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How To Do Pull Ups

Yesterday someone posted in the “Josh’s Fitness Corner” group on Facebook that they currently can’t do a pull-up, and weren’t sure what they should do about it. This seems to be an issue that many people face, especially when going through P90X for the first time. They can’t do pull-ups, and they wonder how to do pull-ups another way so that they can actually make progress. There are a few things that you can do if you currently struggle with pull-ups to make sure you make progress.

(1) Do modified pull-ups. If you’re going through P90X, don’t be stubborn or feel ashamed if you have to do the modified versions of the pull-ups that involve a chair. What you’re going to do is put a chair right underneath the pull-up bar and put the least amount of weight on the chair as possible. Try to use your back to pull yourself up, but if you can’t, use your legs to give you a little boost. It’s important that you don’t let your legs do all the work or you won’t make any progress. Every time you do a back workout, though, make sure you attempt to do the unassisted versions because that’s when you will being to see the most results.

(2) Use proper form. Form us crucial. If you’re curious how to do a pull-up, the key things to remember are to make sure you go all the way down so that you’re hanging with your arms straight, and then pull yourself up as far as you can go. Be sure that you don’t swing either, which is a way for people to build momentum and make it easier to get a rep. You want to make sure you feel it mostly in your back, not shoulders or biceps. (If you don’t have a pull-up bar, the one I’ve used and have had for over 3 years is the P90X Pull-Up Bar)

(3) Push yourself. When I did my very first P90X Chest & Back workout, failure for me was 3-4 reps, and that was during the first half. After that, I was spent and could only do 1 rep for the rest of the workout. No matter how tough it was to get a few reps, I pushed myself because I knew that’s how I would make progress. By continuing to do that week in and week out, I made progress and was able to eventually get up in the 30’s rep range.

(4) Substitute. If you really, really struggle with pull-ups, then there are some exercises that you can do to substitute them with. If you have a weight machine at home, more than likely you have a lateral pull-down bar, which is one good substitute for pull-ups. You can also do exercises such as lawn mowers, elbow out lawnmowers, and back flys to build up those muscles.

If you’re wondering how to do pull-ups or can’t do a pull-up, now you know what to do! If you have any questions, feel free to email me at or make me your coach.

If you’d like to learn more about P90X, check out my P90X Review!


  1. Beth /

    You can always use the modified version with the bands!

    Nice post Josh!

  2. Great Post. It was the fact that I was looking how to break through a pullup plateau that lead me to Josh and Wayne and changed my life forever. Since I have started my own site called GooBurner and continue to “spread the P90X word”

  3. JonnyQball79 /

    Yeah I have to do a modified pull-up. I don’t know why he even says the bands are a good substitue, cause they’re not. Even my dad who had bands before he got his bar said that he was amazed at how the bands aren’t even close to doing a pull-up.

  4. also: make sure your elbows are out not in when doing a pull up. I was doing pulls up/ lat pulldowns wrong for the longest time because of that.

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