4 Non Pull-Up Exercises to Help Build Your Pull-Up

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All this week my good friend (and pull-up GodMistress), Meghan Callaway, has placed her renowned Ultimate Pull-Up Program on sale at 40% off the regular price.

It only makes sense that I use a few posts this week to highlight some of my thoughts and programming suggestions on the topic.

I mean, you’re not here for Macadamia Nut Cookie recipes, or, I don’t know, best uses of tape.1

As such, I figured I’d take today to highlight a few of my “go to” non-pull-up exercises that help build the pull-up.

Lets get to it.

NOTE: Before anyone chimes in with the inevitable snide comment that the picture above is a silhouette of chin-up and not a pull-up, I get it.

You’re a hero.

A Quick Aside

I work with many clients – both male and female – who are very interested in performing their first strict, bodyweight pull-up.

And, to no big surprise, they’ve likely been told, via various articles and coaches, to hammer the same two exercises  time and time and time again:

  • Eccentric Only Pull-Ups
  • Band Assisted Pull-Ups

Kind of like their own version of Groundhog Day hell.

Except without all the LOLs.

Suggesting those two exercise is not altogether bad advice.

I mean, in the name of specificity I implement them all the time too.

However, it’s a bit shortsighted and derails one key component of pull-up training I feel many trainees (and coaches) tend to overlook:


If you want to conquer your first pull-up…

  • You need to train it more often.2


  • To that end, you need to provide a more diverse training menu (so you can train it more often).

Whenever I work with someone who’s main goal is to perform their first pull-up I try to implement an exercise or drill  EVERY session that nudges him or her towards that goal.

Like the Hollow Position “Pull-Up” I discussed the other day HERE.

So, yeah, this means I do include exercises like Band Assisted or Eccentric Only Pull-Ups. It also means I utilize various hanging leg raise exercises (knees bent 90 degrees, straight-leg,  etc), bent-arm hang holds (chin above bar and hold for time), tons and tons of rows, and/or various pulldown exercises.

But here’s a few more for you to consider.

1. Bear Stance Fallout


I got this one from Virginia based strength coach Vernon Griffith. I don’t think he posted it as a drill to help build the pull-up, but I’ve been using it as such because it HAMMERS the core (which is often a weak link for many trainees) in addition to teaching more of a “pulling” action back to the starting position (which carries over to the pull-up).

To be fair, I would always start out with plain ol’ push-ups and making sure people get proficient at them first. I have yet to see someone improve on their push-up technique (and ability to do more) and not see an improvement in pretty much everything else – squats, deadlifts, pull-ups, arm wresting a great white shark, you name it.

That said, if you’re looking to up the ante a bit give this drill a go.

2. Bottoms-Up Carry w/ Band


This may make zero sense to some, but hear me out.

“Connectivity” of the pelvis to the ribcage is huge. The pull-up is more of a FULL-BODY exercise than people give it credit for, and if someone is flailing all over the place while attempting it it makes sense why they may be having a hard time progressing.

This drill helps to build some context of the CONNECTION I am after while also building a set of sturdy shoulders.

3. Rack Pull-Up


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The Rack Pull-Up. . This is a variation I picked up from @liftrunbang and it’s grown to be one of my favorites. . It’s sorta a “hybrid” between an Inverted Row and a Pull-Up, which, not coincidentally, makes it one of my go to exercises when working with someone who’s goal it is to perform their first pull-up. . It’s not quite a pull-up, but it’s close. Sorta like Spam. It’s not quite meat but it’s close. . Anyway…this is also a fantastic accessory pulling/upper back exercise. What makes it really worthwhile is how we can accentuate the lat stretch in the bottom due to the increased ROM. . I like to aim for 6-15 reps per set with these. Pants optional. . Oh, also, props to @ampathletic who’s been allowing me to drop in everyday while in London (and for playing siiiiick EDM).

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4. Leg Assisted Pull-Up


I don’t have anything profound of sciency to add to this drill other than I like it for nothing else than it just gives people a nice confidence boost. I also like it because there’s a degree of specificity tethered to it (I.e., it’s a vertical pull, but still not quite actual pull-up territory).

Or, maybe it is.


And That’s That

For me, the main goal of getting someone to perform their first pull-up is to attack it more frequently and provide them more exposure to an array of exercises that will help them get there.

I hope these make sense and you can use them yourself!

And remember: You can pick up your copy of The Ultimate Pull-Up Program at 40% off all this week – HERE.

Did what you just read make your day? Ruin it? Either way, you should share it with your friends and/or comment below.

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Plus, get a copy of Tony’s Pick Things Up, a quick-tip guide to everything deadlift-related. See his butt? Yeah. It’s good. You should probably listen to him if you have any hope of getting a butt that good.

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  1. Wrapping presents, leaving notes on the door, hanging mid-90’s Lil Kim posters on your wall. You know, stuff like that.

  2. And by “it” I don’t necessarily mean the actual pull-up. Just like we use accessory movements to build our deadlifts and squats and to address weaknesses and technique issues, we can use the same logic towards the pull-up.

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