As a personal trainer and fitness instructor there was one motion that had taunted me for years: The pull up. A while back, I was capable of swinging a 60-pound kettlebell, pressing 25-pound dumbbells overhead, running, sprinting and executing deep pushups. But I still couldn't do a pull up.
Here's one major thing I learned: You shouldn't use an assisted band or machines. In all of my years of training individuals, professional athletes and celebrities, I have never seen a person graduate from a band or an assisted pull-up machine to an actual pull up or chin up.
You have to learn to let go and push yourself (correctly) to do the motion on your own. Here's how it works: You need to use positive strength to contract your muscles, static strength to hold yourself up and negative strength to extend the muscle, or lower your body from the bar with complete muscle control. You need to build these individual strengths in unison to build up your pullup strength. Follow these steps to strengthen your muscles so you can finally do a pull up:
Photo courtesy of the author
Get yourself over the pull-up bar — you may need to have a friend help you, use the wall to walk up or step into it from a workout bench. Hold yourself over the bar, strong and steady, for as long as you can.
Begin to lower yourself down. Hold yourself in that spot for a count of five to ten seconds.
Next, lower your body a bit further and hold yourself in that position for five to ten seconds.
To start, position your body over the bar. Begin to slowly lower yourself down completely, the slower the better. On your first try, count how long it takes you.
As your body becomes accustomed to this move, add three seconds to how long it takes you to lower yourself down.
Add these three exercises into your strength workout two to three times a week. Make sure you take rest days between, and if you're feeling sore, give yourself 48 hours of recovery before doing this workout again. After four weeks of this routine, you should feel strong enough to complete a pull-up.