The Best Upper Body Exercises to Help You Do Your First Pull Up Quickly


It took me a very long time to do my first pull up. I could have accomplished my goal of lifting my body above that pull up bar in a fraction of that time if I’d had the right training and the right help, like a “Pull Ups for Beginners” guide. Having some guidance and know-how would have saved me a lot of time and frustration. In hopes of helping others learn how to do their first pull up, or increase the number of pull ups they can currently do, I’m sharing the best arm and back exercises I did that made the difference. 


Pull Ups for Beginners


If you are ready to learn how to do a pull up and willing to put in the work, then you’re already half way to your goal. Doing a pull up is not about sheer upper body strength. It’s about will, determination, perseverance, and form. Ha, almost anyone could do a pull up if they could have a jumpstart and swing their body into it! But… would they have that overwhelming sense of accomplishment and pride afterwards? No. You want to be able to do a perfect pull up, with pristine pull up form. 

Before trying these upper body exercises, refer to the tips found in How To Do A Pull Up to help you reach your goal. These tips, combined with the exercises detailed below, will give you exactly what you need in order to do a pull up. This is not an easy task. But it is well worth the effort you will put in. Not only will you be able to say “I can do a pull up,” you will also have the lean and strong muscles required for it (which is a bragging right all by itself!). Your back will be sexier, your arms will be slimmer, and your confidence will be shining. Reaching a goal like this is so much more than the goal itself.

The Best Upper Body Exercises For Pull-Ups


1. Rows:

Rows are pulling exercises that primarily strengthen your back muscles. There are a ton of ways to perform rows, but they all work your back (and your arm muscles) – so they are PERFECT for helping you increase your upper body strength so you can eventually pull your body weight up! 


  • Bent Over Dumbbell Row: With a dumbbell in one hand, place your opposite knee and hand on a bench to become parallel to the ground. The arm with the dumbbell should be hanging at your side. Bring the weight towards your chest, while keeping your elbow inward and tight to your body.
  • Barbell Row (Overhand and Underhand Grips): Bend your torso forward, bend your knees slightly., and keep your back straight. Bring the barbell towards your belly button.
  • Inverted Row: Best done with TRX equipment or a Smith machine. With your back towards the ground and your hands on the bar (or TRX grips), pull your chest up.

2. Lat Pulldowns:

Using a cable machine or a lat pulldown machine, sit facing the machine. Grip the bar, lean back slightly (but keep your back straight), and slowly bring the bar down towards your chest. Squeeze your lats together (imagine your back muscles are swallowing up your spine). There are many variations of the lat pulldown, but they’re ALL great! Pulldowns are a tried and true exercise for “Pull Ups for Beginners.”

  • Wide Grip Lat Pulldown: Many pulldown bars curve downward at the end. So, instead of gripping the bar at shoulder-width apart, go wider (like to wear the bar is curving down).
  • Narrow Grip Lat Pulldown: Decrease the distance between your hands and keep your elbows tight by your side.
  • Reverse Grip Lat Pulldown: This is usually done with a narrow grip (less tension for the elbows). Usually your palms are facing away from you. When performing the reverse grip, your palms should be facing towards you.
  • Behind The Head Lat Pulldown: Instead of pulling down towards your chest in front of you face, you will sit up straight and pull the bar down behind your head (towards your traps).


3. Assisted Pull Ups:

You will either be performing the pull-up motion with an assisted pull up machine or by using pull up bands. Regardless of the method, the band or the machine will help you lift your body weight. Not every gym or workout space has the full machine; So, I personally recommend investing in a pull up assist band!

4. Pull Up Negatives:

This is the ONE time you have permission to jump into your pull up… only because this is a strength building exercise to work on doing a pull up! Jump (or use a chair) to get your chin above the pull up bar. Then SLOWLY and STEADILY lower your body back down to the hanging position. This exercise should only be down if you have at least some upper body strength to depend on!


Don’t neglect your other muscle groups while you are working on your pull ups. Just because pull-ups primarily utilize your arms, shoulders, and back muscles,  you still need to train other areas. For example, your core needs to be strong for pull ups as well! Dedicating some time to cardiovascular exercise as well as strength training for your core, legs, glutes, etc. is needed. This will also give your upper body some time to rest (and rest is REQUIRED for muscle growth!!) and will help strengthen other areas of your body. Additionally, giving your upper body some rest will help prevent injuries, like excessive muscle soreness, sprains, strains, tears, etc. Your physical fitness level will be at a much higher level if you train your entire body. 

Another note: always listen to your body and consult your medical doctor if you feel that something might be wrong! It’s always better to be safe than sorry, right?!

If you enjoyed “Pull Ups for Beginners” and learning the best arm and back exercises to help you strengthen and tone your upper body muscles, you may also enjoy: Say Goodbye to Back Fat with This Back Workout and Your Guide to a Toned, Sexy Back.

Your Guide to a Toned, Sexy Back


Back fat, be gone! Do this back day workout if you want a sexy, toned back. This is a good upper back workout but it works all the muscles in the back, because it also has exercises to strengthen your lower back! Try this as your next back workout routine.

Strengthen Your Upper Back and Your Lower Back in One Workout


It’s been awhile since I have posted a back day workout. In my honest opinion, there is nothing sexier than a toned back (Note: I’m singing Justin Timberlake’s Sexy Back in my head). 

This back day routine involves high reps AND heavy weights. As you’ll see, there are some exercises where you’ll be doing a high number of reps…and some exercises that you’ll be doing a low number of reps. You may have to adjust the amount of weight you are lifting depending on the number of repetitions.  


Back Day Workout to Strengthen Those Back Muscles


Make sure you’re doing slow and controlled movements. Don’t slam or drop the weights when you’re letting go of the contraction. And as my fitness role model Sarah Bowmar would say — Imagine that your back muscles are “swallowing” your spine in every rep. And if you can, pause for a second at the peak… You will feel the burn, work the muscles in your back, and get the sexy back that you want! *Side note: most of these are back muscle exercises are for the gym (specialized equipment needed).


Important Note: This workout includes Assisted Pull-Ups, which requires an Assisted Pull Up machine… If you don’t have access to one, try Pull Up Assistance Bands. You just attach them to a bar and it’ll assist you in pulling your body up.






This back day workout will help you strengthen your lower back muscles as well as strengthen your upper body. Get rid of back fat and bra bulge with this back day workout!



Sexy Back Workout:

5×10 Back Extensions

4×10 Narrow Reverse Grip Lat Pulldowns

3×10 Bent over Dumbbell Rows (each arm)

2×10 Assisted Pull-Ups

1×10 HEAVY Wide Grip Lat Pulldown


*the infographic with the workout illustrations is from Workout Labs. CWPS did not design, create, and does not own the illustrations.







If you enjoyed this workout, you may also enjoy Halter Top Ready Shoulder Workout, or 5 Exercises for Toned, Sexy Arms You Need To Do Now!



Back fat, be gone! Do this back day workout if you want a sexy, toned back. This is a good upper back workout but it works all the muscles in the back, because it also has exercises to strengthen your lower back! Try this as your next back workout routine.

How to Do a Pull Up



Learn How to Master the Pull Up


A couple of weeks ago, I did my very first pull up. Oh what a journey it was to learn how to do it! This was a goal that I’d been working on for 16 YEARS! I’ve now increased that number from 1 to 3! How did I learn to do a pull up? I’m going to give you tips to mastering the pull up, which is one of the most daunting fitness tasks… ESPECIALLY for women as we don’t have as much natural upper body strength.




Learn to do a pull up:


So… How did I get there? I know I’m not the only one who wants to conquer this task. I’ve created a list of helpful tips to help you do a pull up for the first time! In addition to these tips, be sure to read The Best Upper Body Exercises to Help You Do Your First Pull Up Quickly!


1. Work On Your Upper Body Back

You’ve got to have some muscle to be able to lift your body up! Try this back workout to get started.

2. The Assisted Pull Up Machine

This machine was integral to my success. This machine allows you to do the pullup motion, without having to carry all of y our body weight. It assists you (hence the name!)! In the months leading up to my first pull-up, I did 3 sets of 8 reps on this machine every single back day. Over time, I slowly decreased the assistance so that I was able to support more of my own weight.

3. Pull Up Assist Bands

If you don’t have access to an Assisted Pull-Up Machine, then grab a pull up band. They will attach to the pull up bar. You put your feet at the bottom of the band and it will assist you as you perform your pull up. The band bears some of the weight, which is how it helps you pull your weight upward. For beginners, I suggest a pull up band that has a high resistance (meaning it will help you more). 



4. Hang Out

By hang out, I mean practice hanging like you’re about to do a pull up! This will help your body get accustomed to what you’re trying to make it do. It’ll also help your grip, which is REALLY important for a pull up! You can also do “Flexed Arm Hangs”, where you try to hold the top of the pull up position for as long as possible. This will help by strengthening your shoulders and biceps. When you do flexed arm hangs, lower yourself slowly – and you’ll feel the burn in your biceps!

5. Climb Things

If you’re lucky, your gym might have a rope machine that you can practice pulling yourself up on. Unfortunately, my gym doesn’t have this. So I practiced at a local playground on the fireman’s pole! Try to pull yourself up just a couple of reaches at a time. When I first tried, I could barely get myself up past my own height. But keep at it!

6. Master The Chin Up

Chin ups are slightly easier than pull ups. What’s the difference? First, in a pull up, your palms are facing the same way you are (overhand grip). In a chin up, your palms are facing you (underhand grip). Second, chin ups recruit your bicep muscles, putting less pressure on your back muscles to lift you up! Pull ups focus more on your back muscles (lats).

7. Be Patient

Rome wasn’t built in a day. It took me 16 years to do my first pull up. If you’re persistent and dedicated, it’ll happen!



Other Tips That Will Help You Do Your First Pull Up


1. Don’t look at the bar while you’re doing a pull up.

I know it’s really tempting to see how much more you have to pull up your body. But this actually makes it harder for you! And it can put a lot of strain on your neck!

2. Practice often.

Practice makes perfect, right?!

3. Keep a clean form!

Another crucial point when you train to do a pull up. You don’t want to injure yourself because the muscles involved can be easily injured or strained (i.e., your back).

4. Don’t jump.

I know it’s hard not to start your pull up with a jump but you need to be able to control your bodyweight. Learn how to do a pull up without that extra hop!

Check Out This Post

Learn how to do a pull up by working out and increasing your strength. These upper body exercises target your arms and back muscles so that you can pull and lift your body weight. Get lean muscle and get stronger with the Pull Ups for Beginners tips!You may also be interested in The Best Upper Body Exercises To Help You Do Your First Pull Up Quickly! Pair these great tips with these upper body exercises and you will be doing your first pull up in no time!


What tips do you have for learning to do a pull up?

Related: Back Day Workout for a Sexy Back and The Number One Thing You Need To Use If You Want A Better Workout!

how to do a pull up
How to do a pull up for beginners or learn how to increase the number of pull ups you can do! This pull up training will teach you pull up technique and tips to do your first pull up. You'll train your upper body and learn how to do a pull up

Say Goodbye to Back Fat with This Back Workout


This back workout routine includes the BEST exercises for your back. You'll strengthen your upper back and strengthen your lower back. Get rid of back fat and bra fat bulge!

Back Workout Routine to Get Rid of Back Fat

Back Day is one of my FAVORITES! So, try this back workout and you’ll feel the fat burn!

As a personal trainer, I want to warn you… your back might be a little sore the next day! This workout is designed to strengthen your back muscles, specifically your lats. Make sure you stretch after you workout. This can help decrease muscle soreness. One stretch that will feel AMAZING after this workout is to pretend you are giving a very wide person a hug (and put your chin down to your neck while “hugging” them!).

Ready for a workout to target the muscles in your back?

5-10 minutes cardio warm-up (stationary bike, treadmill, etc.)

12 Lat Pulldown (wide grip) *seen in picture
12 Single Arm Bent over Rows (with dumbbells)
Repeat 3 times

3×12 Back extensions (with or without weight)
3×12 Seated Cable Row

3×10 Reverse and Narrow Grip Lat Pulldown

Finisher: 3X10 Assisted Pull ups 

If you don’t have an Assisted Pull Up Machine, get some Pull Up Assistance Bands. You can attach it to the pull up bar. You’ll place your feet in the bottom of it, and it will carry some of the weight to help you do the pull up. There are different resistances of these types of bands. The higher the resistance, the more weight it will help you pull up. So if you are a beginner, I recommend a strong band!


*If you are unfamiliar with supersets, it means you are doing two exercises back to back (one right after the other) before you rest. Then you do the designated exercises again!

Related: Back Day Workout for a Sexy Back

Make sure you are taking your time with these exercises. Don’t rush through the sets in order to get to your resting time. Slow, controlled movements are crucial to building lean muscle safely. When women come to me for personal training, they often shy away from back day because they don’t want to build the muscles that connect the back and shoulder area to the neck… These are commonly known as the traps (trapezius muscles). If you do not want to build mass in your traps, you must perform these fitness moves with correct form. Sometimes, when your muscles get tired, other surrounding muscles try to overcompensate! 

Related: The Best Upper Body Exercises to Help You Do Your First Pull Up Quickly

back workout

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