From July until the end of September, CrossFit Prototype will be posting a blog per week as part of our Accessory Series. These blog posts will review 1 of the 13 CFP foundational movements (Air Squat, Back Squat, Front Squat, Deadlift, Kettlebell Swing, Pull-Up, Overhead Press, Push Press, Push Jerk, Clean, Snatch & Rowing) and provide tips on accessory exercises to help improve that area of your CrossFit game.
By Joe Black (CF-L2, USAW-L1SP)
The sixth common core exercise at CFP is one of those movements you either love or you hate: the pull-up. The pull-up is a basic bodyweight movement. You can do pull-ups strict, with a kip, butterfly-style, mix-grip, supinated (palms facing you), pronated (palms facing away from you), weighted, with a tempo.
We have written about the pull-up a lot lately on the blog. The Challenge of the Month in May was to add a pull-up a day.
You won’t go 10 days without seeing some type of vertical pulling movement in a CrossFit class. Every year, some form of the pull-up appears in the CrossFit Open.
The. Pull-up. Is. Everywhere.
And it isn’t going away (sorry, not sorry, haters).
The concept of a pull-up seems simple enough. Hang from a bar and pull yourself up until your chin goes over the bar. Yet it doesn’t always work out like that. Pulling practically your entire body weight up over a bar can seem impossible to some.
But don’t let it beat you!
I have put together a two-part series to help you develop pull-up strength:
There are a lot of accessory movements that I recommended, as well as a 4-week template, designed to help you get your first pull-up. There is a lot of information, so to prevent this from being overwhelming, here are my three favorite pull-up accessory movements:
Dead Hang to Active Hang
The first step to a pull-up is being able to hang from the bar. The dead hang gets you comfortable with hanging from the bar and builds grip strength. The active hang is when you draw your shoulder blades down, lifting your chest up while hanging from the bar. This is how you start the pull-up.
Mix these up. Try doing an active hang for 10 seconds immediately into a dead hang for 10 seconds. Or switch it to dead hang to active hang. You can move between dead hang to active hang, pausing for a second in the active position, which are called scapular pull-ups.
Research has shown that overloading the eccentric (lengthening of muscles) portion of a movement leads to an increase in strength and power in the concentric (shortening of muscles) portion of the movement.
A great way to build pulling strength is to jump up with your chin over the bar and slowly, in control, lower yourself back to a dead hang.
Do your best to be strict with this movement by maintaining control of your body on the way down. You can add these in to your warmup. 3 sets of 3-5 negatives would be a great start!
Barbell Assisted Pull-Ups
This pull-up accessory movement is the best! It is similar to a modified push-up, where some of your body weight is removed in order to help you complete a repetition.
This movement lets you simulate the pull-up and get stronger throughout the movement, something that bands won’t do for you.
You can change the difficulty of this movement by placing more (easier) or less (harder) of your legs on the box, which will either decrease or increase your weight.
I recommend 2-3 sets of 5-10 reps, depending on your current skill level.