3 Core Movements To Build A Stronger Pull-up

Everyone is always looking for that one thing that is going to help them to achieve their first unassisted pull-up, make their pull-up stronger, and/or make pull-ups easier.

The truth is, there is not one thing. Pull-ups are hard. Period. They don’t ever really get easier (even I have my tough pull-up days in training!), but there could be that one thing that you do that could help you to break a plateau, and as you stay consistent with your training for pull-ups, you can get stronger and more skilled at them, and in turn become better at them.

There are many factors that contribute to one’s ability to do a pull-up, and the ease with which one can do a pull-up:

  1. Your strength when you start.
  2. How long you have been training pull-ups, if at all.
  3. How consistently you train pull-ups. If you are really serious about improving pull-up strength and skill, you need to train them, or some movement towards your pull-up goals, 4-5 days per week in order to build strength and improve skill.
  4. Your bodyweight. Are you at an optimal bodyweight for your frame and body type?
  5. Along with optimal bodyweight comes,
    • Optimal Nutrition: Is your nutrition as good as it could be given your lifestyle, or could you do better? (If you need help in this area I recommend a diet auto-template from Renaissance Periodization. Use the code artemis10 to save $10 on an auto-template.)
    • Stress Level: Do you lead a high stress life? Financial and family challenges? Do you work a high stress job with excessive hours and/or a lot of travel? e.g. Are you a small business owner?
    • Sufficient Sleep: How many hours of sleep do you get a night? Do you have a bedtime routine? Do you make it a priority? Is it sound sleep? Is your bedroom set up as a sleep chamber only? e.g. Blackout curtains, no electronics, (no TV, no phone, no iPad, no computer, etc.), optimal sleeping temperature, and perhaps a white noise maker?
  6. Have you had children and/or do you have or have you had diastasis recti? It takes time to rebuild abdominal tissue, function, and strength after pregnancy. This doesn’t mean that if you had a baby that you will not be able to do a pull-up, this just means that it might take a bit longer for you to get your pull-up back or achieve your first unassisted pull-up.
  7. Are you built to press or are you built to pull? Yes, I believe that some of us are built to pull and that others of us are built to press. In my opinion, whether pull-ups come easy to you or not, is not dependent on your gender, but rather physiologically on how you were built.
  8. Strong mindset with the confidence and positive mental script that you CAN DO a pull-up, and to not be afraid of getting up over the bar, no matter where you are at in your pull-up journey. You have to Attack The Bar.
  9. And finally, CORE STRENGTH! Which relates back to number 6 on this list.

Pull-ups are an upper body pull and they require tremendous core strength.

Think about it, have you ever taken a trapeze or ariel class, or played around on the monkey bars or rings and then had sore abdominals for days afterwards?

That’s because hanging requires abdominal strength, and the pull-up is a hang. A dynamic hang, but a hang.

If you want to build a stronger and better pull-up then you need to increase abdominal strength combined with upper body strength.

Below is a list of posts that I have written in the past, along with video instruction, about how to build core strength for a stronger pull-up. I have listed them in the order that I teach them when I teach the pull-up them in person at a workshop or with a personal training client.

1. The Hollow Position. Video below and read more in my post “Pull-up Tips For Women”.

2. The Hanging Leg Raise. Video Tutorial below and read more in my post “One Movement That Will Help Your Pull-up”.

2a. The Floor Leg Raise. If you’re not ready to do the Hanging Leg Raise yet, then you can train Floor Leg Raises. See the video below and read step by step instructions in my post “More ‘Delicious Bonbons Of Knowledge’ To Help You With Your Pull-up – The Floor Leg Raise” 

3. The Ab Wheel Rollout. Video below and read and watch videos for step by step how to build up to the ab wheel rollout in my post the “Ab Rollout”. Alternative movements are listed step by step in this post if you are not ready to do ab rollouts yet with the evil wheel 🙂 .

3a. The Standing Ab Wheel Rollout. If the kneeling ab wheel rollout is easy for you and you are ready to progress to standing. Video below and step by step instruction about how to progress the kneeling ab wheel rollout to standing included in my post “How To Progress The Ab Wheel Rollout From Kneeling To Standing”.

I started training pull-ups consistently in 2008. At the time I was training sets of 1-2 repetitions per set, primarily with neutral grip. As I became stronger, I trained all pull-up grips, (prone, underhand, and neutral, but mainly prone and neutral), and all of the core movements listed in this post and then some. As a result, now my max set of overhand grip bodyweight pull-ups is 18 pull-ups as shown in the video below.

Do you want to learn how to be a master at the pull-up?

Do you want a pull-up program that will help you to build both core and upper body strength, skill, speed, explosiveness, and positive mindset for the strongest pull-ups of your life?

Then I hope that you will sign up for my “Attack The Bar” pull-up program on Exercise.com. You will not be disappointed.

For President’s Day, I am offering 20% off the “Attack The Bar” pull-up program, any and all levels, through 11:59 p.m. pacific time on February 20, 2017. Use the code pullup20 to receive 20% off your purchase, ONLY valid on the “Attack The Bar” pull-up program, Levels I-III.

There are three levels available:

Attack The Bar Pull-up Program Level I

Level I is a beginner 12-week pull-up program appropriate for people who are not able to do an unassisted bodyweight pull-up yet (with any grip). The program teaches essential hanging, core movements, and band assisted pull-ups to help build strength for an un-assisted pull-up. Completion of the program will have you well on your way to complete at least one unassisted bodyweight pull-up (with any grip).

Purchase HERE 

Use the code pullup20 to receive 20% off your purchase through 11:59 p.m. pacific time on February 20, 2017.

Attack The Bar Pull-up Program Level II

This is an intermediate 12-week pull-up program appropriate for people who are able to complete 1-3 unassisted overhand grip bodyweight pull-ups and 2-3 unassisted underhand grip or neutral grip bodyweight pull-ups. The program builds unassisted pull-up strength and volume and incorporates essential core movements for building strength and volume for unassisted pull-ups. During the last month of the program, you will have built enough strength to train a combination of both unassisted bodyweight pull-ups and weighted pull-ups.

Purchase HERE

Use the code pullup20 to receive 20% off your purchase through 11:59 p.m. pacific time on February 20, 2017.

Attack The Bar Pull-up Program Level III

This is an advanced 12-week pull-up program appropriate for people who are able to complete 5 unassisted overhand grip bodyweight pull-ups, 5 unassisted underhand grip or neutral grip bodyweight pull-ups, and must also be able to regularly complete sets of 4, 3, 3 weighted pull-ups with 10lbs. The program builds both unassisted and weighted pull-up strength and incorporates essential core movements for building strength for unassisted and weighted pull-ups. As a result of increased unassisted and weighted pull-up strength, you will also increase your max set of unassisted bodyweight pull-ups. If you follow the first 6-weeks of the program as prescribed, then during the last 6 weeks of the program, you will experience up to a 10% increase in strength in terms of your max weighted pull-up as early as week 7 of the program.

Purchase HERE

Use the code pullup20 to receive 20% off your purchase through 11:59 p.m. pacific time on February 20, 2017.

Along with this program you receive personal online coaching from me via my private online training Facebook group.

Join me for this three 3-level pull-up program, and you WILL learn how to Attack The Bar!

AND due to its extreme popularity, I have extended the availability for purchase of the “Kettlebell Crusher” program through 11:59 p.m. PST today February 20, 2017. The “Kettlebell Crusher” program also includes daily pull-up training along with accessory core exercises that will help you to build a strong core necessary for a strong pull-up.

After today there will be no extensions to its availability for purchase and it will be available ONLY to Iron Body Training Systems premium online training group members via their monthly online training subscription on Exercise.com.

Details below… Purchase the program HERE or sign up for group or individual online training HERE.


The Kettlebell Crusher program is my very own 8-week program that includes four 60-minute workouts per week – that’s a total of 32 workouts!

The program is appropriate for intermediate to expert level kettlebell training enthusiasts and coaches.

Weekly Workouts Include:

  • Interactive online support via a private Facebook group;
  • A mobility warm-up that incorporates the Original Strength System, *CARs (Controlled Articular Rotations), and general mobility drills;
  • Turkish get-up practice;
  • Programming to increase pull-up and press strength;
  • Single and double kettlebell work including complexes and chains (with the option to train single bell if you are not ready for double bell work yet);
  • Daily kettlebell swing or snatch metabolic finisher.
  • …and much more!

This program will turn you into a strong and lean kettlebell crushing machine!

Purchase the program HERE.

After you purchase the program I will add you to my private online training Facebook group for support.

I look forward to training with you!


*CARs: The Functional Range Conditioning definition according to  Dr. Andreo Spina is Active, rotational movements at the outer limits of articular motion.

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