Zero to Hero Pull-up Program?


Level 1 Valued Member
I have done my best to search the forum; apologies if I am being redundant.

I have purchased a pull up bar.  Embarrassingly, I am unable to break the half way mark to a full pull/chin.  I have committed to rectify this heinous lack of strength.

Would I get more mileage from

focusing on static holds for time, and if so how long would I work to (# of minutes?).
focusing on negatives and work up to 1,2,3 x # of ladders?

Other options that I have to covered?

Thanks everyone in advance.  I appreciate being able to learn from the experience and expertise of this community!




Level 4 Valued Member
Personally I'd say high volume horizontal rows if possible, if not, do partials.

I dislike negatives because it's difficult to measure progress other than timing them, and for some people they can expose the joints to torquing forces they are not yet ready for.

HZ rows, partials (top half or bottom half--or both, if you can split it up that way) and static holds at the top or halfway point should get you well on your way.

Just my .02, that's what helped me and has helped a few other people I've advised before.


Level 2 Valued Member

I sadly let my strength go and started not so long ago with a max of 2 bodyweight pullups (shameful from where I have been before).

I have been training ladders of pullups and handstand push ups with a kungfu brother of mine. We do 6 ladders of up to a max 3 reps (so in an ideal world it would look like 1,2,3/1,2,3/1,2,3/1,2,3/1,2,3/1,2,3/) twice per week.  I started off feeling embarrassed with doing one sad pullup and then jumping and slowly lowering myself with a strict and slow negative.  Just under three months in and I'm doing pullups with 15kg extra weight.  Messed around last week after a session and was able to do an easy 10 pullups (fresh I could do a lot more).

The one thing that we have been very good about is discipline and consistency.  It pays off.  I'm now targeting a half bodyweight chin/pull in the not to distant future.

I'm not sure if it is relevant but we also started with chins and when the all 6 ladders were done cleanly moved to thumbless grip pull ups.  We continue to do this and feel it seems to fill in any strength gaps.

My experience might help and if you really want it you will get there,



Level 1 Valued Member

I was in the same boat as you within the past two years. There's hope.

What I did= started with static hangs. At the bottom, mind you. Holding top position straight away was not something my elbows were prepared for.  I timed my max hang, and went to a GTG style week of hanging at about 60% of what the max time was. Repeated until I could hang for sets of 30 seconds, if I recall I went for 3-4, with untimed breaks in between as needed.
2)  Jumped up to the bar, tried to lower myself down under control as much as possible. It's very hard to measure quality with negatives as mentioned above, so again I went for quantity: I upgraded my GTG. I advanced pretty quickly on these, from sets of 1 to 3 over about a week and a half. Also included top position holds as will. Could take longer or shorter for you, I was obese at the time. Quality increased along with quantity.
3) got all the high tension techniques and form in line, and got my first full pull up. Did sets of singles a few days a week.
4) Tested and I had three pull ups as my max. The Fighter pull up program came in handy, and eventually got me up to start training them in ROP. Currently I'm training on gymnastic rings, and just started lever training. It's pretty much the same.

Bottom line:  Don't underestimate static holds, both bottom and top position, top when you've earned it. Break it down into specific achievable goals, and strive for good technique throughout. And if you're overweight, losing fat will help more than you can imagine; a drop of 5 pounds seems more like 20 when doing pull ups. And read Easy Strength. It'll help figuring out how much is just enough subjectively on these things.


Level 1 Valued Member
Thanks everyone for sharing your experiences and your successes!  I am impressed with how everyone has taken the principles that Pavel has lined out for us and applied them to their specific situations.

I am on it!  I will report back once I can do my first pull up.



Lukas Luko

Level 2 Valued Member
I had a friend who can't do one pullup. So we tried a little experiment. Instead a normal hanging from pullup bar, he made the first progression of front lever - bent knee front lever, with maximum tension in whole body. He was doing this static hold in 'grease the groove' style. Vary the length of time, from day to day. For example in Monday he holded this position for total 60 seconds (of course through the day in mini sessions), in Tuesday - 37 secs. Of course this is just examples.

After three weeks, he made his first tactical pull ups without any effort :)

Steve Freides

Senior Certified Instructor
Elite Certified Instructor
Darrell, one more data point for you.  When I first tried pullups, I could get one or two; after I'd been deadlifting for a year, I tried them again and got 12 with no pullup training whatsoever.

You haven't said much about your background - in general, I would suggest that you look at other areas of your strength, get stronger overall, and not be too concerned about pullups - perhaps revisit them after working on a generalized strength training program for a few months.  If, e.g., you practice the programs from Enter The Kettlebell, you will likely find you get your pullup because you've learned how better to use your body as a unit.

Just a few thoughts for you there - best of luck with it, whatever you decide.



Level 3 Valued Member
Darrell, I've never been able to do a pull-up or chin-up, however after 4 months of ETKB program minimum I was able to do 5 chin-ups and still no pull-ups. I started the ROP and about 6 weeks in to it I can do 2 pull-ups now.


Level 3 Valued Member
Other options that I have to covered?
Static holds can be good.

Building up to pullups can be tricky. I would recommend you first make sure you can do 20 pushups.

After that, I would recommend partial pullups. Many work up to a movement doing partials. Do them in the range in which you are the strongest, but do the best movements you can. Expand the reps, or the range of motion as you see fit. Partial movements do benefit the full range of motion.

Practice hanging from a bar with arms straight and shoulders packed.

Maybe practice overhead pressing.


Level 6 Valued Member

I was in the same boat about a year ago so I know where your coming from. I was 200 pounds and couldn't even do a decent pull up with out wriggling around like a worm. I started back on track with one of Pavel's most basic principles which he covered in "The Naked Warrior." GTG (Grease The Groove) simple what this means, for those who haven't read the book which I highly recommend it, is do submax sets all day long. So what I would do is grab a band starting off with heavy tensions that will wrap around the bar and either one or both of your feet with what ever band that will get you to 5 reps pretty easily with no strain. designate an area that you pass by frequently, of course start easy and work your way up the whole point of this is not to strain yourself, every time you pass do the five reps. As this gets easier lessen the tension and continue. You will be doing 20 by the end of the month. Currently I can do 20 solid pull ups with two 16kg kettlebells hanging off of me.

Joe Dymnioski

Fitness and Wellness Enthusiast


Level 1 Valued Member
Thanks everyone for the support and the feedback - both are so very beneficial.  This is a personal goal for me - as a young Marine I could knock out 10 dead hangs, but I have let myself go.  It will be a real win for me to get that back  . .



the hansenator

Level 6 Valued Member
I worked back up to pullups with a combination of negatives and static holds at different positions: Bottom, middle, and when I was strong enough, the top.

While it's true that negatives are hard to measure I found that you can tell when you're progressing because you will feel stronger and be able to lower yourself slower and with more control. As I got stronger, I would also pause on the way down at different points.


Level 6 Valued Member
Certified Instructor
If you want to improve your pullups, I'd recommend a mixture of static training and negatives.

For example, get into place at the top of the bar, hold it for a 3-5 count, lower yourself under adequate control (and slowly) and at the bottom, pause for another 3-5 seconds.  Do them for singles, doubles, triples, anywhere up to 5.  Stay in the hollow position throughout.  Eventually you'll find that you'll be able to do them.  I used that system (as well as assisted reps) with a 50 year old female client of mine who had never done pullups in her entire life and it got her to full dead-hang chinups any time, anywhere.  Give it a shot for a month or so and see where it gets you.  As you get better, make your pullups harder (L-sit, wider grip, etc.).


Level 3 Valued Member
adhering to the program min - swings/tgu - will improve your hands/forearm strength, improve overall body conditioning, give you great shoulder strength and awareness ( see HerrMannelig's packing the shoulders comment).  Greasing the groove with single rep attempts each time you pass the bar will keep you focused on the goal.  enjoy the journey.
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