The Pre-Armstrong Workout for Pull-up Beginners

If doing full dead-hang pullups, or as a whole, the official Armstrong Pullup Program is too difficult for you, we recommend trying the following workout until your max set is 7-10 controlled, full dead-hang pullups.  Best of luck!

The Pre-Armstrong Pullup Program Workout

PreArmstrong Full
The Pre Armstrong Program for Beginners click for jpg
Courtesy of Armstrong Pullup 

When required, simply pick any bicep curl type exercises (barbell, dumbbell, alternating, exercise tube, kettlebells) or row exercise (machine row, barbell row, single arm bicep curl, etc). Whichever exercise your ability and equipment availability allows will work, just stick with only one or two exercises per requirement and ensure you continually challenge yourself with the weights and repetitions.

Pullup Substitutes

This workout makes use of pullup substitutes. Based on your own ability and the availability of equipment, consider any (or a combination) of the following exercises:

Exercise Tube Pull-downs

Loop an exercise tube over your indoor pullup bar, door, or tall piece of furniture. Kneel down or back up to increase resistance. Simulate the pullup movement as much as possible.

Exercise tubes are some of the most versatile pieces of workout equipment

Lat Pulldown Machine

Most gyms will have some sort of pull-down machine. The closer the movement is to a pullup, the better.


Hop or step up to the top of the pullup position, and lower yourself to a hanging position as slowly as your strength will allow. This is the full downward “half” of the pullup.

Assisted Pullups

Use a partner, a chair, an assisted pullup machine–it doesn’t matter. Taking off a little weight will often make the difference for beginners who struggle with full dead-hang pullups.

Grip Hangs

While not a complete pullup substitute, grip hangs are extremely useful and an important part of this workout. Simply hang from the bar with a nice tight grip for as long as possible. Building grip strength can be the difference between 18 pullups and the perfect score of 20 pullups.


Pre-Armstrong in PDF

Pre-Armstrong in Word Format

Other Calisthenics Resources: one of the world’s most detailed guide to calisthenics for beginner, Man vs Weight.
You can check it out here: Man vs Weight Calisthenics for Beginners.


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