In order to learn pull-ups one has (omongst others) two options if xe can't do real pull-ups, yet: Negative pull-ups and assited pull-ups.

With negative pull-ups one basically omits the contraction and focuses on the eccentric movement, be it with the help of a chair, by juming or whatever other means.

Assisted pull-ups on the other hand work by decreasing the weight one has to move, e.g. with resistant bands.

While the movements are somewhat similar, the exercises are fundamentally (or at least substantially) different. While the negative pull-ups have the merit that they work with the full weight the full pull-ups will be working on they omit half of the motion and especially the initial pull from the dead hang, which is way the hardest for me. Assisted pull-ups incorporate that initial pull, but the structure of the force withing the exercise is different to full pull-ups (lesser force to apply on the lowest position, more force to apply in upper position).

I'd like to know how those two exercises work differently on the muscles. Basically the same muscles should be in use during the exercises, but I assume that the distribution of the stress should be different. Is any one of those exercises better suited for learning full pull-ups?

(I'd like the answers to be focused not on what's the best way to learn full pull-ups, but I am - parts just out of curiosity - interested in a comparison between those two. If you have suggestions on exercises that are suited better, I'd ask you to please use the comments.)

  • 1
    You accurately point out that a negative rep will only have an eccentric portion, and that an assisted rep is a light version of the concentric. Are you familiar with how concentric and eccentric reps affect the muscle? Is that the essence of the question? (Just trying to gauge how best to formulate an answer.)
    – Alec
    Nov 17, 2017 at 8:40
  • @Alec I think this is part of the question, but also — what I've written — to what extent muscles are stressed differently between the two exercises
    – Paul K
    Nov 17, 2017 at 8:42

1 Answer 1


Sometime ago I would say that negative pull-ups are accessory exercise that should be used at start. In assisted version you have same movement, so your body learns exact movement, and you developing muscle memory.

However from this presentation you can find out, that there is nothing like muscle memory. You are just building muscles, neural system, and thats it.

Note that you can get help with bands, dedicated machines, and from other person. The longer bands are - the bigger force is given, so at lowest position they help more then at the top. Machines, usually gives same force all the time. Humans... depends :) From that perspective negative version gives better progress tracking. Also equipment requirements are much lower.

As a side note - that is starting point, so I would not think about it too much. Difference is not that big.

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