5 Ways to Improve Your Pull-Ups
The gymnastics component of a WOD can often be the most challenging part, for everyone from total newbies to seasoned athletes. Getting your first pull-up, or becoming more efficient at the movement, is always possible - but it takes time and dedication. If one of your goals is to improve your pull-ups, start by following this advice:
For people new to the sport, the mission to get that first pull-up can cause more problems than it solves. Trying to kip before you can nail a load of strict pull-ups is a seriously bad idea. There's much more to the movement than simply getting your head above that bar.
Kipping isn't, and was never intended as, a shortcut to getting good at gymnastics movements. It's a way for athletes to perform them faster, and more efficiently, in competitive workouts.
Instead, scale your WODs and work on the movement in your own time. When you're ready, learn how to kip correctly and start introducing them into timed workouts - but not before you're already proficient at strict pull-ups.
Get Smart About Scaling
When it comes to scaling your pull-ups, there are loads of options for you to choose from. Each comes with different benefits, so get to know the different options and when you should use them.
Ring rows - these are a great scaling option to start with. They're fast, so can be used during WODs, but they target a similar muscle group. Get your coach to check you're performing the movement correctly, to make sure you're getting maximum benefit. As you progress, you should move your feet to increase the load - getting as close to parallel with the floor as you can.
Jumping pull-ups - these can also be used during WODs, and are a good way for you to get used to working on the bar or rig. However, they might not be as effective when it comes to building strength, depending on how high you jump!
Negative pull-ups - these are too slow to use in WODs, but are one of the most effective ways for you to build strength. Perform a jumping pull-up to get you to the top of the movement, then lower yourself as slowly as possible.
- Band assisted pull-ups - this is another great way to build strength, but could be slow during WODs as you'll need to factor in time for getting in and out of the band. As you get stronger, you can use lighter bands to decrease the level of assistance.
Build Back and Shoulder Strength
To become efficient at pull-ups, especially if you're going to be kipping, you need to focus on your back and shoulder strength. If you have a weak spot in either of these areas, you can almost guarantee kipping pull-ups will find it.
To avoid injury, address any weaknesses and focus on building strength before you even think about kipping. In particular, kipping pull-ups place the rotator cuff under a lot of stress. Make sure you have a good level of shoulder stability before you attempt them.
Work on Your Mobility
You're probably noticing a common theme on this blog, but mobility is so important for pretty much every movement you'll come across in the box. If you want to become a pull-up wizard, you're going to need a good level of shoulder mobility - even more so if you plan to kip during WODs.
If you can get your hands on a copy, take a look at Kelly Starett's Becoming a Supple Leopard, and work through the suggested drills and exercises listed there.
Practice, Practice, Practice!
The only way you're going to get better at pull-ups is by putting in the work. You need to work on them regularly, even if it's just 5-10 minutes whenever you're at the box.
It's easy to form bad habits with pull-ups, so if you're unsure about anything, make sure you double check with your coach. If your tekkers goes out of the window when you're trying to master strict pull-ups, you'll suffer even more when it comes to kipping!