21 Pull Up Variations from Beginner to Advanced
Pull ups are a challenging exercise for beginners, but there are many different variations of the pull up that alter the difficulty. Pick 6-8 variations, starting with the most difficult variation you can do, and perform the following leg exercises between each set. The pull up variations are listed from easiest to most difficult. Remember to not to "cheat" by using your legs to bounce.
Super-set Leg exercises:
Pistol Squats x 5 each side (use rings or wall to assist if necessary)
Jumping Squats x 15
Jumping Split Squat x 10 each side
Split Squat hold 5 sec x 5 each side
Super Set: Archer squats x 10 each side
Super Set: High Knee Taps x 30 seconds
Australian Pull Up x 10
Lower the rings to about chest height and plant your feet under them. Clasp the rings with your palms facing away and lean back keeping a straight body until your arms are straight. Pull the rings toward you until they are on either side of your chest. Shifting your feet forward will increase the percentage of body weight you lift, increasing the difficulty.
Australian Chin ups x 10
Perform the same motion as the Australian Pull Up but keep your palms facing towards you at all times. This variant targets your biceps.
Leg Assisted Pull Up x 10
Set the rings to a lower height such that you can barely clasp them while squatting on the group. Clasp them, palms facing away from you, and pull yourself up while assisting with your legs as little as possible. Your wrist will slowly twist towards you during the motion until it faces you at the top. Slowly lower down, completing the full range of motion until you are squatting again.
Negative Pull Up x 10
Set the rings just above your head and clasp the rings palms facing away from you. Jump up and hold the top pull up position. Slowly lower down, keeping control all the way down without dropping suddenly. You will need to bend your knees to keep your legs from touching the floor towards the end. Make sure to perform the full range of motion, especially when your arms form a 90 degree bend and towards the end of the exercise.
One-arm Australian Pull Up x 5 each side
This is just like the Australian Pull up but clasp 1 ring instead of both. Pull the ring inward, bringing your opposite shoulder to the ring by slightly twisting your torso. Be careful of swinging off balance, and adjust foot placement for difficulty.
Normal Pull Up x 10
Set the rings high and clasp, palms facing away from you. Slowly pull yourself up, twisting your wrists toward you until they face you at the end of the movement. Lower yourself down in a slow and controlled fashion.
Commando Pull Up x 5 each side
Choose a single ring and step to the side of it such that it is perpendicular to you. Clasp both hands on it, each palm facing a different direction. Start off hanging, then pull up, bringing your shoulder to your hand closest to you, and slowly lower down. Use your abs to stay straight and prevent swinging. These pull ups hit your biceps, lats, and core.
Neutral Grip Pull Up x 10
Clasp the rings and twist them such that your palms are facing towards each other. This variant targets your forearms and biceps.
Slomo Pull ups x ?
The slow motion pull up works on your slow twitch muscle fibers. The motion is the same as a normal pull up, but we are going to take 10 full seconds to pull up, and 10 seconds to lower back down. You may hold for a few seconds at the top for a nice isometric exercise. Use a timer and practice maintaining a constant speed, especially at halfway when the exercise is the hardest! This is a great way to increase muscular endurance. In fact, any of these pull ups can be done in slow motion to target slow twitch fibers!
Wide Grip Pull Up x 10
Step between the rings and clasp them, palms facing forward. Pull yourself up almost halfway, and push the rings a bit out to the side. Pull yourself up, palms continuing to face forward, keeping the outward force on the rings to force them wider then normal. Lower only halfway down and pull back up. This pull up will hit your lats and upper back muscles.
Close Grip Pull Up x 10
Clasp a single ring, palms facing away from you. Pull yourself up. This pull up focuses the back of your forearms. Flip your grip to target biceps. With pull ups, the narrower the space between your hands, the more your arms are targeted instead of your back.
Inverted Pike Pull Up x 10
From the pull up position, raise your legs up and between the rings until your legs are parallel to the ceiling. You should be looking straight at your knees. Now keeping that form, pull your rear towards the ceiling. If you aren't comfortable with inversions yet, feel free to lower the rings so that you start off the ground, preferably with something to cushion your head. This variant targets your lats, but with a more difficult horizontal pull.
L-sit Pull Up x 10
Hang from the rings as if you are starting a pull up, and raise your legs to from an 'L'. Keeping that exact posture, pull straight up, and lower all the way down to hanging position, maintaining the L. You will find that the most difficult part is the initial movement from hanging position, but this is a great way to emphasize your lats with a vertical pull. In addition to your lats, this will work out your core.
Inverted Row Pull Up 2 x 5
The inverted pike pull up and L-set pull up were dating and had a happy accident. Get into position for the inverted pike pull up (described above) but raise your legs straight up to form an 'L' shape. This exercise brings in your posterior deltoids and your lower back to maintain the 'L' shape, and is an excellent progression move towards the front lever.
Assisted One Hand Pull Up x 5 each side
Clasp a ring with one hand, your palm facing toward you. Grab your wrist with your other hand and pull yourself up using both arms. This is an excellent progression towards the one handed pull up and will help build grip strength. You can increase the difficulty by grabbing lower on your forearm.
Band Assisted One Hand Pull Up x 5 each side
You can perform these even without a band by setting the rings at different heights, the lower at least one ring diameter below the other. Clasp both rings and pull yourself to the higher ring. Increase the height distance to increase the difficulty. If you have a resistance band, set the rings at equal height and tie or throw the band across one ring. Clasp the band in one hand and the other ring with the other, and pull yourself up. You are on your way to the one hand pull up.
Typewriter Pull Up x 5 each side
Bring yourself to the top of the pull up position and hold. Instead of lowering, shift your weight to one ring and extend the opposite arm sideways until your arm is straight, elbow locked. Hold for a couple seconds and slowly bring the ring back in, shifting your weight to the middle again. Shift your weight to the opposite ring and perform the same movement on the other side. This variant builds grip strength and gives your biceps a nice isometric workout.
Slow Negative One Arm Pull Up x 5 each side
I hope you've been working on your grip strength. Lower the rings a tad, clasping a ring with a single hand palm facing inward and jump up to the top of the pull up position. Hold for a moment before slowly lowering yourself down. Mastering these is a must for the one hand pull up.
Archer Pull Up x 5 each side
There are two versions of the archer pull up. The easier one is merely a pull up followed by extending one arm straight out to the side before pulling it back in, just as we did with the typewriter pull ups. Lower yourself down before pulling back up and extending the opposite arm.
The harder version is a pull up but with one arm straight, not even a slight bend at the elbow. You will end up pulling yourself to one side, clutching a ring to your chest while the other arm is straight to the side, palm facing downward. Lower back down and pull up to the other ring with the opposite arm keeping straight.
Explosive Pull Up x 10
This variant will train the fast twitch muscle fibers helpful for a muscle up. Begin in normal pull up position and explosively pull yourself up. We are aiming for a moment of hang time above the rings. Make sure you are nice and warm before attempting. Exercise caution, as explosive movements carry a higher likelihood of injury.
One Hand Pull Up x 5 each side
Clasp a single ring in one hand. Your palm can face toward or away from you, but it will need to end up facing you at the top. Pull yourself up, twisting your wrist naturally to bring the ring to the opposite shoulder. Slowly lower yourself down. If you have trouble with the initial hanging position, try practicing one handed shoulder shrugs. Have a bottle of something special handy for the first successful attempt, and be sure to practice all the progressions listed above to get to this point.