Being able to do pull-ups is every beginner’s dream whether they accept it or not. Pull-ups are considered as an advanced bodyweight movement that has tremendous benefits in improving upper body strength. However, most people at the beginner or even intermediate level are intimidated by this compound movement, and understandably so. But you no longer have to be if you’re trying to achieve your first pull-up, thanks to Dana Linn Bailey.
Bailey is a retired professional bodybuilder, model, and social media personality. A pioneer of the Women’s Physique division, ‘DLB’ became the first ever Women’s Physique contest winner at the 2011 Jr. USA. She also won the inaugural Women’s Physique Olympia title at the 2013 Olympia. Bailey had a short stint in powerlifting as well and lifted a total of 877 lbs (396.9 kgs) at the 2018 Arnold Sports Festival.
The 39-year-old has become one of the most influential female fitness stars after her retirement and holds over 2.5 million followers on YouTube and Instagram combined. She regularly shares bodybuilding content and routinely collaborates with other big names in the industry. Recently, Bailey shared a five-step progression plan to achieve the first pull-up with her followers. So read on if you wish to start your journey to the first pull-up.
Dana Linn Bailey shares five progressions to your first pull-up
Progression 1 – Dead Arm Hang
As the name suggests, the dead arm hang is simply an act of hanging by gripping a bar with both your hands. Dana Linn Bailey suggested mastering the dead hang as the first step towards your journey to a pull-up. However, instead of a regular dead hang, the former Women’s Physique Olympia winner advised to do an active dead hang – hanging with your scapulae pulled down or retracted so that the shoulders are a little lower than they are when you do a regular hang.
“I honestly think it makes the dead arm hang a little bit easier. I actually think I can hold a little bit longer when I am on an active hang. Goal here is to do it for 30 seconds or more. Once you get 30 seconds, we’ll move to progression two,” Bailey said.
She further advised to not wrap the thumb around the bar while gripping it to alleviate some of the stress on the forearms.
Progression 2 – Scap (Scapula) Pull-ups
Once you get to the 30-second active dead hang mark comfortably, the second progression kicks in. The scap pull-ups are nothing but doing regular dead hang and the active dead hang in the rep form. Once you hang on the bar in the regular position, retract your scapulae to bring the shoulders down and then release them to get back in the regular position.
“Once you do three sets of ten, now you move to progression number three!” Dana Linn Bailey said.
Progression 3 – Flexed Hang
Things start getting a little bit difficult here onwards. Flexed hang is the opposite of a dead hang. To do this, you have to jump and grab the bar. However, you have to keep your head above the bar and hold the pull-up position for as long as you can. DLB suggested to aim for at least ten seconds of flexed hangs for four to five sets. She advised to master the hollow body position for perfecting the flexed hang. A hollow body position means the feet are kept slightly ahead of your body by engaging the core muscles.
Progression 4 – Jumping Negatives
Jumping negatives is the progression where you perform only the negative or the eccentric part of the pull-up. Since you may not have the strength to pull yourself up yet, you have to jump and hold yourself in the flexed hang position. Then slowly lower yourself to a dead hang position and then all the way down to the ground. Jump into a flexed hang again and repeat the process.
“Now we’re going to lower ourselves slowly, anywhere from three to five seconds. Obviously, the longer is going to be the more time under tension. So we’re going to do three sets of eight to ten jumping negatives,” Bailey stated.
Progression 5 – Assisted Pull-ups
This is where the movement starts to look like a complete pull-up. The gym-goers can use the assisted pull-up machines that are now available in most of the gyms. However, you can make use of resistance bands if the assisted pull-up machine is not available to you. Resistance bands come in a wide variety that provide different levels of resistance, in this case – assistance.
Bailey advised to start with the one that provides maximum assistance to take the load off the body. Once you are comfortable doing three sets of ten reps with the band, switch to the one that provides little less assistance and repeat the process until you can do pull-ups without the help of resistance bands.
“Since you are assisted I would suggest focusing on slowing that rep down. So pull up fast but this is a good way to focus on that negative. So slow the rep down since you have the assistance,” Bailey advised.
Once the resistance bands are no longer needed and you can do your first pull-up, focus on increasing the number of reps.
“Every single day you’re going to work on it. If you can only do one, maybe you try ten sets of one. And then next week you try to and then you’ll do like nine sets of two and then eight sets of three. Keep working your way up until maybe you can do five, six in a row and then you just keep doing sets of five or six until one day maybe you’ll be at 20!” Dana Linn Bailey concluded.
The former Women’s Physique Olympia champion reminded to maintain the hollow body position all the way through for every rep of the pull-ups and concluded the video.
Dana Linn Bailey continues to be a source of pre-workout motivation and bodybuilding knowledge through her content. The five step progression plan to the first pull-up is certainly a practically achievable one if you put in the effort. So start off today and take your fitness a level above.
You can watch the full video here, courtesy of Dana Linn Bailey’s personal YouTube channel: