No, we’re not talking about your diet. Today’s blog post is brought to you by Shawn. Last week’s squat post was greatly appreciated by all of us – read on to see what great tips he has for us this week!
If the squat is king of the lower body, then the pull up is king of the upper body. Here is the short list of muscles worked in the pull up: the lats, traps, rhomboids, pecs, triceps, biceps, forearms, abs. One move works many muscles—that’s a big return on investment, and who doesn’t like a large ROI!
How do you pull yourself up?
CrossFit loves pull ups. They are in workouts from Fran to Cindy to Murph. The “standard CrossFit” pull up—the kipping pull up, which looks a little bit like a monkey swinging on bars to the uninitiated—allows you to do a lot of work in a small amount of time (move large loads, long distances, quickly). I, too, love the kipping pull up, both the standard kip and the “butterfly” kip. I’m good at them. But I do have a beef with the kip**. In my mind, developing strength in the pull up is more important than developing the kip.
**The kipping pull up requires good shoulder flexibility and enough strength in the muscles and connective tissue to keep the shoulder from being trashed during the movement. I’ve noticed that low-grade shoulder injuries are becoming common in the CrossFit community as a whole. Getting stronger in the pull up is one key to continued shoulder health.
Want a better kip? Get strict!
Yes, getting stronger will help your kipping pull up. Start by using your warm up time to build your pull up strength. Here’s a plan to get you moving toward your first strict pull up. This should be done 3 days a week, every week.
Day 1: Static holds (in 3 positions)
- Perform 5 sets of one static hold at top (chin above bar), in the middle (arms bent about 90 degrees), and at the bottom (elbows straight but shoulders pulled down and scapulas retracted). It goes like this: hold at top, rest; hold in middle, rest; hold in bottom, rest. Repeat for a total of 5 times. Once you can hold a position for 6 to 10 seconds, add weight (hold a dumbbell between your knees or ankles) to the static.
- Perform 3 sets of body ring rows (progress toward a horizontal body position) for max reps. Focus on pulling rings to your chest and bringing your shoulder blades together.
Day 2: Controlled negatives
- Perform 5 to 10 sets of one negative (lower yourself as slowly and as controlled as you can). Jump up and get your chin above the bar. Hold for a second or two, then take as long as you can descend. Once you can do this for 6 (honest) seconds, add weight to the negative.
- Perform 3 sets of one-arm, bent-over rows for max reps. Use a dumbbell or kettlebell.
Day 3: Kip technique and horizontal pushing
- Get a solid kip. Grab the bar and practice your kip. Focus on using your chest and shoulders and abs, not your hips and legs. You should be able to do this without inducing a swing on the bar. If you need help, we coaches are very happy to help. Oh, no bands allowed for this part. J
- Practice your kipping pull up. Use the band. Kip and pull. Bored of the pull up? Try something on the rope or rings (ask a coach).
- Do some pushing: work up to 3 sets of 10 of push ups and dips (use the rings, the new fancy dip stations, or parallettes). If you need help with scaling the pushup or dip, ask a coach.
You got strict? Good for you. Now, get better!
Glad you can do strict pull ups. You, too, can still get better. Commit to 4 to 6 weeks of pull-up work in your warm ups. Try this:
Day 1: Pull ups
- Do 3 sets of strict pull ups. Once you get at least 10, start doing weighted pull ups.
- Perform 3 sets of body ring rows for max reps.
Day 2: Chin ups
- Do 3 sets of strict chin ups (palms facing toward you). Once you get at least 10, add weight.
- Perform 3 sets of one-arm, bent-over rows for max reps.
Day 3: Variations
- Start practicing some pull up variations. Each week, pick a different one. Choose from L pull ups, towel pull ups, kipping pull ups, “butterfly” kipping pull ups, muscle ups, rope climbs, leg-free rope climbs, L rope climbs…
- Do 3 sets of a pushing exercise: pushups, clapping pushups, slapping pushups, plyo pushups, dips, weighted dips…
A pull up is a really big deal. Your first strict pull up should come with a big celebration. If you do it while I am there, I will whoop, holler, and run around the gym fist pumping! It’s that good of a thing.
50 Thrusters 45/35
Post time Beyond the Whiteboard.