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The SLFitness 28 day Pull-Up Programme




The pull up is a defining symbol of strength. You want to be able to hit at least one pull-up, right?

Women are at a disadvantage when attempting pull ups compared to men, because most of them lack additional muscle and strength in their upper bodies.

I’m here to change all that…

Since they’re hard to perform, it’s even more rewarding when you can do your first one.

The SLFitness 28-day Pull Up Programme

– A intense 28-day program to help you achieve a long desired pull-up goal

– Incorporating bodyweight, weight and resistance machine exercises to help aid you in the build up to that pull-up

– Step by step guide over 28 days adding weight, reps and exercises to gradually build those upper back muscles and grip strength

– Suitable for Females and Males.

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More and more women are catching on to the importance of strength training, and getting excited about proving this myth wrong. In October 2012, the New York Times started a ruckus by publishing an article titled “Why Women Can’t Do Pull-Ups!”

Practise does make perfect and it is important that once the programme is finished you continue to perform the pull-up on a regular basis. This keeps the lateral flexibility and upper back muscles engaged on a daily basis to ensure they are well ready should you walk under a door way and want to bang a few reps on the door-frame, hey! It happens!

You cannot expect to get a pull-up if you are not strength training or never get on a pull-up bar.

An added bonus is that pull-ups are one of the quickest ways to change your body composition. You will get a nice strong defined back and shoulders, while also defining your whole body if you are doing proper pull-ups.

Most Common Problems With Pull-Ups:

Eye Position: looking at the bar causes you to move further away from the bar

Start of pull: lack of lateral engagement when initiating the pull

Middle of pull: lack of strength and full body tension

Finish of pull: lack of strength and elbow drive

I use the following progressions to fix the above listed problems and gain strength to obtain your first pull-up, increase your current pull-up numbers, or to advance to weighted pull-ups.

Before we get into the specific exercises to help your pull-up, it’s important to understand the difference between a pull-up and a chin-up.

A pull-up is a over-grasp grip whereby the palms face 12 o clock when performing the exercise.

A chin-up is a under-hand grip whereby the palms face 6 o clock when performing the exercise.

Progressing into WEEK 4 of the schedule you will be required to perform a ‘neutral grip’ pull-up whereby the palms face each other as they would by your side standing neutrally, easy! A’ha yeah okay Spence…

Exercises to improve your pull-up:

1. Lat Activation Drill: While holding the hollow hang, connect, and disconnect your shoulders into the socket.This drill will strengthen infraspinatus, teres minor, teres major and latissimus dorsi while also teaching you to stay tight at the start of your pull.

2. Plank: Core engagement is vital when performing the pull up as a braced core allows the shoulder socket to stop unwanted swing when performing the exercise, allowing for a better upwards motion and more use of the lats and bicep.

3. Dead Hang: Flexed Arm Hangs, climb onto a box that puts you above the bar or almost to the bar and jump into a flexed hang with your chin over the bar. Hang over the bar with hands facing you (underhand grip), elbows flexed by your sides, and chin over the bar.Hang for time and gradually increase time as your shoulder stabilisers and biceps get stronger.

4. Slow Negatives: Working on descending slowly from a flexed hang will give you a chance to work the full range of motion for your pull-ups while gaining strength. Use the TRX cables if necessary but always try and use a long 20kg olympic lifting bar hooked into position or a smith machine in the low locked setting.

5. Towel Hangs/Towel Pulls: Great assistance drills to improve grip strength. This can also be done on ropes. You can use the towel and hang in hollow, flexed hang, or begin doing pulls as seen in the video tutorials.

6. Bent over Dumbbell Row: Keeping your back parallel to the floor, one hand under the chest at the end of a bench. Lift a dumbbell up and just past your core remembering to use the bicep and squeeze the upper back muscles at the top of the movement. Great for improving ROM (Range Of Motion) and immediate explosive power. We’re going to start with these, the most basic of back exercises, in case you’re starting from ABSOLUTELY square one. For these exercises, focus on lifting more and more as you get stronger. Every OTHER day, pick up a dumbbell that you can lift for three sets of 8 repetitions with a 2 minute break between sets. As soon as you can do 3 sets of 8 reps, it’s time to move up to a heavier dumbbell.As soon as you can do dumbbell rows with at least a 25-pound (10kg) dumbbell or heavier, consider moving up to the next level.If you are a little bit bigger than the average bear, you might want to stick with this step until you lose a little bit more weight and get stronger – maybe go to 35 or 40-pound (18kg) dumbbells.

7. Machine or Resistance band assisted pull-up: Personally, I don’t like using the assisted pull up machine in a gym as it doesn’t give you the full feeling of a pull up, but it’s certainly better than nothing. Instead, I recommend doing one of these alternatives: Assisted Pull Ups with chair – (either one foot or two depending on your needs) – your feet are ONLY there for support, use your upper body as much as possible. Assisted Pull Ups with exercise band – (you can get different types of exercise bands with different levels of strength). Put your foot in the exercise band and pull yourself up.Assisted pull ups with a partner – (have a friend hold your feet behind you and help you complete each rep). Have your friend use the least amount of help possible to get you through your workouts.

My advice:

Clench your butt and keep your abs tight throughout the exercise – try not to swing like crazy.Keep your shoulder blades pinched behind you throughout the movement and focus on PULLING the bar down with your arms.Use the least amount of assistance that you can handle – as soon as you can do multiple pull ups with both feet on the chair, switch to just one foot.If you’re using an exercise band, try to get a few bands of varying tension so you can decrease the resistance as you get stronger. As soon as you can do 3 sets of 8 with assistance, it’s time time move on up.

A sample level 3 routine:

Monday – Assisted Pull Ups – 3 sets of 8 reps

Wednesday – Body weight rows – 3 sets of 8 reps

Friday – Assisted Chin Ups – 3 sets of 8 reps

8. Neutral Grip Pull-Up: Neutral grip is sometimes easier, as you grip will be narrower and palms facing each other, this allows for more biceps recruitment.

Nearly time my friend…

9. Chin Ups: or at least it will be when you’ve completed your first one! Chin-ups; same grip as the underhand flexed arm hangs but now you are going to pull for the full range of motion from hollow hang. Engage your lats, pull-up, and over bar. Chin-ups are usually easier for females to get strong at before pull-ups.

My dear rebel, it’s time. Depending on your weight, your level of fitness and strength, and how far along you are in these progressions, you might be able to start with more than one pull up. For MANY people, especially if you have spent time in the gym in the past working on your biceps (like most guys do), you might find it easier to start with chin ups (with your palms facing toward you) for your first exercise before trying pull ups (with your palms facing away from you).

Focal points: Pull your shoulder blades back as you’re going through the movement, and focus on pulling the bar down. Again, keep your butt clenched and your abs tight throughout the movement. Get your chin above the bar, or it doesn’t count as a full rep. Do whatever you need to get through the full rep. If you can only do one rep, try to do at least 3 sets of one rep…after your three sets, add in some negatives to exhaust the muscle. At this point, here’s a Level 4 routine set up for a week:

Monday – Chin ups – 3 sets for maximums repetitions

Wednesday – Inverted Rows – 3 sets for max repetitions

Friday – Pull ups – 3 sets for maximum repetitions

10. THE Pull-Up! Hang in the hollow position with hands slightly wider than your shoulders, thumb-less grip and pull the full range of motion until the chin is over the bar. When you are close to getting over the bar, shoot your elbows down and back to increase the height that you will get over the bar.

After training many clientele and testing many drills I have found that on average if a female works up to a 30 to 45 second flex arm hang that she normally can do at least one chin-up. Once she has at least one chin-up, I would have her start a “back day” split as part of her muscle hypertrophy programming warming up daily with chin-ups – they make great compound heart rate elevators and finishers (until failure). After she has multiple chin-ups, I would then add training ladders into her program.

For example: 3 chin-ups, 2 chin-ups, 1 chin-up. Rest and repeat.

Once she achieves three chins-ups she will normally have one pull-up. At that point I would either have her train over-grasp pull-ups wider and wider over time until she has multiple reps, or add the pull-up into the ladder.

For example: 3 chin-ups, 2 chins-ups, 1 pull-up. Rest and repeat.

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Important progression tips by SLFitness:


STAY fresh with proper technique and stop before setting in a bad pattern.

PRACTICE often.

LIFT heavy to increase strength.

STRONG deadlifts make for easier pull-ups.

Easy work? Add weights with a chain around your waist or clip equal sided cable weights from the 8-stack multi-gym.

Completed the 4 week plan? Congratulations and keep practising! On the go and in the gym! You’ve earned it! x

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