Build Strength to Progress Your Pull-Up

  2017-10-19 10:00AM

Many of us can remember our first day walking into a CrossFit gym. You see people pressing heavy bars into the air and proceeding to drop them straight to the ground. The music is loud, people are high-fiving, and the coaches are smiling. One of the first things people also notice are the pull-ups. It seems as if everyone is able to use some crazy swing to get their chin and sometimes chest over the bar. Wow! This instantly becomes a goal for many newbie CrossFitters. While the dynamic kipping pull-up allows you to use momentum to get your first pull-up, it is vital to build the proper strength to achieve this milestone. Here are some things to incorporate into your training if you're looking to progress your pull-up, build some strength, and increase your muscular endurance.

  1. Static Holds. Hold your bodyweight starting at the top with your chin over the bar. You can also work static holds in the middle, or the sticking point for many people. You can even hold at the bottom in a hollow body static hang! These will all help build grip, forearm, bicep, back, and ligament strength.
  2. Negatives. Start at the top with your chin over the bar and lower yourself with control as slowly as possible. You can integrate these in EMOM (Every Minute on the Minute) format starting with one negative every minute for five minutes. Build the number of negatives within the minute as well as the time domain as you get stronger!
  3. Ring Rows/Bar Rows. Ring rows are a horizontal pull in comparison to the vertical pulling of a pull-up, but this variation helps create balance in muscular development and supports shoulder health. Another similar option is to place a bar in the rack for a bar row. You can then do pull ups laying back under the bar with your feet outstretched in front to provide assistance.
  4. Heel-Assisted Strict Pull-Up. Set up a bar on the rack at a height that matches the top of your outstretched arms when seated. Sit down directly under the bar and, while keeping your heels on the ground, pull your chin over the bar (try to avoid leaning back into a horizontal position; stay as tall as possible!). While the heels on the ground allow you to take some of your bodyweight away, you are directly mimicking the movement of a strict pull-up. To make this drill even more challenging, place your feet straight out in front and try not to drive through your heels!

This simple progression cheat sheet will help develop the strength, motor control, and joint stability you need for pulling your bodyweight. Get to work and you'll be ditching the band for pull-ups in no time.


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