The pull-up bar can look intimidating. The fear of not having the strength to finagle yourself over the bar even once might make you veer away from trying. However, there are other ways that you can train your body for a pull-up. Your back is the main thing you are working in this exercise, so here are three back exercises that specifically strengthen your ability and confidence to go for that first pull-up. And the second. And the third.
Bent Over Row
Working your upper back muscles will help your pull-up game. This exercise targets the lats and simultaneously strengthens your core. Grab a pair of dumbells and hold them at your side. Lean down at a 45-degree angle and bend your knees slightly. Pull your elbows up and squeeze your shoulder blades together like you are holding a pencil in between them. Then, lower your arms back down. Repeat this for 3 sets of 12 reps.
This exercise stretches and tightens your core, lats, and upper chest — all of which come in handy for the real thing. Grab one weight and lie down on your back, either on an exercise ball or bench. Have your upper back touching the ball or bench and then stretch your arms out straight behind your head, holding the dumbbell vertically with both hands. Pull it above your head, keeping your arms almost straight and stop once the dumbbell is above your forehead. Bring the weight back behind you. Repeat this for 3 sets of 12 reps.
The TRX pull-up most resembles a regular pull-up, but allows you as much support as you need. You are pulling your body weight up just like you would on a bar, but the positioning of your feet can ease the amount of weight you are managing. Hold the TRX handles taught from the wall with your arms extended. Move your feet in front of you and let yourself hang back with your arms supporting your weight. Pull yourself up, bending your arms and pointing your elbows downward. Keep your body straight — do not let your butt sag! Slowly lower yourself back down. Repeat this for 3 sets of 10 reps.
The more parallel your body is to the ground, the harder this exercise will be. Once you find a manageable position and feel comfortable, try sliding your feet farther away!