The Goal: 3 Pullups
Time Needed: Up to 12 weeks
According to Sal Marinello, C.S.C.S., a personal trainer in Millburn, New Jersey, it's important to approach pullups in baby steps: Start with step 1, do each exercise twice a week until you master it, and then move on to the next.
Step 1 Flexed-arm hang
Stand on a bench under a pullup bar. Grab the bar with an overhand grip and position yourself so your chin is right above the bar (A). Bend your knees and take your feet off the bench and hold for as long as you can (B), then come down and rest for 60 to 90 seconds. Repeat 3 times. When you've mastered 3 25-second holds, move to step 2.
Step 2 Negative pullups
From the flexed-arm hang position, lower yourself down as slowly as you can until your arms are fully extended. Place your feet back on the bench and let go of the bar. That's 1 rep. When you can do 3 sets of 3 super-slow (around 20-second) reps, you're ready to take on step 3.
Step 3 Mini pullups
Starting from the flexed-arm hang position, lower your chin to about 2 inches below the bar, then pull yourself back up. Lower yourself about an inch more with each rep until you can fully extend your arms and pull all the way back up. Aim for 3 sets of 2 reps each.
Step 4 Pullup
From a dead hang, have a friend slightly boost your legs as you start the pullup. Do one rep at a time with a minute of rest between pullups until you hit 3. When that becomes too easy, ditch the helpful boost and lose the rest between pullups. Keep challenging your now buff arms by adding reps as you're able.