I’ve never had any upper-body strength, or really any strength at all for that matter. Athleticism was never my forte. I was the quiet, artsy kid who, in the fullest sense of the word, dreaded P.E. or any kind of physically involved, spectated competition. To this day, ball sports still intimidate me, but I’ve found at least a handful of fitness niches that I find fun and enjoyable. They’re all solo sports — hiking, biking, yoga, simple bodyweight movements, ice skating, and generally taking any opportunity to get outside and get moving.
Discovering Mark Sisson’s Primal Blueprint Fitness and the details within changed the game for me a few years ago. Personally, I think the bits about evolution and all are a load, but the rest of it seems pretty effective and accurate. There is such a wealth of good health and lifestyle information on his site. But anyway, those principles made sense to me. Something just clicked, and I’ve since proudly considered myself one of those active people.
Last year I accomplished my first ever full pull-up using this method. Took me a few months, and then thanks to stress and busy-ness (and the fact that I did a Tough Mudder and no longer had incentive to make sure I could get across the monkey bars), I stopped pulling-up and lost the ability completely… until last month. I took it up again this summer and, in spite of not having done it for over a year, it was easier this time.
The picture above is the scrap notebook paper that I wrote out my daily pull-up goals/progress on and kept on my to-do clipboard that I carry everywhere. I took the aforementioned method for building up strength for a pull-up (it is so important to take it slow) and came up with a concrete structure that I could hold myself accountable to. I am happy to share it with you, but first, a disclaimer: When you visit the above link, you’ll see that you have to work your way up to three 25-second flexed arm hangs. Starting out, you may not even be able to hold yourself up there for one single second; I sure couldn’t! This challenge starts out at a 15-second hold. You can test yourself to see how long you can stay up there and start the challenge in however many days or weeks it takes you to work up to 15 seconds.
Read that link and learn how to properly do these. Use a safe pull-up bar. Listen to your body and only move forward when you’ve mastered your current step. You can’t feign this kind of strength!
30-Day Pull-Up Challenge
Day 1: 15-second flexed arm hang (repeat 3x)
Day 2: 20-second flexed arm hang (repeat 3x)
Day 3: REST
Day 4: 20-second flexed arm hang (repeat 3x)
Day 5: 25-second flexed arm hang (repeat 3x)
Day 6: REST
Day 7: 25-second flexed arm hang (repeat 3x)
Day 8: 5-second negative pull-up (repeat 3x)
Day 9: REST
Day 10: 5-second negative pull-up (repeat 3x)
Day 11: 10-second negative pull-up (repeat 3x)
Day 12: REST
Day 13: 10-second negative pull-up (repeat 3x)
Day 14: 15-second negative pull-up (repeat 3x)
Day 15: REST
Day 16: 15-second negative pull-up (repeat 3x)
Day 17: 20-second negative pull-up (repeat 3x)
Day 18: REST
Day 19: 20-second negative pull-up (repeat 3x)
Day 20: Mini pull-ups (1 rep 2x) — from here on, slowly increase how far you lower yourself down.
Day 21: REST
Day 22: Mini pull-ups (1 rep 2x)
Day 23: Mini pull-ups (1 rep 3x)
Day 24: REST
Day 25: Mini pull-ups (2 reps 2x)
Day 26: Mini pull-ups (2 reps 2x)
Day 27: REST
Day 28: Mini pull-ups (2 reps 3x)
Day 29: Mini pull-ups (2 reps 3x)
Day 30: Full pull-up (1x)
Now pat yourself on the back and celebrate completing your first pull-up!