It sounds fairly straightforward right? I mean the clue is in the name. How could mastering the pull up be any more complicated than simply pulling yourself up. Well, for many of us (*raises hand) doing a pull up is something of a benchmark that separates the fit from the unfit. It’s what gives those cover models, bodybuilders and super heroes that much-coveted v-shape back.

You’ll see it casually included in many a Men’s Health workout without much regard for those of us who cannot do a proper pull up. Just super-set pull ups and dips. Sure thing, I’ll get right on that!

So if one of your fitness goals is to be able to actually do a decent pull up without crumpling to the floor or panicking that you’ll fall to your death, here are a few tips to get you on your way.

Step 1: Hang out

hanging mastering pull up

If you’re an absolute beginner, a lot of the difficulty in doing a single pull up comes from grip strength. Unless you’re an avid rock climber, there aren’t many situations where you have to hang from a bar (ok, maybe that one Friday in Freedom when you had four Jägerbombs and were convinced you would be a natural pole-dancer).

So start your journey towards a pull-up by practicing holding yourself on the bar for as long as you can, rest for 45 seconds then repeat two more times.

With practice you’ll be able to increase the number of sets you do, how long you can hang there, and you will start to build some forearms even Popeye would be proud of.

Sounds simple enough right?

Step 2: Assisted Pull Up

Once you have the strength to hold on (cue Wilson Phillips), you can start with a variation of actual pull ups. Using either a machine or a resistance band, you can start doing pull-ups but with a little added support. Place a band over the traditional pull up bar, with your feet inside at the other end, and use the tension of the band to help in the movement.

Just be sure you have a solid footing in the band before you step off, or it will ping up and smack you right in the crotch (that’s a lesson you only need to learn once). Start with a thick resistance band and once you can perform 3 sets of 8-10 reps, move to a thinner one with less tension.

Once you can do three sets of 8-10 reps with the thin band, you are ready to move onto step 3!