By: Coach Paige
For many new to Crossfit, seeing experienced athletes seamlessly moving through multiple sets of pullups with apparent ease is very inspiring. That is….until you attempt to try ONE and you realize how far away from that you might be! You quickly dismiss this thought and chalk it up to being “new”. You attend classes and build your fitness. After a few months you are moving better, PRing lifts and even crushing some of the wods, however you still cannot do a pull-up. UGH!
I know it can be frustrating, but I am here to tell you – you CAN! I am a perfect example. When I started CF it took me almost 1 full year before I got my first unassisted kipping pull-up. However, once I did get 1, it lead to 2, 3 and so on. I was able to then move pretty quickly to doing them unassisted in wods and building up to chest-to-bar. I am not saying it will take you a year – it may take some of you much less time and it could take others longer. It all depends on your starting point and how hard you want to work – but the point is, you CAN!
Below are some recommendations to help you kick start your pull-up progress:
#1 – Make it a personal goal (SMART)
For ex. “I want to get 2 strict pull-ups by Sept 1st” or “I want to string 3 unassisted kipping pull-ups by end of the year”. Write it down and let your coaches/fellow members know. They can help in your journey by cheering you on, suggesting ideas & giving you a push when you need one.
#2 – Be willing to put in some extra work
Pull-ups will likely show up 1-2x/wk in the WOD and many of the other movements programed will build strength/mobility for helping pull-ups, however dedicating some additional focused time will do wonders. The easiest way, without causing too much disruption to your schedule would be to plan for 15 additional mins BEFORE class (5 mins to warm up a bit and then 10 mins of work) or staying 10 mins AFTER class. Either way, know ahead of time what you are going to do so you can be efficient and not just end up chatting (LOL). Just these 10 mins, 3x per week adds up very quickly!!
Another way, is to come to an open gym time slot with a specific action plan 1-2x/wk.
#3. Get used to hanging from the bar and engaging your core as you PULL up
During WOD’s, we typically use the following scaling options: ring pulls, jumping pullups or band-assisted. All of these are good because we need to move quickly and efficiently in order to get the overall benefit of the WOD. However, when doing accessory work, I recommend you really focus on 2 areas of the body that are essential in enabling you to PULL up – your CORE and your LATs:
HANG from the bar
while ring pulls are an incredibly effective exercise in their own right (for all people – even if you are a master at pullups), they are at a different angle and don’t enable you to feel the full ‘weight’ of your body because your feet are on the ground.
As well, Jumping pull-ups, while effective in WODS can often be more of a “jump” than a “pull” and really don’t force you to fully engage your core because you are relying on the strength of your legs. So for the purpose of progressing in pullups, focus on movements that force you to hang.
So practice hanging from the bar – even if it is just for 10 seconds at a time.
Also as you are hanging, work on engaging your LATS by doing “scap pullups” when you are hanging. Just these small movements can make a big difference. Many people, particularly women are not as aware how much these muscles need to be engaged in order to perform pullups.
Train STRICT full range of Motion
For 10 mins/ day for the next 12 days (4 weeks if you come in 3x/wk) try committing to practicing strict pull-ups with full range of motion using the appropriate band/s
EMOMs are great for this. Pick a band & a number that you can complete in approx. 15-30 sec and then rest for the remainder of the min. Keeping this consistent for a set amount of mins (say 8 -10)
As this becomes easier over time, lower the band
Another good option is to use a lower BAR and no band, using the tips of your toes to keep you in position, but allowing you to fully engage your CORE and go through the full pull-up motion from straight hang to chin over bar. See the attached video for demonstration. Here you can simply do 5 sets of 5 or 3 sets of 10 etc OR do an EMOM style.
Record what the band you used and the number reps you could complete on day 1 and then on day 12. If you are consistent – I bet you will see progress!!