through the resistance band.

This means that there is less body weight that needs to be lifted and lowered through the prime-mover and synergist muscles. The client gets to refine their coordination, technique, and muscle recruitment ready for the full pull-up without injury.

How to chose Progressions and Regressions For any exercise

Each progression is not just a series of exercises, but careful consideration of variables planned to gradually achieve progressive overload.

Notice the overload is always on the prime mover and synergist muscles, and always in the same plane of motion, but gradually progresses intensity and motor skills.

… and it all came from understanding the anatomical and physiological demand on the body.

[Share this with a client or friend that wants to achieve a full pull-up]

Test your knowledge with 3 Mock Questions

Having learned about progressions to a full Pull up, look at the three Mock questions below. Jot down your answer on scrap paper or as a note on your phone.

Then scroll down to reveal the answers.

1) Which axis of movement does the shoulder move around in a Full Pull Up?

A. Longitudinal
B. Medial-Lateral
C. Frontal
D. Anterior-Posterior

2) Which is the Prime Mover in a Full Pull Up?

A. Latissimus Dorsi
B. Biceps Brachii
C. Deltoids
D. Core Muscles

3) Which of the following is a direct regression of the Full Pull Up?

A. Shoulder Press
B. Banded Pull Up
C. Seated Row
D. Biceps Curl


Q1: Answer = D
Q2: Answer = A
Q3: Answer = B

If you want more mock questions like this, then you can download more Free Mock Questions: DOWNLOAD NOW

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Dedicated to More

Hayley “Full Pull Up” Bergman

Parallel Coaching

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