Photo by Victor Freitas from Pexels

The pull-up is one of the most difficult bodyweight exercises to perform. It places incredible strain on your upper body, and demands a great amount of strength in your back, arms, and shoulders. 

But hard as it may be, the pull-up is one of the most effective and powerful upper body exercises around, and it can do wonders for your core strength. 


The real trick to this exercise is volume, and a good tip is to attempt 1-2 sets to failure every day.         

But how many reps should we actually be aiming for? According to former Royal Marines PTI Sean Lerwill, “A guy in good shape should be able to do about six perfect-form pull-ups at a slow and controlled tempo, with an aim of getting to 12 reps.”

This may sound like an impossible task for beginners. But with the proper practise and form, you’ll be hitting double figures in no time at all. 

So whether you’re just looking to increase your current rep limit, or simply wish to perform your very first pull-up, we’ve got some tips to help you boost your performance.

How to do a pull-up

First things first, you need to get to grips with the proper pull-up technique. The above video should hopefully set you off in the right direction. And further to that, here are some general takeaway tips:

  • Grip the bar with your hands shoulder-width apart, palms facing away from you. 
  • Hang with your arms fully extended and bend your knees (if they’re dragging on the ground).
  • Keep your shoulders back, core engaged.
  • Move with control until your chin is above the bar.


Once you’ve mastered the basics, there are a number of ways to alter your pull-ups. . .

Grip — try switching between wide, narrow, and normal grips to work different parts of your body.

Pauses — you can add pauses at different parts of your pull-up for a more intense and fatiguing variation.

Tempo — altering the tempo of your pull-ups is a great way to increase intensity and add a different angle to the exercise.

Supplemental exercises

For extra strength-building, and to help condition your body for strong and successful pull-ups, try adding these exercises into your daily workout routine:

Inverted row

Arm hang

Lat pulldown

Stability ball rollouts

Squat, pull, push

Once you’ve perfected your pull-up, why not throw in some squats and push-ups for an all-round bodyweight workout!