A lot of people come to me and tell me that their goal is to do a pull up. That is a great goal to have!
But then I notice that they are only making it to the gym several times (or less) per week. Practicing pull ups only 2-3 days per week isn't going to cut it if you want to go from zero pull ups to one.
I'm not suggesting that you need to be training at my gym a few times a week, but I will suggest this - if you can't do one pull up, you need to practice them every day...
That may sound extreme to you. I am going to tell you exactly what you need to do. And if after reading this, you still think it's too extreme, you just aren't cut out for doing pull ups.
If you are absolutely serious about going from zero to one pull up, go to the store and buy a doorframe pull up bar. It will look like this...
After a quick google search, I see that this can be found at Target, Kohl's, Dick's Sporting Goods, and many other distributers. You can even order one off Amazon if you need to. There's no excuse for not being able to find one.
You will trade $20-$50 of your hard-earned cash for this piece of equipment. If you cannot justify making this small investment (one that will produce countless returns), set a different goal.
Once you have your pull up bar, hang it in a door that you pass through several times per day. Everything that you read from here on is EXTRA-CURRICULAR. It doesn't matter what un-expected event popped up on any given day. It doesn't matter that you had a hard workout that morning. It doesn't matter that you feel "sore". Remember the rest of this post...
Here's the plan...
AT THE VERY LEAST, do ONE pull up EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Seriously, one pull up over the course of the entire day is all I need you to do. Of course you can start off by doing more than one. But I recommend making a small commitment to start. This will make it much easier to build consistency.
Do one pull up a day, for however many days it takes you to become proficient. This may take 30 days or it may take 365 days. I don't care how long it takes you as long as you are actually following this plan and not skipping days.
Once you feel you are getting good at doing one pull up, start doing two pull ups every day. And remember, that's two pull ups over the course of the entire day. It doesn't have to be (and won't be) two in a row. Do one while you're getting ready for work, and the second when you return from work. Done.
Then do three pull ups each day.
Continue making progress in this fashion. You will look back and see that the biggest hurdle was going from 0 pull ups to 1 pull up. After that, your body begins to build strength pretty quickly. Soon you will be doing a handful of pull-ups. Once you can do 5 good pull ups, you are equipped to becoming a pull up wizard sooner than you think.
I'm leaving out an important issue. I didn't forget that you can't even come close to doing a single pull up. How can I instruct you to start with doing a pull up each day when you can't actually do one? This is what to do...
Jump, kick, scratch your way into the pull up.
Use a stool to bring you to a higher position.
Even jump, kick, scratch your way off the stool to get yourself over the bar.
At the beginning, it won't feel pretty. But remember that Day 1 is the worst it's going to feel. Day 2 will feel microscopically better. On Day 3, you may be able to lower back to the ground over the span of .75 seconds instead of .25 seconds. You will gradually improve at doing pull ups if you attack it daily. Consistency is key.
It wasn't until I graduated High School that I got into lifting weights. At that time, I was in the same boat as you, I couldn't do a single pull up. I decided that I wanted to be able to do them. I committed to using this approach. I still remember beginning each of my workouts with one single jumping pull up, in the middle of the gym at the Kirkwood Community College recreation building.
If you have access to a gym, I invite you to use this approach as well. Every day you go to the gym, immediately find a pull up bar. Do your pull up(s) and then continue with your planned workout. And if you only go to the gym several times per week, YOU STILL NEED A PULL UP BAR FOR HOME so you don't miss a day!
One more time, If you cannot allot 5 seconds of your day to trying to do a pull up, you shouldn't expect to ever be able to do one.
Give this plan a go, and let me know how it goes for you. I promise it will work!