Getting your first pull-up – tips and exercises

Mastering the pull-up is the first milestone on your path to gymnastic greatness. Progress slowly through the steps and your chance of success is pretty great.

1. Strength matters

To master the technical aspects of a kipping pull-up it is important to understand that strength matters. The stronger you are, the longer you can maintain positions and sustain training volume.

These are the strength requirements that usually will take you to where you want to go:

  • Pull-up: 5 Pushups
  • Toes-To-Bar: 1 Strict Pull-up
  • Bar Muscle-Up: 5 Strict pull-ups
  • Ring Muscle-Up: 10 Strict pull-ups

2. Technique matters

When you are strong you need to be able to express that strength as a skill. Think of technique as efficiency of your capacity. The key element is the physical foundation and a refinement of it is technique. Technique without a base is useless but with a solid base you will become a master when you apply technique.

3. Combine strength and technique

I recommend that athletes train skill and strength back to back with the acquired new strength supporting the next skill level.

4. Master the basics

Beat swings are boring but why do masters use them as preparation every session? Because of the shape and timing of them. Master the foundational shapes. This rule applies to everything in life. Make your bed to start off the day with a good habit.

I practice beat swings before every kipping session. Every session I perform the Arch to hollow kip that is explained below. I do it to get in the groove. To activate the lats. And to prepare my shoulders for the dynamic work.

5. Warmups

Shoulders are very fragile. You do not have time to get injured. No dynamic repetition should hurt during a warmup – then you are not prepared for the task. Here is a rule of thumb for warmups:
  • Do something very simple such as a slow jog, bike, row etc until you notice a sweat drop on your forehead. This normally takes about 5 mins in a normally heated space. Tip: Use a sweatshirt for the warmup.
  • 3-5 mins of global mobility
  • 3-5 mins of specific mobility and prep drills for the day at hand
The warmup should take 10-15 mins, if you need more I think you might not do the prep right or you are too sore from previous practice. Rethink your training plans. Treat your warmup as something where you move from cold to fully prepared and ready to go. Prep your mind accordingly. In the beginning of the prep you are allowed to yawn. In the middle you start to switch mentality and in the end you should be thinking: “Let’s do this!” When done correctly warmups are part of the training.


The absolute first steps in mastering the kip is to understand the shape of the Hollow and the Arch. You need to drill these two shapes all your gymnastic life – especially in the beginning.

It’s not about strength, it is about shape. If you cannot understand the shape lying on your back there is no way in hell you will get it doing a fast and skilful gymnastics exercise.


Lie on your back. Reach overhead (shoulder width). Straighten your knees. Initiate the movement by pulling the chest to the hip with completely straight arms and legs.


Lie on your stomach. Reach overhead shoulder width. Straighten your knees. Initiate the movement by extending the lumbar and lift the legs. Try to pull the thumbs as high as possible and at the same time lift the feet. Maintain straight limbs.

Arch to hollow on bar

A controlled beat swing which means you are not swinging but rather pulling yourself between the arch and hollow shapes. Push the hands into the bar which will activate the lats. When the lats are active then your upper body should be pulled behind the bar and leave the feet out in front maintaining that hollow position.

For the arch, reverse the motion. Tighten up the posterior chain while trying to keep the legs and arms as straight as possible

Beat swing

The kip or beat swing is an exercise that even the elite use. Master it and you have set yourself up for success in the long run. When I perform it I try to feel that I am like a stick which I direct back n forth with a gentle beat ‘tap tap tap’ where every ‘tap’ is a push with the hands into the rig.

The motion is started by engaging the lats for a very brief second. You must push but also release immediately when you get motion. Otherwise it will look like the Arch to Hollow in the previous circuit and that is not the intention. This is a dynamic movement. Tight body. Feet together. Hollow, arch, hollow, arch. Tap Tap….

Band assisted pull-up

The band assisted pull-up can be a great tool if done correctly.

Perform the beat swing and when you are in the end range of the hollow position pull with the arms until the chin is above the bar. Here is the key. Leave the feet out in front of the bar while descending. This will pull you into the a good and powerful arch which springs into another hollow and now you are sequencing the kipping pull-up!

Half pull-up

Almost there!

When you have progressed through the band this is the next step. Same keys as with the band.

  • Beat swing into hollow
  • Pull on top of the hollow
  • When you have reached the top leave the feet out in front pulling you back into an arch

Practice this until you can sequence at least 5 reps in one sequence.

Kipping pull-up

Practice the half pull-up and over the weeks pull higher and higher. Progress to a new height when you can sequence 5 reps in one non-stop beat sequence.

Shoot videos of yourself to get a feeling for the height and to get a better sense of progression.

Did you get it?

Hopefully you have now understood the foundation of the first kipping gymnastic movement and got a grasp of the importance of the Hollow & arch shapes and understands the significance of mastering the beat swing.

If you want to ask me anything just shoot an email to

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