Conquering Tactical Pull-Ups

By Steve Baccari

Tactical pull-ups: overhand thumb-less pull-ups from a dead hang, chin must clear the bar

If you are not capable of completing a tactical pull-up, you are not alone.  Many people, most of who think they will not have a problem, cannot complete one correctly.  If they can complete 1, 2 to 3 is their max.  This does not have to be the case.  Anyone can learn to do this great exercise!  The following program is what I have put together for someone not able to do even 1 tactical pull-up, myself included.

If you’re not capable of completing 1 tactical pull-up, do not view it as a body weight exercise; think of it as a maximum PR in the dead lift.  If you had a barbell loaded with a weight that you could not lift off the floor, you’d simply take some weight off the bar.  Because this is not as simple to do with your body – taking weight off may take weeks, months, or years – we have a simpler approach.

We’ll introduce the use of Superbands.  These are thick, extra-strong bands for heavy-duty use in assisting pull-ups, chin-ups, and dips.  They are available in the following thickness: 2½”, 1¾”, 1”, ½”, all are 40 inches long.  The more help you need the thicker the band you should use.

These bands can be purchased from Perform Better (  The very best pull-up system to attach these to is the Tactical Athlete Pull-Up System, manufactured by Legend Fitness.  This system was designed by Jeff Martone.

The following was my personal program:

I started with a 2½” band.  I used this size band until I could perform 5 sets of 6 reps with a 3-5 minute rest period between each set.  At that point I dropped to a 1¾” band – and was only able to do 2 reps per set – 3 reps at my best.  I followed the same procedure until I was able to do 5 sets of 6 reps.

At that point I dropped down to the 1” band & followed the same routine.  Ditto down to the ½” band.  These transitions each took 2-3 weeks, performing pull-ups a minimum of 3 times a week.

The last step was finally to body weight.  Once I was able to perform 2- 3 good sets of bodyweight pull-ups, I still incorporated use of the bands in two progressive warm-up sets; One set with the 1” band and the next set with the ½” band, followed by 3 sets of bodyweight, 5 reps each.

Once you can do five reps with no bands, it’s time to add weight!