Coach, I Can’t Do Pull Ups: 7 Tips to Get You There

As originally appeared on Breaking Muscle:

Pull ups are a basic movement in CrossFit, yet in and of themselves they are an intermediate gymnastic movement. Starting out pulling your bodyweight can seem like an insurmountable task. Don’t fall prey to the mistakes of progressing too fast, kipping before you’re ready, or skipping over the fundamentals. There are tons of strategies and methods of assistance to get your chin over that bar, but not all of them are helping you to get stronger.

Here we will learn where to begin and which alternatives are worth your time. Here are seven tips for achieving that beautiful, dead-hang pull up:

1. Work Your Mobility

Pullups begin as all movements do – with proper mobility. Work on being able to maintain a proper overhead position exactly as described in my article The Safest and Smartest Progression for Building Your Overhead Lifts. If you start with tight lats, chest, or spine you’re already in a compromised position. This will put more stress on your shoulder joint and spine. For a pull up, you must start in a deadhang position with active shoulders. Once you can hang in this position in a controlled manner, then you can start pulling motions.

If you are unable to achieve a proper active hang position, you can still start building strength while working on your mobility. Work on grip strength using heavy deadlifts along withfarmer’s carries. Both will stress the forearm and hands in a similar way to a pull up. To begin building pulling strength, you can do bent over barbell or dumbbell rows. Both are effective at building pulling strength and require less mobility to perform correctly.

2. Get Some Hang Time

Once you open up the mobility to dead hang properly, then you need to start spending time on the bar. Dead hangs for time are an effective way to build shoulder stability and grip strength. Make sure you never let your form suffer during these.

3. Avoid Jumping and Rubber Bands

Jumping pullups and banded pullups are popular in the CrossFit world as a way to get in a workout, but I’ve found little success with these methods and little direct translation into actual pull up strength. Strict banded pullups can be decent for building strength, but during a metcon they get abused and people begin to kip, bounce out of the hole, and squirm in all sorts of ways to finish their reps. If you’re after metabolic conditioning, switch to rows, deadlifts, rowing, ring rows, or some other variation.

4. Build Strength

To get your first pullup what you want to do is build strength. This means operating at 80%+ of your max effort at a minimum. Ring rows are one of the most effective methods to build strength and are easily varied in intensity by changing your positioning. Mark your foot positioning each workout and begin to creep your body closer to parallel with the floor each time. This will increase the load by involving a greater percentage of your bodyweight.

Negative pullups are also effective at building strength. Start with a five-second controlled descent and build to longer durations of time.Eccentric work can be very taxing and leave you sore, so start conservatively and add on as your body tells you. Don’t combine a lot of eccentric pulling work and then a hard metcon involving similar movements.

To read the other 3 tips:

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