In CrossFit, mastering the pull-up is just as essential as mastering your technique in the Oly lifts or improving your overall strength. The pull-up involves not only upper body strength, but also endurance and coordination. Pull-ups can be paired with most movements, and we do a lot of workouts that incorporate pull-ups. If you cannot do a pull-up this can slow you down in your workout and can also be frustrating.
A lot of people new to CrossFit can be intimidated by the pull-up. Not many walk in on day 1 able to get their chin over the bar with some type of assistance, so this quickly becomes the goal for someone new to CrossFit. Once you master the pull-up, then you can go on to achieve more complicated pull-ups like the chest to bar or butterfly pull-up.
My personal belief is that the best way to start mastering pull-ups is to work on getting a strict pull-up first. The coaches will have you scale with ring rows and then move to pull ups with the bands. We also will have you do negatives off of the pull-up bar. All of these movements will help you gain the strength to pull your chin over the bar!
Next, it’s time to work on your kip for the kipping pull-up. This is where we add coordination and endurance to the strength component of the pull-up. By kipping pull-ups in a workout you are able to move more quickly and efficiently through the WOD. The kip uses momentum and the body to get the chin over the bar, instead of just your arms, lats, and back.
The essentials of the kip are:
2. Turing over the hips
3. Pushing away from the bar at the top/restarting the swing
To learn the beginning of the kip a great movement to do is the lat activation drill. You want to think about initiating the movement by pushing your head and chest forward through the arms then pull back with your body. Your legs will naturally move on their own during this movement, and it may seem that this movement is being driven by the legs, but it is actually initiated with your shoulders and lats.
The turnover of the hips is what generated the power to propel you up to the bar as the arms pull. Think of it like you are jumping up to the bar, closing the hips and then throwing them back open while you pull with your arms.
Finally, you need to master what to do from the top when your chin is over the bar. This is important so that you can smoothly transition into the next pull-up. Many people have a problem with restarting the next pull-up because they just drop straight down from the bar and lose their momentum. When this happens the pull-ups are choppy and you are only able to do one at a time. Keeping the momentum is key, so in order to do that you need to push away from the bar to restart the swing you started at the beginning of the pull-up.
Once you have the strength, improving the mechanics is the best way to get better and more efficient at pull-ups in your WOD. Pull-ups should not be something that you dread seeing in WODS. They show up frequently in programming, so it is just as important to devote time to your pull-up technique as it is to your snatch or clean technique. If you need help progressing through these drills just ask one of the coaches and we’d be happy to show you the techniques!