Can’t Do a Single Pull-up? Here’s How to Get Strong Enough to Do 50

Photo: Getty Images/Cavan Images
Attempting to execute some of the moves spotted in my gym's weight room really zaps my self-esteem. (Shoutout to the dude with the single-arm pull-ups.) It's simple to forget that a whole lot of work goes into nailing those exercises from start to finish. At some point, that beast on the bar probably used negative pull-ups to earn the strength it takes to hoist a human body in the air. And you can use the negative training technique to build your strength, too.

I'm going to give it to you straight, this technique involves taking the part of a move that's usually a bit easier (like the downward movement in a push-up), and changing the pace so that it feels like you're moving through molasses. Then, you get to take a break during the part of the exercise that would usually leave you shaking (like the upward movement of a push-up). "A negative is referring to the deceleration portion of a movement," says Brandon Hirose, master trainer at Crunch Gym's 59th Street location in New York City. "Many people refer to this as the 'stretch' or extension of the muscle or muscle groups working."

The trainer says that moves like negative pull-ups and negative push-ups helps to build the strength necessary to perform the full exercise. "It breaks down the move, making it a more realistic feat if practice is consistent," says Hirose, adding that the technique is often used for a type of training called "time under tension training," in which you time the individual parts of each movement to increase muscular density.

Another perk of negative training perk, in this writer's opinion, it that it doesn't require learning any movements you don't already know. Instead, you can remix any old crunch, bird dog, or donkey kick. "There’s no draw back to adding negatives into your workout. If anything, it’s underrated," Hirose says. That why he recommends spending one or two of your gym sessions each week performing two to three moves in a negative fashion.

How to build strength with negative pull-ups, negative push-ups, and negative sit-ups

Negative Pull-ups

You don't need to know how to do a pull-up for this one! Just have someone assist you in getting your chin above the bar or jump up on your own. Then lower to the count of five until you're hanging with straight arms.

Reps: Repeat three to five times (or until you can no longer maintain good form).

Negative push-ups

Start in plank position and lower to the ground for five seconds. Then, use your knees to help you get back up and return to plank position.
Reps: Complete three sets of five reps.

Negative Sit-Ups

Start in a sitting position with your feet on the floor in front of you. Lower down to the ground as slowly as you can while still keeping your core engaged. Release to the ground.

Reps: Complete three sets of ten reps.

This story was originally published on May 10, 2019. Updated on September 18, 2019. 

Phew. Now here's how to make your cardio routine and weightlifting work together and strength training's best-kept secret

Loading More Posts...