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

The Pre-Armstrong Program for Beginners (click for jpg)
The Pre-Armstrong Program for Beginners (click for jpg)

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

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

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.

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

18 responses to “The Pre-Armstrong Workout for Pull-up Beginners

I’m going to start the beginner program next week. Could you offer a clear explanation of the “pyramid sets until missed set”? I’m fairly new to working out and want to make sure I’m doing my sets properly. Thanks in advance for your help!

Thanks for this programme. I started the beginners’ programme this week, just completed session 2.

1st session, I did the push ups, then pyramid sets (assisted, with 20kg – my bodyweight is 52kg) of 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,6. Then one max set of 6 assisted, and a max set of 2 unassisted; Grip hangs (straight arms) 160 secs, 80 secs, 60 secs; Max set 7 assisted; then bent over row sets. Then went to pilates class.

2nd session, the push ups, then negatives of 7,6,7,7,6,6; plank 2.05min; then bicep curl sets.

Have I got this right so far? On day 1, should I have reversed the pyramid from 7 back down to 1? On the second session, how much time between each negative? Instantly back up or pause a bit? Are the grip hangs with straight or flexed arm, and are there variations?

Thanks a lot.

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