Pull-ups…….a staple favourite in most Crossfit workouts. A fantastic movement to build upper body strength and also a great conditioning tool, when performed with a kip (once the individual is ready for it of course…).
Kipping is the most common form of pull-up you’ll see in most Crossfit gyms, this requires the use of the hips and lower body to propel oneself up to the bar, but many people (due to a lower level of upper body strength), can only perform this version, as they lack the strength for the strict version.
As coaches, we strongly recommend that you build strict pullups before kipping, I like a minimum of 5 before you even think about attempting to kip. A while ago, I listened to a podcast where a national coach for gymnastics in the u.s reinforced our belief that strict should come before kipping, he also went on to mention that not only should you have strict pullups first but a decent amount of shoulder mobility. The force that you place on your shoulders if you are not ready is literally multiples of your body weight and if your shoulder and connective tissue is not conditioned enough to handle it you’re just asking for an injury.
So how do you get your first strict pullup, or increase your numbers?
First of all technically a pullup is using a double overhand grip and a chin up is a double underhand grip. I recommend using an underhand grip if you have 5 or less reps, as you get more muscle involvement than a double overhand, plus you achieve better range of motion at the top.
Rowing variations are a great tool to help strengthen the pulling muscles used for the pullup. They need to be controlled and done with correct form. So don’t always go with band assisted pullups, use barbell or supine ring row variations too.
Pullup holds– sometimes we put these in warm ups, work up to 5 x 20-40 sec holds, then you’ll be ready for the negative.
The negative or eccentric phase of a pullup is the lowering portion. From chin over the bar down to full hang, your goal is to last as long as possible, build to a 15 second negative.
Once you have achieved the above, you should be ready to achieve your first pullup!
After that, the easiest way to increase your numbers is to do pullups often. Do them as often as you can while staying as fresh as you can. Don’t fail reps, stop just short of failure and you’ll begin to increase your numbers.
I have seen people have great success, simply by performing 3-5 pullups (in as many sets as it takes) before the workout, and another 3-5 before they go home.
If you’re frustrated with your progress with this movement come and talk to one of the coaches on how to improve them, but at the same time, have patience; they will take time to build.
For those of you who already have pullups, make the standards a bit tougher! Make strict pullups neck to bar, and weighted pullups chest to bar. It might knock your numbers down a bit, but it’s only going to make you better, stronger, more injury resistant. Oh and completing that first muscle up will basically be effortless once you can perform multiple reps with that range of motion. In other words, it’ll be worth it!
By: Matt Jones, InnerFight Performance Coach