These Exercises Will Prep You For Perfect Pullups

This program from trainer Gerren Liles will give you a set of steps to help master the pullup, a classic exercise that strengthens your back, arms, and shoulders using only your bodyweight.

Use the Mobility and Strength exercises to prep your back and shoulders for the full pullup, then test your strength and skills with the Pullup Benchmark test.

Need a little more help before you’re ready to start busting out reps? Check out the video above, and follow these tips and progression.


Complete 2 rounds of this circuit. The standing wall slide fires up your upper back, while the reverse plank hits your glutes, abs, and lower back. Rest 15 seconds between moves.

Standing Wall Slide


Stand with your upper back against a wall. Raise both arms overhead (hands beyond shoulder width). Press them against the wall. This is the starting position. Lower your upper arms until your elbows are below shoulder height. Return to the starting position. That’s 1 rep; do 10.

Reverse Plank


Sit on the floor with your legs extended and feet together. Put your hands under your shoulders, fingers pointing backward. Keeping your arms straight, tighten your glutes and raise your hips so your body is straight from ankles to shoulders. Hold for 30 seconds.


To build up your back and biceps strength, perform these two moves either as part of this workout or in your normal routine. Rest for 90 seconds between sets.

Lat Pulldown


Sit at a lat pulldown station, pick a moderate weight, and grasp the bar using an overhand grip. Without moving your torso, pull the bar to your chest, squeezing your shoulder blades together. Hold for 1 second; then slowly return the bar to the start. Do 3 sets of 10 to 12 reps.

Alternating Dumbbell Row


Stand holding 25-pound dumbbells. Fold at your hips and lower your torso until it’s nearly parallel to the floor, the dumbbells hanging at arm’s length. Pull the right dumbbell straight up to the side of your torso, lower it, and repeat with the left. That’s 1 rep; do 3 sets of 10 to 12.

The Benchmark Test

Set a timer for 10 minutes. Do 1 pullup and 10 burpees; that’s round 1. Each round, add a pullup and subtract a burpee as you strive toward the 1oth round—10 pullups, 1 burpee.



Hang from a bar using an overhand grip, your arms slightly beyond shoulder width. Pull your chest to the bar, pause, and squeeze your shoulder blades. Slowly lower your body back to a hang. Can’t keep going? Release the bar and stretch for a moment; then jump and continue.



Stand with your feet slightly beyond shoulder-width apart. Squat, place your hands on the floor, and kick your legs back wide into a pushup position. Do a pushup, and as you raise your torso, jump your feet back between your hands and stand up. That’s 1 burpee.

Benchmark Results

How many rounds did you survive in 10 minutes?

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