The Best Bodyweight Pull Up Workouts

Hi! I am the author and founder of Old School Calisthenics
best bodyweight pull up workouts

No bodyweight routine is complete without the iconic pull-up, the fundamental exercise that develops upper body strength and muscles. While the pull-up is essential, it’s not the only exercise that matters.

Dedicated bodyweight fitness athletes who flaunt massive and shredded upper bodies consistently do pull-ups several times a week, year after year. It’s undeniable that pull-ups are important.

How you do your pull-ups doesn’t matter as long as you work hard. Pull-up workouts train strength, muscular endurance, and hypertrophy. After nearly a decade of continuous bodyweight training, I can attest that pull-ups are more than conditioning or endurance exercises.

From weighted pull-ups to every possible bodyweight variation, I’ve tried it all, from the easiest to the most challenging. I’ve done hundreds of pull-ups in a single workout and nearly 1000 in a week, pushing the limits beyond my capabilities.

Through experience, I know almost everything there is to know about pull-ups and the results they produce. In this article, I will share my top three bodyweight pull-up workouts.

The Classic Pull-Up Workout

This workout focuses on the basic pull-up and its variations to target your lats, biceps, and upper back.

  • Warm-up: Perform 5-10 minutes of dynamic stretching and light cardio. Use rubber bands too.
  • 3 sets: 5-10 wide-grip pull-ups
  • 3 sets: 5-10 standard pull-ups
  • 3 sets: 5-10 chinups
  • 3 sets: 5-12 horizontal pull-ups
  • Cooldown: Perform 5-10 minutes of static stretching.

Rest for 60-90 seconds between each set.

best pull up workouts

The Pyramid Pull-Up Workout

This workout is designed to challenge your muscular endurance and help you increase your pull-up repetitions.

  • Warm-up: Perform 5-10 minutes of dynamic stretching and light cardio. Use rubber bands too (video example here).
  • Set 1: 1 pull-up
  • Set 2: 2 pull-ups
  • Set 3: 3 pull-ups
  • Set 4: 4 pull-ups
  • Set 5: 5 pull-ups
  • Set 6: 4 pull-ups
  • Set 7: 3 pull-ups
  • Set 8: 2 pull-ups
  • Set 9: 1 pull-up
  • Cooldown: Perform 5-10 minutes of static stretching.

Rest for 30-60 seconds between each set. Complete 2-4 rounds of this workout, depending on your fitness level and goals. Go up to 10 if your fitness level is good.

In the video on my channel, I discuss adjusting recovery time between pull-up workouts based on individual fitness levels. This is an important aspect of training, as adequate recovery helps prevent injury and promotes muscle growth. Here’s a summary of key points to consider when adjusting recovery time:

  1. Beginner level: If you’re new to pull-ups or bodyweight training, it’s essential to allow more rest between workouts. Aim for 48-72 hours of recovery before your next pull-up session, allowing your muscles to repair and grow.
  2. Intermediate level: As you become more experienced and your body adapts to the demands of pull-up training, you can reduce the recovery time between workouts. Aim for 24-48 hours of rest between sessions, depending on how your body feels.
  3. Advanced level: Experienced athletes can often recover more quickly, allowing for more frequent pull-up workouts. You may be able to train every day or every other day, as long as you’re still allowing adequate recovery and not experiencing pain or overtraining symptoms.
  4. Listen to your body: It’s crucial to pay attention to your body’s signals and adjust recovery time as needed. If you’re feeling fatigued, sore, or experiencing a decrease in performance, consider increasing your rest time between workouts.
  5. Active recovery: Incorporate active recovery methods, such as light stretching or low-intensity cardio, to help your muscles recover quickly.

Remember, recovery time is an individual matter and can vary depending on factors like fitness level, age, and overall health. Adjusting your recovery time based on your needs can maximize the benefits of pull-up workouts and prevent injuries.

Pull Up Progression Exercise for Beginners

Progressive Bodyweight Pull-Up Workout

Once you feel confident in your strength and are ready to explore a new pull-up workout using a different training method, I’ve shared an uncut pull-up routine below, featuring progressive bodyweight pull-up variations, ranging from the most challenging to the simplest.

This workout is truly demanding, as it necessitates not only grip strength but also mobility and pulling power. This means you’ll need robust tendons and ligaments as well! I encourage you to watch the entire video to observe the proper execution and my level of focus during the pull-ups.

I offer many more workouts in my programs, and I also invite you to check out my YouTube videos for additional insights on bodyweight fitness.


Tips for Effective Pull-Up Execution

Execution is indeed more important than complexity. A well-executed, simple workout can often be more effective than a complex routine that sacrifices proper form and technique. Here are some tips to ensure effective execution of pull-up workouts:

  1. Maintain proper form: Keep your body straight and avoid swinging or using momentum. Employ your core, retract your shoulder blades, and pull with your back and biceps.
  2. Full range of motion: Aim to perform pull-ups with a full range of motion, which means lowering yourself all the way down until your arms are fully extended and then pulling yourself up until your chin is above the bar. This will help you develop functional strength and prevent muscle imbalances.
  3. Controlled tempo: Use a controlled tempo throughout the movement, focusing on a smooth, steady pace. This will help to increase time under tension and ensure better muscle activation. An example tempo could be a 2-second ascent, a brief pause at the top, and a 2-second descent.
  4. Consistency: Make pull-ups a regular part of your training routine, aiming for at least two or three sessions per week. Consistency is crucial for building strength and muscle mass over time.
  5. Progressive overload: Gradually increase the difficulty of your pull-up workouts as your strength improves. This could involve adding more reps, sets, weights, or incorporating more advanced variations.
  6. Rest and recovery: Give your muscles ample time to recover between sessions. This might mean taking a rest day or two between pull-up workouts or alternating with different muscle groups. Recovery is essential for muscle growth and preventing injury.

Remember, a well-executed, simple workout is often more effective than a complex routine that sacrifices proper form and technique. By focusing on execution and incorporating these tips, you can maximize the benefits of your pull-up workouts and achieve both aesthetic and functional improvements.

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