Sunday, January 24, 2010

Pull ups - the final frontier...

What is it about pull ups that makes them seem like such a challenge - the big achievement, the final frontier for so many of us - both women and men? Pull ups are one of the most basic, functional exercises that we can do. Just pull yourself up, over a bar. Simple right? Especially if you can use momentum to help hoist you up, as we do wth the kipping. Once you learn the movement of the kip swing, it seems easy theory... In practice, however, I've noticed that pullups seem to give us one hell of a challenge. In the past week, I've spoken to at least 10 different people about pull ups and their process for "getting them". Seems like none of us know what to do to get better, other than to stay determined and continue practicing. After searching all over the "interwebbings" for some helpful training tips on pull ups - Guess What?! Every single article I found mentioned one undeniable truth: TO GET BETTER AT PULL UPS, YOU HAVE TO PRACTICE PULL UPS AS FREQUENTLY AS POSSBILE.* Some articles offer modifiations with "negatives" (which are similar to our jumping pull ups), or muscle isolation exercises for the lats and shoulders, (like rows), but most were pretty clear about actually practicing pull ups to get better. Read: There are no short-cuts and only with repetition can we expect results. Got it. Here's how I plan to put this into practice: 1. I will practice pull ups before/after class at least twice per week. Using the bands, and with the help of classmates, or coaches, if they're available. 2. I will order resistance bands of my own and practice on the pull up bars at Austin High Track or Auditorium Shores. I can do this on the weekends, or Friday after work. I will do as many kips as I can without stopping. If I stop, that means I'm done. 25 consecutive kipping pull ups is my target. Once I'm able to get 25 with one band, I'll start over with a smaller band, and so on until I'm off the band. As motivation (or punishment), I will subtract the number of pull ups I am able to do each day from 25 and do the remainder as burpees. I. HATE. BURPEES. I'm hoping that this will do two things: One: motivate me to stay on the bar and do as many as I possibly can, and Two: work on burpees since I can always get better at these. My goal is to work on pull ups at least 4 days per week, in addition to any pull ups we do in the CFC WODs. As a wise Coach once told me, "Just F**kin' Do It!" Done and done. *Refer to these resources for more info on pull up training:, "Tips for Better Pull Ups", "How to Do Pull Ups with Proper Technique" CrossFit Journal, "Kipping Pull Up Technique" Video Physical Living, "Kipping Pullups vs. DeadHang" Videos Got any tips or wisdom on the kipping pullups? Holla at me!


  1. THis was SUPER helpful! At one point, I i redirected my focus/goals from kipping to getting every workout as close to/if not actually using the Rx weight. I think that once I've got a good handle on this, I will dive into the Kipping world like the rest of the crew. Here's to swinging my heart out until then...

  2. While I personally think 25 is a hella high number to reach before moving on to the next, thinner band, do what works for you. That said, the most important step I took in building up multiple pull ups was this: Never go back. Once you can do them unassisted, as rx'd, never, EVER go back. That band is dead to you! If you have to do singles to make it through the work out, do singles. Just never go back. It's the only way to get stronger and eventually find your kipping sweet spot.

  3. Thanks for the feedback, ladies. Georgia, I agree that once I can do one unassisted, I have to pretend like the bands don't exist. Similar to how I try never to go down in weight once I'm doing it as prescribed. Its too much of a crutch otherwise.

    Maybe 20 would be a better target? I want to be able to knock em out, but don't want to get discouraged with a super high goal.