Workout Challenge: 1 to 10 Pull-Ups

Pull-Up Progressions from Newbie to Advanced

The Ultimate Upper-Body Workout Challenge

The pull-up is the best exercise for developing a strong, lean, and muscular upper body. Think about it: If you can rep out strict pull-ups, you have low body fat and excellent relative strength. If you want a rock-solid upper body, make the pull-up a staple. And if you want a solid workout challenge, master each variation in the order below.

Here are ten pull-up variations, from beginner-level to advanced, to take your pull-up game to the next level. Can you work your way up to number ten?

Using a double underhand grip (supinated), the chin-up is the best pull-up variation to master first. The chin-up develops requisite strength in the biceps, forearms, and lats, laying the foundation for all pull-up variations to follow.

Use a double overhand grip (pronated) grip. Grip the bar with your hands at shoulder-width or slightly wider. Pull your chin above the bar every rep.

This is a mixed-grip pull-up: one hand pronated, the other supinated. This allows you to maintain a stronger grip on the bar, accumulating less grip fatigue. Alternate your hands to avoid developing any muscular asymmetries or imbalances.

Strength is gained in the range it's trained. (Catchy, huh?) If you only do chin-over-bar pull-ups, you're neglecting a considerable range of motion and a significant amount of muscle and strength development. Once you master the standard pull-up, increase the difficulty by increasing the range of motion. Pull your chest to the bar each rep and you'll get even stronger.

Grip the bar with your hands inside your shoulders so you can touch your thumbs together. This variation uses slightly less lats but really hits the mid/upper back (lower traps and rhomboids). It's a fun way to change up your pull-ups.

A proper wide-grip pull-up is significantly more challenging than a shoulder-width pull-up. Make this a staple and watch your lats grow. If you're really strong, try wide-grip chest-to-bar pull-ups.

This one involves more unilateral strength. Grip the bar wider than shoulder width to maximize the effectiveness. Pull from one side to the other and think of it as more of a single-arm exercise.

This significantly increases the difficulty of the standard strict pull-up. If you're up for a real challenge, perform full range of motion strict pull-ups holding your knees up in front of your body. Don't let your knees drop at all when you first start the rep. It's easier said than done. This variation really isolates the lats and builds tremendous strength at the very bottom of the rep.

This is one of the most challenging variations. It requires a lot of requisite strength in the abs, hip flexors, and quads. But if you've mastered the previous progressions, these are entirely possible.

Some may argue that this isn't a pull-up. I'd argue the opposite. You must perform a pull-up to complete a bar muscle-up.

The strict muscle-up is the most "complete" upper-body exercise. It trains virtually every muscle in your upper body, including your pecs, delts, and triceps. The strict muscle-up is the gold standard of upper-body strength, but you'll never perform it without mastering the strict pull-up first.

We can't overlook body composition. Holding extra body fat is like wearing a weight vest; every bodyweight exercise will be harder, especially pull-ups. Dial-in your nutrition, improve your body composition, and practice your pull-ups two to three times per week and watch your physique transform.

Tanner Shuck is a former Division 1A football player and accomplished CrossFit athlete. His specializes in competitive fitness, with emphasis on training absolute and relative strength. Tanner is an online coach and personal trainer based out of Dubai, UAE. Follow on Instagram