Priming for a Pullup: How to Do Negatives

Negative Pull Ups (Pullups)

A negative pull up is performed when you are unable to perform a full range of motion (ROM). A ROM refers to the distance from your body’s center of mass to its extremities.

For example, if you have a long torso with arms extended at shoulder length, then your ROM would be between your shoulders and elbows. If you had a short torso with arms extended at wrist length, then your ROM would be between your wrists and fingers. Negative pull ups are performed by lowering yourself down until you cannot hold any further downward movement without falling off the platform or onto the floor. You must make sure that you don’t fall off the platform because it could result in injury or possible death!

The most common way to perform negatives is using a dip belt. However, there are other ways to perform them such as using a rope, hanging from the bar, or even doing negatives on a chair.

How Many Negative Pull Ups?

There is no hard and fast rule as to how many negatives you need to complete before achieving failure. Some say that you only need 3 reps while others say that you should attempt at least 10 reps. The truth is that it all depends on your body type, strength level, and your personal goals. If you are a muscular guy with a lot of weight to pull then you might be able to get away with just 3 reps. On the other hand, if you are a skinny guy who has difficulty doing 1 pull up, then you might want to do more than 10 reps. As long as you hit failure, then it doesn’t matter how many reps you do.

Doing pull ups to failure is easy because you will struggle mightily to complete each rep. Common failure times are usually between 10-30 seconds.

However, most people will stop attempting pull ups long before they reach this time limit. There are two main reasons why people stop before hitting failure:

1) Your arms get tired

Some people just don’t have the stamina to continue even though they could probably do more. This can be somewhat remedied by doing some basic exercise beforehand.

2) You’re afraid of falling

This is a big one. Most people don’t like falling and will stop well before hitting failure because they are scared of failing and potentially getting hurt.

The trick is to not think about falling and to focus on the muscle that you are using to pull up. If the fear of falling persists then you might want to try using a rope.

The main reason why people don’t use a rope is because they are embarrassed to be seen using one or they feel like they won’t get a “real” workout. This is a bunch of crap!

As long as you are consistently training then everything else is secondary. Whether you use a rope or not is irrelevant, what matters most is that you are challenging yourself and giving it your all.

Muscle Failure

There is one more thing to consider when doing negatives and that is failure. As mentioned before, failure occurs when you can no longer perform an additional rep using good form.

For most people, this will be somewhere between 10-30 seconds. The good thing about failure is that it usually comes on suddenly, which means that you know very clearly when you have reached it. The bad thing about failure is that it might cause you to fall and possibly hurt yourself. This is especially true for pull ups because your legs can sometimes give out on you when you reach failure.

To avoid falling you have a few options:

1) Have something to grab onto before you reach failure

This is the best method for avoiding injury since it allows you to slowly lower yourself down at any point before failure. The only problem with this method is finding something that you can actually hold on to while you are doing your set.

This can be difficult in some gyms.

2) Use a spotter

Some people are paranoid about failing and hurting themselves, no matter how unlikely it may be. If you fall while doing negatives then it is likely that you will be too weak to hurt yourself too badly.

If you really feel the need to use a spotter, then just ask one to stand nearby and make sure that you don’t fail. This is probably overkill but at least you can use it to reassure yourself.

3) Hold on to something before failure

This is the crappiest method but it is still useful in some circumstances. What you do is position your hands and arms in a way such that, even at failure, you can still hold on to the bar.

This will allow you to do slightly more reps than you could have normally done without fear of falling. The main drawback is that it can be tiring to hold yourself in place with the additional tension.

Negative only

This is simply performing a set of negative only reps. There is no positive portion, you just hang from the bar and then lower yourself as slowly as you can.

This allows you to go past failure and into a point where your muscles are almost fully fatigued.

The main benefit to this is that you continue to stress the muscle into a point past failure, which can help to induce more muscle growth if done consistently over time. The main drawback is that you risk getting injured if you don’t have something to hold on to.

This method can also be tiring if you are holding yourself at a difficult position for too long.


This is a combination of performing both the negative and positive portion of the exercise. What you do is perform a normal rep, then just pause at the lowest point for a moment and then perform your next rep.

By pausing and taking a breather, it allows you to get more reps than you normally could do before failure.

The main benefit to this method is that you can still take a breather and reduce the risk of getting injured since you aren’t hanging for too long. The drawback is that you don’t get to really fully stress the muscle into complete failure since you’re pausing and not hanging until your arms give out.

Variable speed

This is a method that can be applied to any exercise. What you do is, instead of taking a normal breath, you take a very quick breath and then go into lowering the weight.

This can allow you to take more reps than normal since, if done right, it can give you that little extra oomph you need.

The main benefit to this method is how convenient it is. Since you are lowering the weight very quickly, you allow yourself to do more reps than normal without the need for a spotter or taking a break.

The drawback is that you aren’t lowering the weight quite as slowly as you could be doing if you had a full breath, so it can compromise some of the effect.

Negative accentuated

This is another method that can be applied to any exercise. What you do is take a slightly deeper breath than normal and then perform the lowering portion of the rep at a much slower pace than you normally would.

This allows you to take advantage of the benefits of lowering the weight very slowly while still allowing you to get more reps since you are still lowering it at a fast pace.

The main benefit to this method is that allows you get all of the benefits of lowering slow while still allowing you get more reps since you are lowering at a faster pace. The drawback is, again, that you aren’t lowering quite as slow so you are missing out on some of the benefits.

Wave loading

This is a method that can only be used for the big compound movements (presses, rows, pulls, squats, and goodmornings). What you do is pick a weight that you can do for 8 reps.

Do 5 reps at that weight with 1-2 minutes rest. On the last 2 reps, add some extra weight that will make the last 2 reps very difficult. So if the first 5 reps were done with your bodyweight plus 50lbs (1.25 times bodyweight), then add a 25lb plate per side for the last 2 reps (1.50 times bodyweight). Once those difficult last 2 reps are completed remove the extra weight and repeat the process until you can’t do anymore sets. Then rest 1-2 minutes and do it again.

The main benefit to this method is that it allow you to get in a lot more reps at a higher intensity than you normally would be able to, thus stimulating new muscle growth. The drawback is that the increased stress can be something some people can’t recover from as quickly, so it’s not suitable for everyone.

Of course these are just some general guidelines on how to manipulate the lowering portion of a rep. There are many more ways to do it.

The best way is to experiment and see what works for you.

Adding these techniques in with your normal routines can help maximize muscular gains. Keep in mind that these techniques should not replace your normal routine; they are merely tools to enhance them.

Sources & references used in this article:

Pull-ups: A How to Guide For Beginners by L Negoescu –

Eccentric Training Primer by S Stevenson –

The paradox of invasive species in ecological restoration: do restorationists worry about them too much or too little by SK Allison – Invasive and introduced plants and animals. Human …, 2011 –

Water movement in vascular plants: a primer by RJ Ahearn – 2007 – Congressional Research Service …