Our “Drop Set” pull-up workout offers huge back gains

preview for Ultimate Calisthenics Challenge for beginners |  Men's Health in the UK
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Low-rep weighted pull-ups are great for building strength. Bodyweight pull-ups are great for building muscle. Assisted high-rep pull-ups are great for building strength and endurance. So what do you get if you combine all three? A really challenging bodyweight back workout that builds strength through your entire upper body, pumps up your lats, biceps and forearms, and challenges your grip.

This pull-up drop set will see you battle fatigue to build muscle and explosive strength. And the best part? All you need is a resistance band and somewhere to hang.

You’ll start with a pull-up with band resistance that fights against rubber tension and using a band that allows you to do three to six high-quality reps. After your last rep, you’ll ditch the band and, without rest, do as many pull-ups as you can with just your body weight. An ideal goal is double what you got on your set with resistance, but aim for as many reps as possible before your form breaks down. Next, you’ll wrap your band around the bar and use it to help you pull off one last salvo of reps. Continue until your grip gives way or you can no longer carry your chest to the bar.

Rest for three to four minutes, then start over. Perform five to six rounds total. Keep track of the total reps you complete in each set, and try to beat your score on each successive attempt.

preview for Ultimate Calisthenics Challenge for beginners |  Men's Health in the UK

resistance band pull up chin

1. Pull-up with resistance band x 3-6 reps

Secure a resistance band around a heavy weight under a pull-up bar. Enter the loop and hang on the bar (A). Pull yourself up against the tension of the band. Think about sticking your elbows in your pockets. When your chin clears the bar, pause (b), before slowly lowering yourself to the starting position. Perform as many repetitions as possible until you can no longer get your chin on the bar.

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        2. Pull-ups x 6-9 reps

        Once the resisted reps are complete, release the band and hang from the bar without it (A). Pull yourself up by flexing your elbows and pulling your shoulder blades down and back. Again, he thinks about shoving his elbows into his pockets. When your chin clears the bar, pause (b), before slowly lowering yourself to the starting position.

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        3. Band assisted pull-up x 9-15 reps

          Finally, finish by wrapping the band around the bar, stepping into the other end and hanging from the bar (A). Allow the band to help pull your chest towards the bar (b). Lowering under control. Repeat. The band will help you pull off some final reps, making sure you push hard each round.

          Headshot of Andrew Tracey

          With nearly 18 years in the health and fitness field as a personal trainer, nutritionist, breath coach, and writer, Andrew has spent nearly half his life exploring how to help people improve their bodies and minds.

          As our fitness editor, he takes pride in keeping Mens Health at the forefront of reliable, recognizable and credible fitness information, both through writing and testing thousands of workouts each year, and by diving deep into the science behind building muscle and fat loss or exploring the psychology of performance and recovery.

          Whilst constantly updating his knowledge base with seminars and courses, Andrew is as much a lover of practice as he is of theory and regularly puts his training to the test by tackling everything from Crossfit and strongman competitions, to ultra marathons, to multiple bouts of 24 hour training and (extremely unofficial) world record attempts.

          You can find Andrew on Instagram at @theandrew.tracey, or just hold up a free pizza sign and wait for it to appear.

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