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Eccentric Pull Ups: How to Build Upper Body Strength with Slow Negatives

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Pull-ups are a classic exercise that has been used for decades to build upper body strength. However, in recent years, there has been a growing interest in eccentric pull-ups, a variation that is said to be even more effective for building strength and muscle mass. In this article, we will explore the benefits of eccentric pull-ups and provide a comprehensive guide to help you master this challenging exercise.

Eccentric training involves focusing on the lowering phase of an exercise, rather than the lifting phase. With eccentric pull-ups, you would focus on lowering yourself down from the bar slowly and with control. This can help increase strength and muscle recruitment, as well as potentially lead to faster progress in your pull-up journey.

The goal of this article is to provide a comprehensive guide to eccentric pull-ups. Whether you are a beginner just starting out with pull-ups, or an experienced pull-up enthusiast looking to take your training to the next level, we will cover everything you need to know about proper technique, variations, program integration, and safety considerations. So grab a pull-up bar and get ready to take your upper body strength to new heights with eccentric pull-ups!

Deconstructing the Downward Phase

Understanding Eccentric Muscle Activation

When performing eccentric pull-ups, the muscles are lengthening while under load, which is known as an eccentric contraction. This type of contraction emphasizes different muscle fibers compared to concentric movements in pull-ups. The eccentric phase of the pull-up motion recruits secondary muscles to stabilize the body. The primary muscles involved in the lowering phase are the latissimus dorsi, biceps, and forearms. The lats play a crucial role in pulling the body up, whereas the biceps and forearms assist in grip strength.

Comparing the muscle activation between eccentric and concentric pull-ups, eccentric pull-ups generate more tension in the muscles, leading to increased muscle mass and strength.

Mastering the Technique

To execute an eccentric pull-up correctly, follow these steps:

  1. Starting position: jump or use assistance to reach the top of a pull-up bar with your chin over the bar.
  2. Lowering phase: slowly and controlled lower yourself down, focusing on feeling the tension in your muscles (4-8 seconds per descent).
  3. Avoid jumping down or rushing the movement.
  4. Consider using assistance bands or a partner for support in the beginning.

Common Mistakes and Corrections

Here are some common mistakes to avoid and tips to correct them:

  1. Arching the back: Keep your back straight and engage your core muscles.
  2. Losing control: Focus on the eccentric contraction and maintain control throughout the movement.
  3. Rushing the descent: Take your time and lower yourself down slowly and controlled.
  4. Incorrect hand position: Place your hands shoulder-width apart or slightly wider to engage the lats properly.
  5. Not performing a full range of motion: Lower yourself down until your arms are fully extended to work the muscles fully.

By following these techniques and avoiding common mistakes, you can master the eccentric pull-up and build upper body strength effectively.

Exploring the Eccentric Options

If you’re looking to build up your upper body strength, eccentric pull-ups are an excellent exercise to consider. The eccentric portion of a pull-up is the lowering phase, where you resist gravity and control your descent. This is also known as the negative pull-up. By focusing on the eccentric contraction, you can build strength and control in your back, biceps, and shoulders.

Variations for Different Levels

There are different variations of eccentric pull-ups that you can try, depending on your fitness level:

  • For beginners, assisted negatives with resistance bands or a partner can be a good starting point. You can also try negatives from box jumps.
  • For intermediate level, you can add weight to your negatives with dumbbells or a weight vest. Try controlled descents with longer hold times.
  • For advanced level, one-arm negatives, archer pull-up negatives, and plyometric negatives with explosive jumps can be challenging.

Gradually incorporating more challenging variations can help you progress towards full pull-ups.

Combining with Concentric Pull-Ups

Integrating eccentric pull-ups into your existing pull-up routine can be a great way to add intensity and variety. Here are some strategies to consider:

  • After completing a set of standard pull-ups, perform negatives for added intensity.
  • Use negatives as a separate workout, focusing solely on the lowering phase.
  • Gradually progress from assisted negatives to unassisted versions based on strength gains.

By combining eccentric and concentric pull-ups, you can work towards your first strict pull-up or improve your current pull-up performance. Don’t forget to also incorporate other exercises such as inverted rows and ultimate body press to build a well-rounded upper body strength routine.

Safety and Programming Considerations

Listening to Your Body

When starting your eccentric pull-up journey, it’s essential to listen to your body. Begin slowly, gradually increasing volume and intensity to avoid overuse injuries. Take rest days and stop if you experience any pain. Remember that everyone’s fitness level and goals are different, so consider consulting a healthcare professional or certified trainer for personalized guidance.

It’s important to keep good form throughout the exercise. Ensure that your shoulder blades are down and back, and your core is engaged. If you find that your form is slipping, consider using a resistance band or a pull-up alternative such as an inverted row.

Programming for Optimal Results

To get the most out of your eccentric pull-ups, aim for 2-3 sessions per week. Start with 2-4 sets of 3-5 negatives per set, depending on your fitness level and goals. As you progress, you can increase the number of sets or reps per set.

Incorporating eccentric pull-ups into your workout routine can be an effective way to build upper body strength. Here is a sample workout plan that combines eccentric pull-ups with other upper body exercises:

Eccentric Pull-Ups35
Lat Pulldowns312
Wide Grip Rows312
Neutral Grip Pull-Ups38

Remember to prioritize technique over heavier weights. Good form is essential to prevent injury and ensure that you are targeting the primary muscles, such as the latissimus dorsi.


Congratulations! You have made it to the end of this article on eccentric pull-ups. By now, you should have a good understanding of what eccentric pull-ups are, how to perform them, and the benefits they offer for building upper body strength and muscle mass.

Remember that eccentric pull-ups are just one tool in your pull-up training arsenal. While they can be very effective, they should be used strategically and in conjunction with other exercises and training modalities to achieve optimal results.

When it comes to programming and safety, it is important to listen to your body and progress gradually. Incorporating eccentric pull-ups too quickly or without proper technique can lead to injury or overtraining. Always warm up properly, use proper form, and start with a manageable number of reps and sets.

In terms of technique, focus on the lowering phase of the pull-up and aim for a slow and controlled descent. Use an overhand hand position and engage your full pull-up muscles, including your back, shoulders, and arms. Dead hangs can also help improve your grip strength and overall pull-up performance.

Finally, don’t be afraid to explore different variations of eccentric pull-ups, such as weighted eccentrics or assisted pull-ups. Challenge yourself safely and enjoy the added power of the eccentric phase in your pull-up journey.

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Lauren Price

Lauren Price is the co-owner of Lava Barre, a specialized fitness boutique that focuses on achieving balance for the body, mind, and soul. With a passion for fitness and wellness, Lauren and her business partner Vanessa set out to create a unique barre class that not only challenges the body but also inspires the mind.

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