7 Tips to Pull Ups
Coach, I Can’t Do Pull-Ups. 7 Tips to Get You There
Pull-ups are a basic movement in CrossFit, yet in and of themselves they are an intermediate gymnastic movement. Starting out pulling your bodyweight can seem like an insurmountable task.
Here we will learn where to begin and which alternatives are worth your time. Here are seven tips for achieving that strict pull up:
1. Work Your Mobility
Pull-ups begin as all movements do – with proper mobility. Work on being able to maintain a proper overhead position exactly as described in my article The Safest and Smartest Progression for Building Your Overhead Lifts. If you start with tight lats, chest, or spine you’re already in a compromised position. This will put more stress on your shoulder joint and spine. For a pull up, you must start in a dead hang position with active shoulders. Once you can hang in this position in a controlled manner, then you can start pulling motions.
Work on grip strength using heavy deadlifts along with farmer’s carries. Both will stress the forearm and hands in a similar way to a pull up. To begin building pulling strength, you can do bent over barbell or dumbbell rows. Both are effective at building pulling strength and require less mobility to perform correctly.
2. Get Some Hang Time
Once you open up the mobility to dead hang properly, then you need to start spending time on the bar. Dead hangs for time are an effective way to build shoulder stability and grip strength. Make sure you never let your form suffer during these.
3. Avoid Jumping and Rubber Bands
Jumping pull-ups and banded pull-ups are popular in the CrossFit world as a way to get in a workout. Strict banded pull-ups can be decent for building strength, but during a metcon they get abused and people begin to kip, bounce out of the hole, and squirm in all sorts of ways to finish their reps. If you’re after metabolic conditioning, switch to ring rows.
4. Build Strength
To get your first pull-up what you want to do is build strength. This means operating at 80%+ of your max effort at a minimum. Ring rows are one of the most effective methods to build strength and are easily varied in intensity by changing your positioning. Mark your foot positioning each workout and begin to creep your body closer to parallel with the floor each time. This will increase the load by involving a greater percentage of your bodyweight.
Negative pull-ups are also effective at building strength. Start with a five-second controlled descent and build to longer durations of time.
5. Stay Focused
Remember the body can adapt well in one way at a time. It’s hard to increase strength and endurance at the same time. This is why we cycle our training and have times when we focus on strength and times when we focus on conditioning. If your goal is to do a pull up, then focus on getting that first one now, and then multiple reps later.
6. Resist the Kip
Don’t kip until you can do at least five strict pull-ups. Kipping is the translation of horizontal momentum to vertical force and allows you to do a greater number of pull ups. Kipping is more efficient, but it also loads the shoulder dynamically, putting more force on it. If you are unable to control your bodyweight, there is no reason to add momentum on top of that.
7. Climb a Rope
Another movement great at building pulling strength is rope climbs. Rope climbing with efficiency involves using your legs to hook the rope and push yourself higher. Your arms hold you in place as you bring your legs up. So for a rope climb you only need to be able to hang on, not just pull your way to the top. Therefore, this is a great tool for people still working on building their pulling strength.
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