Exercise at the playground: negative pull ups

What would our last week of the Exercise at the Playground series be without my most/least favorite exercise (okay, it’s more on the least favorite side)?

You might have heard me say that it took me four months to be able to do one full pull-up. It was one of the most glorious moments in my life. The flexed arm hang test and I have a history, so it felt pretty good to get my chin above that bar without jumping or using a chair. In your face, flexed arm hang!

How did I become strong enough to do a pull-up? Core exercises, lat pull downs, and lots of these negative pull ups. Ready? Find the nearest playground in your neighborhood and let’s hop to it.

Negative (AKA “eccentric”) pull-ups

Keep in mind, this is not your personal exercise prescription. I am not your personal trainer (unless you’re one of my clients). Please consult with your physician, physical therapist, or fitness professional before trying any of the exercises listed on this site.

To begin, find a bar that you can easily get your chin above after a little hop.

Placing hands firmly around the bar, start to bend those knees to prep for your jump. Arms, legs, and abs will work to propel your body off of the ground. Hold on tight!

Exercise at the playground- negative pull-ups - Hello to Fit

Before you drop back down, hold your horses. Are your abs tight? They’ll help you move with more control. Imagine pulling those elbows down and away from the bar.

Exercise at the playground- negative pull-ups - Hello to Fit

Lower your body down as slow as you can in order to work those muscles eccentrically. Individuals new to this exercise may drop down relatively quickly; but over time it might get better (as the lats and other core muscles get stronger).

Exercise at the playground- negative pull-ups - Hello to Fit

Land with soft knees, and get ready to do it again!

I’m chuckling because, after seeing these posts, one of our roommates asked me who took these photos. He almost thought I asked a random child on the playground to take these pictures for me. Nope – when your sister is in town, you put her to work Winking smile.

Looking for more exercises you can do at the playground? Check out these posts:

Split squats

Tucks for abs of steel

Box jumps


Linking up with Angelena Marie from  Angelena Marie: Happy, Healthy & Balanced, Sarah at Creating Better Tomorrow and Amber at Bold Fit Mom  for Wild Workout Wednesday. Thanks, ladies!

Let’s chat!

  • Back in the day, did you rock the flexed arm hang our pull-up test?
  • What’s your most-least-favorite exercise?
  • Do you live with roommates?
  • I need some new ideas: what’s for dinner tonight?

By Jess

Jess is a certified personal trainer, group fitness instructor, and yoga teacher. She enjoys sharing her passion and enthusiasm for health and fitness with friends, family, clients, and readers.

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  • Carla

    June 24, 2015 at 6:37 am

    yes!!! These summer days the playground is most of my work out – – and I would not trade it for anything!!!
    Carla recently posted…12 hours of YES!My Profile

    1. hellotofit

      June 26, 2015 at 5:16 pm

      Woohoo!! It’s so much more fun 😉

  • Susie @ SuzLyfe

    June 24, 2015 at 7:14 am

    No clue what is for dinner tonight, but eccentric exercises are amazingly effective, as well as great when you are coming back from an injury (I did them for my hamstring once I was healed enough last year). It allows for a different form of load to be placed on the muscle that strengthens it in a new way.
    Susie @ SuzLyfe recently posted…Culinary Fight Club Tastebud Challenge: Chicago Style BBQMy Profile

    1. hellotofit

      June 26, 2015 at 5:15 pm

      You are exactly right 🙂 Isn’t the human body amazing?

  • Ivanna

    June 24, 2015 at 7:32 am

    I need to work on my pull-up game, I am going to be trying these.
    Ivanna recently posted…Benefits of Having a Daily SmoothieMy Profile

    1. hellotofit

      June 26, 2015 at 5:15 pm

      Yay, Ivanna!! <3

  • She Rocks Fitness

    June 24, 2015 at 7:42 am

    I despise BURPEES! I avoid them at all costs…Squat jumps come next, but I actually incorporated them into my workout this morning…whew! Dinner tonight is thankfully out with some clients, because I am tired of cooking! XOXO
    She Rocks Fitness recently posted…TRX At-Home She ROCKS WorkoutMy Profile

    1. hellotofit

      June 26, 2015 at 5:14 pm

      Haha burpees are a tough one, for sure. I used to like squat jumps but they hurt my knee if I do too many now. XOXO

  • Lauren @ The Bikini Experiment

    June 24, 2015 at 7:49 am

    Nice of your sister to help a girl out by playing photographer! This is a great progression and a strength move a lot of women need building into to do. Good job!
    Lauren @ The Bikini Experiment recently posted…What I Ate Wednesday #34My Profile

    1. hellotofit

      June 26, 2015 at 5:14 pm

      Yes, she’s awesome haha. Happy Friday, Lauren!

  • Meghan

    June 24, 2015 at 7:54 am

    I did a pull up once in kindergarten and haven’t done one since. I would love to add it as a goal though. Thank you for the pictures and instructions on how to do this! I think I can start with this and then see how it goes to doing an actual pull up.
    Meghan recently posted…I Love You So Much | Austin Trip Recap and Food TipsMy Profile

    1. hellotofit

      June 26, 2015 at 5:14 pm

      It’d be a great goal to have ;). I started with this, too – it helped me so much.

  • Erin @ Erin’s Inside Job

    June 24, 2015 at 8:14 am

    I am still on the road to a pull up. The negative ones help a lot but I have been slacking lately…
    Erin @ Erin’s Inside Job recently posted…Sometimes You Just Need A ResetMy Profile

    1. hellotofit

      June 26, 2015 at 5:13 pm

      Haha they don’t really feel “good” to practice…so. Hard. Stay with it!!! Can’t wait till that moment where you do a pull-up 🙂

  • Julie @ Running in a Skirt

    June 24, 2015 at 8:37 am

    I FAILED the pull up test! FAILED!! I never got those tests!!!
    Loving this series!
    Julie @ Running in a Skirt recently posted…5 Ways to Get Your Running Mojo BackMy Profile

    1. hellotofit

      June 26, 2015 at 5:13 pm

      Hahaha I’m right there with ya, Julie – I could never do one in PE, either!

  • Salt

    June 24, 2015 at 8:53 am

    As I’m sure you can imagine I spend a lot of time at playgrounds and I love exercise suggestions like this! Next time Betty and I go to the playground I’m definitely trying these out!
    Salt recently posted…One Delicious Race Recap {Fit Foodie 2015!}My Profile

    1. hellotofit

      June 26, 2015 at 5:13 pm

      Yes! I thought of you while putting this series together 🙂 hope you have a happy weekend!

  • Sarah @ Sarah’s on the Run

    June 24, 2015 at 8:56 am

    This is a great move! I’m working on getting better at pullups–I may have to add this into my routine today!
    Sarah @ Sarah’s on the Run recently posted…TOTR: Regional Rehab 5kMy Profile

    1. hellotofit

      June 26, 2015 at 5:12 pm


  • Sam @ pancakeWarriors

    June 24, 2015 at 10:30 am

    So confession I can’t do a pull up. Eeek! I’m pretty sure it’s a mental thing and its a goal of mine. I think I need to get in my game a little better. Eccentric movements are great. Doing negatives are surprisingly difficult. Like you said most people rush through. Thanksnfornthe reminder!! Dinner tonight – hummus and falafel!!
    Sam @ pancakeWarriors recently posted…Baked Lentil Chickpea Falafel RecipeMy Profile

    1. hellotofit

      June 26, 2015 at 5:12 pm

      I think some of it is TOTALLY mental! I bet you could really work up to doing at least one 🙂 Hummus and falafel sounded WONDERFUL for dinner.

  • Annmarie

    June 24, 2015 at 11:16 am

    Really loving this series, what a great post! Awesome that you had your sister there to take pics too- always makes it so much easier 🙂
    Annmarie recently posted…Wild Workout Wednesday: Marathon Training Check InMy Profile

    1. hellotofit

      June 26, 2015 at 5:11 pm

      Thanks, Annmarie 🙂 yes, so much easier!

  • Michelle

    June 24, 2015 at 12:15 pm

    Awesome!! Just got home from doing just that!
    Michelle recently posted…Leg Burning HIIT WorkoutMy Profile

    1. hellotofit

      June 26, 2015 at 5:11 pm


  • Les @ The Balanced Berry

    June 24, 2015 at 12:36 pm

    I totally remember the flexed arm hang from PE back in the day! I always thought it was kind of fun. Maybe I’m a weirdo? My most-least-favorite exercise would have to be sprints of any kind…they just hurt so good.
    Les @ The Balanced Berry recently posted…Cookie Dough Overnight OatsMy Profile

    1. hellotofit

      June 26, 2015 at 5:11 pm

      Haha not a weirdo at all! You must’ve been really good at it 😉 Oooo I love to hate sprints, as well. Nice one!

  • Lauren | Just a Pinch

    June 24, 2015 at 1:38 pm

    The day I can do an unassisted pull-up will be the best day ever. Very impressed that you can do one!
    Lauren | Just a Pinch recently posted…all you need is love {a minneapolis recap}My Profile

    1. hellotofit

      June 26, 2015 at 5:10 pm

      YES! It was an amazing feeling. I needed a mic to drop on the ground or something. And now I have no desire to do more than one….is that sad? haha

  • lindsay

    June 24, 2015 at 3:32 pm

    i did these with my class once. I took them outside to the play ground, they did not like me after! haha
    lindsay recently posted…Paleo Espresso Macaroon Muffins and Grain Free Coffee TalkMy Profile

    1. hellotofit

      June 26, 2015 at 5:10 pm

      Hahah but then they loved you for making them sweaty and strong 😉

  • Liz

    June 24, 2015 at 4:14 pm

    Oh my goodness I haven’t tried pull ups in so long! This is probably the only way I would try them, at a deserted playground. 🙂 Every time I see a chin-up bar it’s a like a crowded gym. Get it girl!

    1. hellotofit

      June 26, 2015 at 5:10 pm

      Haha yes, it was nice that no one else was around – besides my sister, but she took the photos. Cheers!

  • Catherine @ foodiecology

    June 24, 2015 at 4:26 pm

    I used to rock the flex arm hang in school – I was a gymnast. However, just the other day, I sadly discovered I can’t do a single pull-up anymore! I need to find a lower bar to try this. Muscle memory right? I will do another pull-up, no matter how many weeks or months it takes. 🙂
    Catherine @ foodiecology recently posted…On the Right Foot: Kushyfoot ReviewMy Profile

    1. hellotofit

      June 26, 2015 at 5:09 pm

      Gymnasts have such strong upper bodies and core muscles! Well, strong everything! I bet you can totally work up to doing pull-ups again 🙂

  • GiGi Eats

    June 24, 2015 at 5:22 pm

    I wish there were a playground near me. I would actually go PLAY 😉 Screw working out – I wanna go on the swings!! HA HAAH! Seasaw??
    GiGi Eats recently posted…GMOs: They Might Be For DinnerMy Profile

    1. hellotofit

      June 26, 2015 at 5:09 pm

      Yes!! I LOVE/LOVED the seesaw!!

  • Brittany

    June 24, 2015 at 9:13 pm

    I don’t think I’ve ever done a real complete pull up…like…ever. Maybe one? HAHA.
    Brittany recently posted…When I’m NotMy Profile

    1. hellotofit

      June 26, 2015 at 5:06 pm


  • Eva

    June 25, 2015 at 2:23 pm

    I keep asking my husband to install a pull ups bar in our house! Then I will be a queen of pull ups! I used to hate push ups, but the more I did them, the more I loved them. I now hate pull ups, so I need that bar!
    Eva recently posted…Anansi’s Party Time – Literature UnitMy Profile

    1. hellotofit

      June 26, 2015 at 5:05 pm

      Yes! They have a bar you can hang over the door frame, have you looked into those?

  • Dani @ DaniCaliforniaCooks

    June 25, 2015 at 6:42 pm

    I just learned about negative pullups a couple months ago! They leave you SO sore – one day I’m hoping to do a real pull up!
    Dani @ DaniCaliforniaCooks recently posted…Mediterranean Salad with Crispy ChickpeasMy Profile

    1. hellotofit

      June 26, 2015 at 5:05 pm

      Yes, super sore! Great to build up strength. Cheers to doing your pull-up one day!

  • Farrah

    June 25, 2015 at 8:40 pm

    Back in the day, I could never do pull-ups, but I’d rock the hell out of the flexed arm hang and they’d eventually tell me I’d maxed out and to please come down, haha. This is how I worked up to actual pull-ups too! :]!

    I miss my college roommates! :[

    I’m missing Thai food, so I’m going to suggest Pad Thai or curry! <3
    Farrah recently posted…Choosing A Base Site (Part 2)My Profile

    1. hellotofit

      June 26, 2015 at 5:04 pm

      Hahaha flexed arm hang queen! YES, I did have Pad Thai that evening. Thanks for the suggestion 😉

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