Can’t Do A Pull-Up? Well Try This

I (use) to  hate Pull ups..a lot. Fact is up until about 4 months ago I couldn’t do a single one. It has always been a workout that has intimidated me and I’ve always said, “I weigh 220+ lbs.. Pull ups are super hard for big guys.” That was nothing but fear and laziness. It’s a lot easier to make excuses on why you can’t do something rather than working hard to overcome a weakness.

So one day I jumped up on the Pull-up bar and tried one and low and behold I was able to knock out a few. So every other day I would jump up on the bar, crank out 5-6…that grew to 8-10…and eventually stalled out around 12-14. When I started CrossFit I immediately found out that Pull-ups are a very important movement. I would say they apart of at least 2-3 WOD’s every week and are apart of the standard “CrossFit Warm-up”. I mean some WOD’s call for 40 plus Pull-ups (not all at the same time mind you) and there is one that calls for 100. So I just knew that only being able to do 12 wouldn’t cut it.

Enter the Recon Ron Pull-up program. This is a program that will step by step help you improve your Pull-up. Literally if you can only do one “dead hang” Pull-up (starting by literally just hanging on the bar with your arms straight. No bend at all) you can do this program. If you can do more than one, then you can start with a different stage. If you can’t do a single pull up at all, I will post a beginners program at the end. 

Over the Top on ‘Dead Hang’ Pull-ups
By LtCol. Stanley J. Pasieka, Jr., USMC (Ret)

After fifteen years in the Marine Corps I am finally able to “max” the pull/chin-up event on the physical fitness test. You can too if you follow this schedule. Before you know it you will be able to accomplish what the Marine Corps has set for a perfect test score.
Although everybody knows that the only way to increase your ability to do pull-ups is to do them over and over, I was never able to make this sound advice work for me. A few years ago, I received a “guaranteed to work” schedule from one of my former platoon commanders. He assured me that in merely six months I would easily be able to complete twenty pull-ups. In just 23 weeks on the “Recon Ron Pull-up Program,” I completed 21 chin-ups. If this program worked for me, there’s a good chance it can work for many other Marines, if they are willing to give it a try.
The program is based on performing a manageable number of pull-ups each day, and gradually increasing the number. The total number of pull-ups done each day is completed in five sets. Each step is repeated daily for two weeks before progressing to the next step. Time is not a factor, but each workout can complete in less than ten minutes.
As an example, when I started this program, I struggled to reach nine pull-ups. Thus, I selected what I reasoned to be manageable number-26 pull-ups in ten minutes (step 13). Surprisingly, I was able to accomplish the workout with little difficult in five and a half minutes. It seemed to me that this initial success was far better than straining and possibly quitting the program before giving it a proper chance. After doing a set, I would walk around and generally finish all five sets in less than eight minutes. But, as I progressed to the steps with fifty and more total repetitions in each workout the time required became secondary, and it was good to just finish.
I can verify, as an experiment of one, that this plan will enable you to max the pull-up event on the physical fitness test. Set your goal and begin by adjusting the schedule to suit your particular fitness level.

Step 1: 1,1,1,1,1

Step 2: 2,2,1,1,1

Step 3: 3,2,2,1,1

Step 4: 3,2,2,2,1

Step 5: 4,2,2,2,2

Step 6: 4,3,2,2,2

Step 7: 4,4,2,2,2

Step 8: 5,4,3,2,2

Step 9: 5,4,3,3,3

Step 10: 6,4,4,3,3

 Step 11: 6,5,4,4,3

Step 12: 7,5,4,4,4

Step 13: 7,6,5,4,4

Step 14: 8,6,5,5,4

Step 15: 8,7,5,5,5

Step 16: 9,7,6,5,5

Step 17: 10,7,6,6,5

Step 18: 10,8,6,6,6

Step 19: 10,8,7,6,6

Step 20: 11,8,7,7,6

Step 21: 12,9,7,7,7

Step 22: 13,9,8,7,7

Step 23: 14,9,8,8,7

Step 24: 14,10,8,8,8

Step 25: 15,10,9,8,8

Step 26: 16,10,9,9,8

Step 27: 16,11,9,9,9

Step 28: 17,11,10,9,9

Step 29: 18,11,10,10,9

Step 30: 18,12,10,10,10

So obviously you won’t be trying to complete a Marine Physical Ability test anytime soon but you do want to be able to do more pull ups. So this program is perfect for you or really anyone. Remember this is a “Dead Hang” pull up. That means when you reach the top of the pull up and descend, the arms must become completely straight before going back up. Here’s a video showing perfect form. Anything other than this would be cheating. Don’t do it. Don’t be that guy or gal. So pick a stage and get at it!

So what if you can’t do a pull-up? Where do you start? Well you have to remember that a pull-up works nearly every muscle above your hips. So if you have a weak upper body you’ll struggle. Pull ups can improve your shoulder and bench press and vice versa. A great way to mimic the pull up with out using your entire body weight would be a “Reverse Row” . Video here.  You can also do assisted Pull-ups either with someone holding your legs or with a machine. Another good sub would be the “Lat Pull Down”. Video here. This doesn’t exactly mimic a Pull-up but it’s very close. So you can do the same program above but either with the Reverse Row, assisted pull-ups or a Lat pull down movement. But eventually you’ll have to jump up on the bar and attempt one all by yourself. Don’t be afraid. You can do it.

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