"Strong" But Can't Do Any Pullups? You Are Not That Strong.

May 22nd 2019

Find out how to do pullups to develop the strength you never had. If you are strong, you are a master of your body. To truly take your strength to the next level, you must be able to do all sorts of powerful movements. Squats, bench presses, deadlifts, overhead presses are just four of the most core movements you should work on. Bodyweight movements are also important too - what kind of athlete would you be if you were unable to do pullups and pushups?

Strong but can’t do pullups

Doing band-assisted pullups and pullup negatives are two great strategies in order to get stronger at doing pullups. However, a combination of the following reasons may be why you are unable to do able pullups but still show some functional strength:


  • You developed strength the wrong way
  • You are not training your pullups
  • You have no focus
  • You are injured


First of all, if you are unable to do a pullup, you are not strong. Being physically strong means that you have the ability to exert a massive amount of force. For the pullup, you should be able to lift up your bodyweight at least. But it is okay to realize this weakness. What is more important is that you realize that you need to improve. So, what can you do in order to strengthen your pullup ability?

Band-assisted pullups

There are many lifters that claim that this method is very effective if you are unable to do a strict pullup. The band will be stretched the furthest at the bottom of the pullup; this is essentially the toughest part of the movement. Once you have gotten that extra boost, you are technically doing a partial pullup. Depending on the type of resistance band you purchased, you can vary your pullup workout so that you are always challenging yourself.

Pullup negatives

This is another effective strategy in order to do more pullups. For the beginners, the pullups is made up of two movements - the concentric portion (You lift yourself up over the bar) and the eccentric portion (You lower yourself). The pullup negatives work on your eccentric portion of the pullup, the 2nd half. Why?

If you are unable to lift yourself up over the bar, there is no way you can initiate a pullup movement. For that reason, one way of strengthening your pullups is by breaking down the movement and working on its individual parts. Like a scientist in a lab.

The key here is to do your pullup negatives as SLOW as possible. By increasing your time under tension, you are overloading your muscles in order to grow in both size and strength. This is a good thing if you want to be able to do pullups sooner rather than later.

Why can’t I do pullups? I have decently strong.

For a lot of lifters, not being able to do pullups is just a symptom for a whole can of worms. You are just weak in general if you are not able to do one pullup. At the same time, there could be another set of reasons why you are unable to do any pullups:

You developed strength the wrong way

There is more than one way to develop strength. History has shown itself that some of the strongest people on this planet were not people who lifted weighted. Originally, they were people who needed to work hard labor and SURVIVE.

With the modernization of lifting weights, people are able to lift weights and get big with relative ease. For most beginners and intermediates, lifting weights using barbell compound movements are the most effective and efficient way. Only if you perform these movements with perfect form.

If you have been doing half reps or not being fully conscious, your strength gains are not complete. You will be susceptible to injury since your body has not been accommodated to full ranges of motion. This is one reason why some athletes who get injured frequently never seem to understand that one reason why they are getting injured so much is that they have developed faulty movement patterns that created many weaknesses in their bodies.

You are not training your pullups

If you do not train your pullups, then you subconsciously do not care about developing any pullup strength. You may think you want to develop your pullup strength but if you are not practicing it through your workout, where is your training experience coming from?

It is one thing to wish that you were better at something. But if you blame circumstances for not being able to do any pullups, you have no one else to blame but yourself.

You are injured

If you are suffering from some shoulder, neck or back injury, it is pretty obvious why you are unable to develop your pullup strength. Even though you can do other pain-free movements, pullups are one of many exercises that are a no-go for you.

Rather than avoid the issue entirely, analyze your situation. Do you need to rest the injury? Obviously, medical consultations are the smartest thing to do if you are suffering for an extended period of time. So, it does not make sense to increase the difficulty of your workouts, especially with pullups.

You have no focus

Another reason why you are not great at doing pullups is that you have no focus. You have no concrete goal to achieve that involves being stronger in pullups. Maybe your goal was to gain strength in general. With a barbell program, like Greyskull LP and Starting Strength, you will gain general strength. By increasing your maxes in the squat, bench press, overhead press, and deadlift, you will naturally develop more functional strength in order to make your day-to-day a whole lot easier. If you are doing a program with accessories, it is possible to gain a lot of strength with those exercises but that would not be the primary goal.

So, it is important not to get depressed about not being great at pullups when you chose a program (maybe with pullups) that was meant to help you increase your functional strength. For some lifters, they can develop an insane amount of strength with just doing barbell movements. I can attest that doing barbell movements alone helped strengthen a lot of accessory movements. However, there are some lifters that need to do more specific exercises in order to achieve the goals they want. And there is nothing wrong with either approach.


Once you become more focused on your goals, the path towards that goal will be revealed accordingly. Nobody achieves greatness by accident. For a majority of lifters, it will require vision and careful planning.

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