1) Start your pull-up training from the dead-hang position. You want to put some time in here for three reasons. First, just the simplicity of holding this position can be considered shoulder mobility/pre-hab work (and sometimes re-hab) with the potential of mitigating the likelihood of suffering from ‘cranky shoulder syndrome’. Second, this is where you can build specific grip strength for the pull-up. If you can not hold on to the bar for any significant amount of time it is not likely you will be able to complete too many pull-ups either. And third, you want to effectively articulate from a dead-hang to scapular activation so that you understand how to initiate every rep of your pull-up in the right way. This is a crucial part for pull-up success and I share some queues on how to do this here GOT PULL-UP?(The setup)
2) Assistance From Bands
Bands maybe a useful tool to assist you in proper execution of a pull-up at first. But…if you are still not able to produce an un-assisted pull-up after a good period of time with the assistance then you may consider super-slow eccentrics (lowering portion). Begin your pull-up from the finish position where your chin is over the bar. Slowly lower your body to a full-hang position and take 5 ‘Mississippi’s’ to get there. Take a short rest between each of these :5 second reps and complete as many as you can until you can not stay consistent with each :5 second lowering. As soon as you can complete 5 of these go for :7 second x 5 eccentrics. Increase your ‘time under load’ until you get to where you can complete 5 x :10 here. As soon as you get to 5 x :10 eccentrics I bet you will be able to pull out your first unassisted pull-up. Give this a go and let us know how you do with it. One more thought…For some there maybe an obvious hurdle holding them back from pull-up success and that is excess body weight. One way to fast track execution of or increase reps in any body weight movement is to simply drop any excess body weight you maybe carrying.
3) Prelude To A Strong(er) Pull-Up
There are other movements you can do that can certainly help you arrive to your first pull-up and even help those who already can pull-up achieve more strength there. Rope climb, dead lift, heavy biceps curl, barbell row, farmer carry, inverted row (TRX, Rings) are some of the several other ways for you to gain requisite strength and power to pull-up success. Remember to adjust the load (or body position i.e. TRX/Ring rows) to any of these exercises when you are no longer being challenged.
You must stay focused on your goal whether it is to get your very first pull-up or to get a few more reps under your belt. Do your best to not compare your current level of strength to anyone else in the gym. Instead get satisfaction from the small improvements that you will make along the way. Remember that frustration will not serve you any good but a good amount of patience will. All things awesome start at one. We’re pullin’ for you!