The [ULTIMATE] Pull Up Progression Guide - From ZERO To One Arm Pull Up HERO

The feeling of achieving your first pull up is incredible!

The feeling of being able to do the same with one arm is even better.

Regardless of where you are on your pull up journey; this pull up progression guide will show you how to master the rare one arm pull up!

Here’s what you need to know about mastering the one arm pull up:

  1. The concept of Relative Strength – Your bodyweight and pull ups
  2. Pull Ups Vs. Chin Ups, Which is better?
  3. Are Lat Pull Downs good for Pull Ups?
  4. Weighted Pull Ups – Are they worth your time?
  5. The path from ZERO to your first One Arm Pull Up

I’ve used this EXACT formula on myself and several others in order to get from ZERO to my first one arm pull up.

Let’s get started!

Relative Strength - Your Bodyweight And Pull Ups

Pull ups require you to pull your entire body through space.

This means that the heavier you are, the harder it is going to be to do pull ups.

Lightweights that can’t do pull ups need to only build their pulling strength with the steps mentioned below. Once this is done, they should have no problem getting their first pull up.

Most calisthenics athletes don’t weigh a lot, some of them don’t even work their legs.

They perform incredible gravity defying stunts due to their low bodyweight.

Even if they do work their legs, it is with bodyweight exercises that don’t build any respectable size or strength. This in turn keeps their bodyweights low, allows them to flip and fly through the air.

This is especially true for pull ups as it is for the one arm pull up!

But your life is not lived on bars, and neither is mine, so having a strong pair of legs is a must! Don’t use your bodyweight as an excuse not to build big and strong legs.

Having a lighter bodyweight makes pull ups easier.

If you can do the same number of pull ups as your skinnier counterpart, you’re stronger. The more weight you move, the stronger you are.

If you cannot do any pull ups at all, you might have to lose some weight to get your first pull up.

If you’re on the heavy side, you have to do two things to get to your first pull up:

  1. You must get leaner
  2. You must get stronger

The great news is getting stronger is possible no matter what you weigh!

Losing fat while building muscle and strength is the holy grail of working out and it can be done especially for those:

  1. New to training
  2. Coming back to training after a long time

The pull up progression below will make you strong enough to get your first pull up, one arm or otherwise!

Pull Ups Vs. Chin Ups – Which Is Better?

The quick and simple answer to this question is that chins ups will always be better than pull ups.

Chin ups move your muscles through a longer range of motion, while working the biceps at the same time!

Because chin ups recruit the biceps better than pull ups, they are easier to perform.

This means that you will get your first chin up before your first pull up.

Chin ups also allow you lift more weight during weighted calisthenics.

This makes you stronger as strength is the production of force against an external resistance.

The more force you produce, the more weight you move. Thus weighted chins will make you stronger than weighted pull ups!

But, what if you don’t want to perform weighted calisthenics (for whatever reason)?

Then I still suggest doing chins over pull ups, because they build more muscle mass. Once you have exhausted your gains from bodyweight chins, you can move onto pull ups.

The pull up progression below prioritizes chin ups over pull ups until the final step!

You can choose to substitute chin ups with pull ups in the exercises listed below, but:

  1. You won’t build your biceps as effectively
  2. It will take you longer to progress to one arm pull ups

A Word On Lat Pull Downs – Can They Help Build Pulling Strength?

Many calisthenics athletes will say that lat pull downs cannot build strength for pull ups.

I used to think the same. But this is not true.

If you get strong enough to perform the lat pull down using the equivalent of your bodyweight, you will certainly be able to get your first pull up.

In fact, if you are carrying excessive amounts of bodyweight, getting strong on lat pull downs is a good option.

Although you can build pulling strength Australian pull ups as well.

Again, I suggest using an underhand grip on the lat pull down when performing the exercise. You might as well build bigger biceps while getting stronger.

Relative Strength - Your Bodyweight And Pull Ups

Weighted Chin Ups – Should You Use Them For One Arm Pull Ups?

Can weighted chin ups build enough strength to perform one arm pull ups?

Absolutely, yes!

Weighted chin ups will build your pulling strength faster than bodyweight pull/chin ups.

In fact, this is the path I urge you to take if you want to build muscle and strength as efficiently as possible.

The calisthenics community prides themselves in the fact that they don’t need any equipment to build muscle.

While there is some truth to that claim, in reality, EVERY calisthenics athlete uses equipment to get big and strong.

Even the ground beneath their feet is technically equipment being used to build muscle and strength.

Bodyweight trainees also use parallettes and pull up bars to get the rest of their work done.

This is where the great divide between bodyweight purists and weighted calisthenics athletes appears.

Should you use weight or not?

For some odd reason the calisthenics community looks at weights as an untouchable piece of equipment!

The fact of the matter is – reaching your body’s true potential for strength and size cannot be done without weights.

Remember getting strong is the bodies ability to produce maximum force against an external object.

The heavier weight you use during your calisthenics movements, the stronger you become!

Bodyweight calisthenics is a survival skill, it is NOT a from of training that can be used to gain maximum muscle and strength!

There is a huge difference between surviving and thriving! What do I mean by bodyweight calisthenics being survival training?

Imagine (for some weird reason) you had no weight to carry around.

Having a grasp of basic calisthenics exercises will enable you to maintain your muscle and strength for a brief period of time. That’s it.

There is no doubt in my mind that weighted calisthenics is far better than bodyweight calisthenics when it comes to the efficiency of building size and strength.

This does not mean that you must lift weights.

Read More: Calisthenics Vs. Weights – What’s The Difference, Which Is Better?

But, adding weight will more than cover all your bases – making you as big and as strong as possible!

Pull ups, dips, squats, deadlifts and power cleans are all essential movement patterns that can be used in everyday life.

Now that you know all you need to know about pull ups in general, let’s get down to the meat and potatoes of this article – your pull up progression guide.

The exercises listed below will take you from ZERO to your first one arm pull up in no time.

The complete pull up progression guide – From ZERO To One Arm Pull Up HERO

All exercises in this pull up guide can be done on rings or bars.

But if you are serious about progressing to a one arm pull up, I highly suggest investing in a pair of gymnastics rings.

Rings make the transition from beginner to advanced pull up training seamless.

Rings are a versatile piece of equipment that can be used with other calisthenics exercises as well.

So get yourself a good pair of gymnastics rings before you start!

The exercises are listed below in order of their difficulty.

Start with an exercise that you can perform for a couple of repetitions.

Move to the next exercise on the list once you are strong enough.

Every single time you perform the exercises mentioned below, make sure you’re making progress with them.

This can be done in several different ways, if you want to know more:

Read More: Calisthenics Progression Systems – How To Make Progress With Your Calisthenics Exercises

Follow the pull up progression mentioned below step-by-step until you get to your first one arm pull up!

The Australian Pull Up

This is ground zero, the starting point for anyone trying to build strength for pull ups.

If you can’t perform even one pull up, the Australian pull up is going to be your best friend for a while.

With the right piece of equipment – Australian pull ups can be done by anyone regardless of their training background.

I recommend doing these on gymnastics rings. Rings allow your to tailor the intensity of the exercise to suit your strength needs.

Australian pull ups strengthen your upper back, lats, rear delts, and biceps.

Strengthening these muscles will help you get your first pull up.

Australian pull ups can be made harder by bringing your upper back closer to the ground.

Using Australian pull ups along with lat pull downs, can put you on the fast lane to getting your first pull up!

Once you’re strong enough to do a couple of sets and reps of Australian pull ups, move onto the next exercise.

Negative Chin Ups

Negative chin ups are essentially the lowering phase of the chin up.

To perform this exercise, get yourself to the top of the pull up bar/ rings and lower yourself down with control.

Negative reps are an invaluable strength training technique that is often underutilized.

Negative reps, allow you to build strength in the negative portion of the movement, even though you’re not strong enough to perform the positive.

The lowering/negative phase of the chin up must be done in a slow and controlled manner.

Supinating your palms (palms facing toward you) also builds your biceps, which can help tremendously during pulling movements.

Once you’re comfortable with negative chin ups, you can do one of two things:

Move onto the next exercise variation or try your first chin up!

Assisted Chin Ups (No Machines Allowed!)

The assisted chin up is for those of you who tried and did not get your first chin up after doing pull up negatives for a while.

Assisted chin ups should never be done on an assisted pull up machine, The assisted pull up machine doesn’t produce the instability that is prevalent during regular pull ups/chin ups.

Instead of performing assisted chin ups on a machine, do them with bands or with your feet elevated on a chair instead!

Placing a band or chair beneath the feet, makes the exercise easier to perform.

But don’t forget that you’ve now built strength in the negative portion of the pull up. So, pull yourself up with assistance, then lower yourself down without it.

This will build more than enough strength to attempt your first pull up.

Note – Bands come with different resistances, choose one that you can get only 3 reps for multiple sets with, and continue adding reps from there.

Once you can get more than 5 reps (for sets) with a particular band, change the band you are using to one with lower resistance. This will make your pull ups progressively harder than before.

Chin Up Singles

Chin up singles are another often neglected tool in the pull up progression system.

Many people who get their first chin up transition to chaining half reps instead of building strength with singles over time.

Singles are invaluable that they allow you to take a break between each rep while taking the muscles through their full range of motion.

Chaining singles allows you to perform multiple sets. Once you are able to get 4 sets of 5-6 singles, you’re ready to start chaining your chin ups.

Chin Up Chains

One of my favorite upper body pulling movements is the chin up.

Why chins over pull ups? Chins build your biceps. Case closed.

Chins are also easier than pull ups because of the bicep recruitment during the movement.

If you’re struggling with your pull ups, give chins a go.

In fact, I rarely ever do pull ups, I’m always trying to get my chin ups stronger. And what magically happens is that my pull ups gets stronger too.

If you’re going down the weighted calisthenics route, chin ups are the better exercise, they allow you to move move weight, thus making you stronger in the long run!

Weighted chin ups are all you will need from here to build impressive pulling strength.

You could just start adding weight over time and reach your first one arm pull up using only weighted chins.

Pull Ups

If you’ve decided to forgo heavy weighted chin ups, then your next step is to start getting better at pull ups.

Pull ups don’t build the biceps as much as chins do.

Bodyweight pull ups are harder than chin ups because they don’t involve the biceps as much.

They will thus build a bigger and stronger back in the process. 

Now don’t get me wrong, pull ups will still build your biceps, just not as much as chins will. You can add a set of ring biceps curls into your routine if you like.

You actually don’t have to do pull ups at this point, but since this is a guide to your first pull up, go ahead and try one out anyway.

Typewriter Chin Ups

Typewriter chin ups are your first introduction to unilateral (single limb) training for the one arm chin up.

While typewriter chins are technically not a unilateral movement, they do have a unilateral element to them.

Typewriter chins will provide an additional stimulus to the biceps at the top, thus allowing them to grow further this way.

The top of the movement has most of your bodyweight on one limb, adding strength in the static hold position at the top.

While I am not a big fan of static holds, the typewriter pull up (chin up to be precise) helps worth learning the skill to perform the archer pull up.

I highly encourage you to do your typewriter chin ups on rings, as rings allow for free movement of the arms during the exercise.

Also, rings carry over well to the next exercise in the one arm pull up progression.

Archer Chin Ups

Archer chin ups start where typewriter chin ups left off.

Even though the archer chin up is not a pure unilateral movement as one arm is still supporting the movement, it comes damn close.

Archer chin ups are one of my favorite bodyweight pulling movements for building serious size and strength in the back and arms!

Pull ups and chin ups can only take you so far with just your bodyweight, archer pull ups or chin ups will allow to place an immense amount of stress on the working arm thus building fantastic upper body pulling strength!

Once you’re able to do archer chin ups for reps, you’ll be close to doing your first one arm chin up.

Single Arm Chin Up Negatives

If you’re performing chin up negatives with control for reps, you’re one step away from getting your first single arm chin up!

But this exercise should not be done just by itself. Single arm negatives must be combined with archer chin ups for best results.

Always start by performing the archer pull up to get yourself to the top of the ring/bar and then lower yourself using the single arm negative.

Once you’re able to do these for reps, you will be able to get your first one arm chin up.

One Arm Chin Up Singles

The feeling of getting your first one arm chin up is incredible.

I still remember the first time I was able to do mine. I thought I was the strongest kid on the face of the earth.

When you first start doing one arm chin up singles, you won’t be able to get too many of them in a row. 

You will have to build training volume in order to produce enough stress on the muscles to grow.

Thus, do your one arm chin up singles at the start of your training session and then add volume with the archer pull up – negative chin up combo.

This will add strength and size to your frame, thus enabling you to chain your single arm chin ups over time.

Single Arm Pull Ups

Of course, once you start chaining one arm chin ups, one arm pull ups will be on the menu next.

The one arm pull up is more closely related to a neutral grip chin up.

It is never really done with the palms facing away from the body.

In fact I believe that the one arm chin up is more natural of a movement than the one arm pull up.

The body wants to turn the movement into a chin up, but it is you who is fighting to turn it into a pull up.

Either way, you are now pulling with one hand. This is the pinnacle of bodyweight pulling strength!

Conclusion:

The journey to the one arm pull up is simple and straightforward.

The path is laid out for you for free in this article. Just follow the plan step-by-step and you’ll be doing your first one arm chin up in no time.

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