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Dana Linn Bailey’s Five Progressions To Achieve Your First Pull-Up


One of the most challenging parts of training can be getting up and going to the gym, particularly as a beginner. That pressure can feel amplified by new year’s resolutions, whether to lose weight, hit a new personal record on a particular lift, or achieve your first pull-up.

The latter was the topic of choice for former Women’s Physique Olympia champion Dana Linn Bailey on Jan. 3, 2023. She took to her YouTube channel to publish a video wherein she teaches her 530,000 subscribers how to accomplish locking out that milestone first pull-up via five progressions. Check them out below:

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1. Active Dead-Arm Hangs

The first progression involved active dead-arm hangs. They involve holding onto the pull-up bar for as long as possible. It’s a task that improves grip strength, but unlike a standard dead-arm hang, the active variation involves keeping the scapula retracted.

It’s a small movement, but makes the dead-arm hang easier.

The target time for the dead-arm hang is 30 seconds. Work your way up to that time for as long as necessary. Bailey suggests refraining from wrapping the thumb around the bar to lessen the load on the forearms — this looks similar to a suicide grip, where the thumb is next to the index finger. Once you can comfortably sustain the hold for 30 seconds or more, move on to the second progression. 

2. Scapula Pull-Ups

The second progression is almost a pull-up, but not quite. While in an active hang, release the scapula, then activate them. It should look like going from a standard dead-arm hang to an active dead-arm hang. The target is three sets of 10 reps. Once you can accomplish that, move on to progression three.

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3. Flexed Hang

The opposite of a dead-arm hang is a flexed hang. The former involves holding onto the pull-up bar in the bottom position, while the latter is a hold in the locked-out position. Use assistance to get up to the pull-up bar if you cannot jump into position.

Clean flexed hang form requires a hollow body position. A hollow body involves engaging the core, which places the feet slightly in front of you. This is like a hollow hold, except while holding the pull-up bar. If flexed hangs are too tricky, train hollow holds to improve core strength. This will likely help balance the flexed hang, making it more sustainable.

The goal is to maintain flexed hangs for at least 10 seconds. Once you can perform four to five sets at 10 seconds each, advance to progression four.

4. Jumping Negatives

A negative is the eccentric portion of the pull-up (i.e., lowering yourself down). Training the negatives helps improve the muscular strength required to achieve pull-ups. Jump to the pull-up bar, then lower yourself slowly for three seconds. Once you reach the bottom (i.e., an active dead-arm hang), drop to the floor. Hop back onto pull-up immediately and perform another rep.

Bailey did not give a recommended target before advancing to progression five, but four to five sets of 10 reps each, similar to progression three, should work well.

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5. Assisted Pull-Ups

Using resistance bands, wrap a thick band around the pull-up bar, slipping one end through the band on the other side. Then place one or both feet — Bailey recommends one — inside the opposite end (the bottom) of the band. When performing a pull-up, the band should offset some of your body weight, making the pull-ups easier to perform.

Once you can perform three sets of 10 reps with the thickest band, progress to the next band that offers less resistance. Continue this progression, using lighter resistance bands, until you no longer need their assistance.

Performing a single standard pull-up is the goal. Once you achieve that, even if a second rep feels impossible, use reps as a progression. For example, if you can only do one rep to start, perform 10 sets of one rep. Once you can progress to two reps, repeat that cycle until you can perform three reps, then four reps, and so on.

Congratulations in advance on achieving your first pull-up.

Featured image: @danalinnbailey on Instagram

The post Dana Linn Bailey’s Five Progressions To Achieve Your First Pull-Up appeared first on BarBend.

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