After listening in on a Barbell Shrugged podcast John and I felt the drive to quickly reach out to the community about pull ups. Everyone wants to be able to do a pull up. So here it is… all things pull ups.
Pull ups are a great exercise. But there are so many questions surrounding them… to kip or not to kip? Bands or no bands? Ring rows or rig? Will you EVER be able to do a pull up? So let’s clear these questions up.
First of all, kipping pull up are not cheating pull ups. You see them all over the place in CrossFit and they are very useful as a full body exercise especially with a high volume workout. Strict pull ups are a huge test of strength, and can become very taxing on the body at high volumes. The best practice is to do both. Do your kipping pull ups but also practice strict pull ups for strength. The rule of thumb here is that we would like you to be able to do at least 1-3 good strict pull ups before you start to do a ton of kipping pull ups. The reason behind this is that if you are able to do 1-3 strict pull ups your shoulders are most likely strong enough to handle the amount of stress put on by kipping pull ups.
So what if you can’t even do a kipping pull up? Where do you start? We prefer you start at ring rows over bands. The reason for this is as you are doing a banded pull up you will notice that the elasticity of the band makes it very easy at the bottom of the pull up and very hard at the top. There is not a constant tension helping you pull all the way up. This does not translate very well to a real pull up - since your weight remains constant in a regular pull up. Ring rows can be very hard or very easy depending on where you set your feet which will help you progressively improve your strength and will translate into a strong back and shoulders. It is not bad to do banded pull ups but we prefer you do it less often than your ring rows for the best benefit.
Been doing ring rows for a while and wondering still.. Will I EVER do a pull up? Well we have put together a progressive plan on how to achieve that coveted pull up. It will take a little extra work.
Phase 1: Negative Ring rows
(Once you can complete 5x 5 easily at a low level on the rings move on)
Phase 2: Chin over bar hold palms facing in
(Once you can hold for 30-45s move on)
Phase 3: Chin over bar hold palms facing out
(Once you can hold for 30-45s move on)
Phase 4: Negative pull ups
(Be careful here! Start with only about 3x3 - if that does not make you sore the next day then you can move up to 4x4 and 5x5 .. once you can do 5x5 move on)
Phase 5: Try a strict pull up!
*Negatives are when you focus your work on the eccentric contraction of a muscle. For example on the ring rows you would pull yourself up normally and then slowly count 5...4..3..2..1… as you lower down. Same for the Pull ups. Use a box to jump up chin over the bar and then lower down slowly.
And what about if you are already a pull up master? What can you do to become and even better athlete? Mix it up. Practice different types of pulls… Strict pull ups, kipping pull ups, chin ups, chest to bar, rope climbs and even ring rows. Ring rows are pulling in the horizontal plane while pull ups are pulling in a vertical plane, so mix it up and do some ring rows, you will get stronger. Also be careful of the amount of volume that you are doing with your pull ups. If you are feeling weak and fatigued it is probably a sign to lay of the pull ups for a week or so and spend some time on the ring row. It does not make you a beginner, it makes you a smart athlete!
So that’s it on pull ups for now! I hope this is helpful and if you have any questions please feel free to reach out to John and I on the subject. We love seeing all of you be able to do things you may have never thought possible. Thanks for being a great community.