Workouts for Women

Get Your Pull Up Workout- The Definitive Guide

The pull up is one of those things everyone wants to achieve in the gym, and it’s one of the most challenging bodyweight movements you can do. Getting your first one is a milestone. Smashing out ten in a row is a massive deal.

However, unlike the guys who seem to be able to walk up to a bar and do at least one, for girls, it’s a little harder.

Don’t sweat it though, with the right pull up workout, you can build strength in all the right areas that will get your chin up and over the bar.

Read on for:

  • What muscles do pull ups work?
  • The pull up workout
  • Exercises to help with pull ups
  • The final rep – gymgirl hints and tips

What muscles do pull ups work?

Woman with defined back muscles

To create a pull up workout that will help you get your first one, you need to know what muscles the movement works.

By focussing in on these particular areas, you can build strength in all the right places and perfect each stage of the pull up.

The pull up works the following muscles:

  • Lats
  • Biceps
  • Back of the shoulders
  • Lower traps
  • Pecs
  • Core

Now, working so many muscles individually could be a lonnnggg workout. It’s also not the best way to get your body working together harmoniously to create a smooth, powerful movement.

To really focus in on these areas and work your body in a more functional way, we’ve got some of the best exercises to help with pull ups.

They’ll get your muscles together in a powerful, harmonious way, so your body is fully prepared when it comes to completing the full movement.

The pull up workout:

Exercise Sets Reps
Eccentric pull upN/AUntil Failure
Assisted pull up with barbell5 10
Banded assisted pull up510
Lat pulldown58
Bent over row56

Exercises to help with pull ups

Check out these exercises and perform this workout at least once a week and you’ll be on the fast track to pull up city. They challenge your body in a way that gets your pull up muscles working harmoniously. Check it out:

Eccentric pull up

woman at the top of an eccentric pull up

Until failure

This is essentially working the pull up backwards. Thinking about it in this way is key, as you can quite easily see how this movement can work the exact same muscles as a normal pull up, but in reverse.

The trick with this exercise is to take it slow. We mean it. The slower you go, the more your body is working to control the movement and the more your muscles will be firing.

Form Tip: When we say go until failure, we mean repeat this movement until you’re pretty much exhausted and you’re dropping from the top of the position, rather than lowering yourself in a controlled movement.

Learn how to do an eccentric pull up with our exercise guide right here.

Assisted pull up with barbell

5 sets of 10 reps

This movement takes the edge off a full pull up so you can start to work the right muscles, and build up the right strength.

By taking your legs out of the equation, and maneuvering your body under the bar, you’re reducing the amount of weight you lift with every pull.

Form Tip: The trick to working the same muscles is keeping your body directly under the bar. If you start to push your hips forward, you begin to put the focus solely on your back, rather than pulling in all those essential pull up muscles.

Perfect your bar assisted pull up with this guide.

Band assisted pull up

5 sets of 10 reps

Again, this helps you get your pull up, by giving you a boost when you really need it. With the band wrapped around your foot and the bar, you’re supported enough to pull yourself up and over the bar.

One issue with this movement is that, because you get the most support when the band is most taut, you don’t build as much strength at the bottom of the movement. Don’t worry though, we’ve accommodated for this with the next movement.

Click here and discover our step-by-step exercise guide to band assisted pull ups.

Lat pulldown

woman doing a lat pull down in a pull up workout

5 sets of 8 reps  

These muscles are not only huge, but they’re essential to your pull up. The give you the power to start the pull and are often missed out in a band assisted movement. To ensure you’re not missing out on gains, we’ve programmed these in to ensure all-round strength.

We’ve used eight reps here, so you can lift heavier and make some serious strength gains. Don’t make it too easier for yourself here, a heavy lift is key to getting your muscles working hard for you. Every good gym should have a lat pulldown machine.

Form tip: Engage your lats before you start the movement and use a wider grip to work your them harder.

Bent over row

5 sets of 6 reps

Getting your chin up and over the bar requires a lot of upper back strength, so we’ve added the bent over row to your pull up workout. It drills right into those key muscles, to help add an extra layer of power to the movement.

Lift heavy on this one to bring strength to the movement. As the final exercise in this workout, you’ll be feeling pretty tired, but this is the perfect finisher, so make sure you’re working hard for every rep.

Form Tip: Don’t jerk the bar and keep your back completely straight, even if you’re tired. If you feel your back begin to round, or you’re jerking your chest forward to meet the bar, drop the weight.

Get your form perfect with our exercise guide on how to do a bent over row.

The final rep – gymgirl hints and tips

The key to getting your chin over the bar is consistency. Try to perform this pull up workout at least once a week. But don’t over do it. If you just work one area, it’ll quickly become fatigued and you won’t get the best results from your session.

Keep your form tight and aim to keep challenging your body. This way you’ll become stronger quicker and your first pull up will soon be within reach.

To ensure you’re doing every movement right, check out our exercise guides. Otherwise, you could experience injury, and no one can do a pull up while they’re resting up on the sofa.

Finally, remember the first step of a pull up is engaging all your muscles. On each of these movements, pull your scapulae together, bring your lats down and in, and you’ll be halfway up before you know it.


gymgirlfit was created by health and fitness enthusiasts, with backgrounds in powerlifting and writing. We've written for a number of well-known fitness publishing companies.

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