Test Your Upper-Body Fitness With This Four-Week Pull-Up Challenge

Editor’s Note: If you have a history of arm and shoulder injuries or neck injuries, make sure you get clearance from your doctor or physical orthopedic specialist before trying this challenge.

If you watch “American Ninja Warrior,” you can tell how naturally gifted those competitors are. They have the ability to lift and move their own body weight with ease. If you have ever thought of what it might take to compete on a show like that, one movement that is key for those events is the pull-up. In this workout, we are going to challenge you to see how many different types of pull-ups you can perform and how many times you can pull yourself up.

“Brachiating is a term used to be able to hang and travel from the arms. Members of the ape family perform this locomotive movement pattern. Contrary to the name of the bars you used to swing on out on the playground in school, monkeys do not in fact hang from their arms; they hang from their tails. It is only apes that have the ability to hang and travel from the arms.

The four-week pull-up challenge

  1. Full Hang
  2. Flexed-Arm Hang
  3. Overhand Pull-Up
  4. Chin-Up
  5. Mixed-Grip Pull-Up
  6. Side-to-Side Pull-Up
  7. L-Sit Chin-Up
  8. Wide-Grip Pull-Up

The challenge is to perform as many reps and sets as you can for each move. Each consecutive week, add another move to the routine and see how many you can get. At the end of the four weeks, total your pull-ups and compare with your workout buddy. You should see that you are getting stronger.

For example:

Week 1—Perform the full hang for as long as you can, then rest and perform the flexed-arm hang for as long as you can. Practice these two drills with maximal effort every time you go to the gym or park. Record your time each time.

Week 2—Perform the overhand pull-up and the chin-up. Record how many reps you can do each time you attempt it. It is normal to not be able to do the same number of reps on consecutive sets the first few times you do this. As your endurance and strength improve, you will be able to do more. Go back and try the full hang and flexed-arm hang. Were you able to hang for longer?

Week 3—Perform the mixed-grip pull-up and side-to-side pull-up. Record the number of times you were able to successfully do these pull-up variations. Go back and try the previous ones.

Week 4—Perform the L-sit pull-up and the wide-grip pull-up. At the end of the week, retest your hangs. Did you hang for a longer period? Share your experience with your friends.

The pull-up variations

Full-Arm Hang

Flexed-Arm Hang

Overhand Pull-Up


Mixed-Grip Pull-Up

Side-to-Side Pull-Up

L-Sit Chin-Up

Wide-Grip Pull-Up

Practice these variations of pull-ups routinely to develop strong arms and a strong back.

Photo credit: mmpile, Getty Images; Tempura, Getty Images; Tom Casey, box24studio.com
Model: Benedict Meneses, 24 Hour Fitness