Pull-Up Progressions: Negative Pull-Ups

Feb 2, 2021

 by Karina Wait

In the third pull-up progression blog, we get to dive into the negative pull-up. 

A negative pull-up is a closed-chain exercise and accentuates the descent of the pullup, from your chin over the bar to full arm extension. The reasoning behind completing a negative pull-up is because it stresses the same muscles that you use for the pulling portion of the pull-up but instead of working against gravity, you're working with gravity, which makes it easier to complete. Furthermore, a negative pull-up also improves grip strength and will help you strengthen the necessary muscles to complete a full pull-up.

It can be progressed and regressed depending on your current level. The time spent lowering to full arm extension can be as long or as short (preferably no shorter than 2-3s) as you like. As you become stronger, spending more time under tension will create greater muscular growth- which is what you want. Secondly, muscles create higher amounts of force during the eccentric portion of any lift than the concentric portion. With weighted movements like a bench press or squat, the concern of overuse should be continually addressed however with bodyweight movements, overtraining isn't likely. Finally, eccentric training can actually improve flexibility and decrease injury. With the higher amounts of time under tension, this puts a load on the muscles during a stretched position. When improving general flexibility, your body needs to be strong in the desired position to maintain the new range of motion therefore, an eccentric pull-up can greatly help improve latissimus dorsi flexibility and overhead mobility! 

To perform the negative pull-up, you'll do the following:

  1. Either jump to get your chin over the bar or use assistance to get chin over the bar
  2. Lower down to full arm extension following the given number of seconds. 

Below is a video demonstrating the movement with both a supinated grip and a pronated grip: 


A good beginning standard to hit would be 3 sets of 5 reps with a 5s lower, no assistance. They should be completed at the beginning of a workout when you're fresh. If the above standard cannot be hit, utilizing bands or a box would be your best option. In completing these with assistance from a band or box, the time under tension should be longer (say, 6-20s) and I'd recommend doing between 3-8 reps for 2-4 sets. As for grip, starting with a supinated hand or underhand position is the easiest. This is when your forearms are facing you. Once you've mastered this type of negative, progress to forearms facing outwards or overhand grip. A few cues to keep in mind when completing are:  

  1. Keep your chest up and shoulders away from ears as you're lowering from the pull-up bar
  2. Imagine putting your shoulder blades into your back pocket when allowing your body to slowly drop 
  3. Squeeze your core, glutes, and quads. Don't let your body swing. Control the full movement
  4. Have your grip be shoulder-width apart or slightly wider for more lat activation

Now below are videos on performing negative pull-ups with a band and box: 

If you have any more questions, don't hesitate to shoot us a message!