Tip: Negative Pull-Ups for Strength & Size

Use this training method as a finisher, a pre-exhaust technique, or just to boost your pull-up strength.

Overloaded eccentrics – a fancy way of saying lowering heavy weights slowly – are a great way to recruit more motor units and muscle fibers, and to introduce connective tissues to extra stimulus. This makes the method very effective for increasing strength and triggering hypertrophy.

To overload the eccentric or negative portion of a pull-up, start with your chin already over the bar and your body loaded heavier than what you can pull up with). Then just lower yourself down slowly. Reset and repeat.


This method can be used...

  • As a finisher to a pulling or pull-up workout. Just add a few negative reps to the end of your normal workout.
  • To pre-exhaust back and arms. Start your workout with negative-only pull-ups.
  • To excite and "potentiate" the central nervous system.

Weight, Volume, and Frequency

If you're working on getting your first good pull-up, just use bodyweight. More advanced lifters will need to use supra-maximal weight i.e. strap on some plates or use a weight vest.

As a general rule, keep volume and frequency fairly low. These are meant to be done to high intensity (hence the low volume) and they're demanding on the structures of the elbow and shoulder joints (hence lower frequency). Try 2-3 sets of no more than 5 reps, once or twice per week.

Drew Murphy is a gym owner and personal trainer located in Tiffin, Iowa. Out of his facility, he trains clients using a wide range of strength and conditioning methods.  Follow Drew Murphy on Instagram