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October 26, 2014

pullup clinic

Conquering the Pull-Up: A Detailed Progression on Battling this Challenging Movement

By: Alan Fontenot

The Pull-up…a movement on the goal list of nearly every Crossfitter. The pull-up has often been referred to as “the squat of the upper body,” due to its immense training effect and ability to predict overall physical performance. What we would like to lay out is an incredibly detailed progression/regression with which you can build your pull-up prowess. First a couple of notes:

The three most important factors in achieving pull-ups are….BODY COMPOSITION, SHOULDER MOBILITY, & STRENGTH.

Diet, to lessen the amount of body fat, and attention to your shoulder health and mobility are essential to performing pull-ups. Until you are working on these, you will not see your strength and ability to do pull-ups significantly increase.  Let’s face it, the higher our body fat percentage the more difficult the pull-up will be to achieve.  No one is saying to go an extreme diet!  Simply follow a nutritious plan, workout, follow any doctor’s orders regarding your diet and you will begin to see your body composition change

Whether or not your shoulder range of motion will allow you to kip is extremely important. This test will help you see whether or not your shoulder mobility is lacking. The distance your feet are from the wall will help determine if you are “eligible” to learn the kip. If you cannot fully complete this test without being over a foot from the wall, kipping is not for you yet, and until the range of motion is there, strict movements will be the default.

Strength may seem like an obvious thing to mention about your success with pull-ups.  However, many of us rob ourselves daily from building this strength!!!  How so?  BANDS!!!!!!  Ditch the bands!!!  Bands are not helping you build strength.  The band gives you assistance at the most critical point of the pull-up: the beginning pull.  It is this assistance that keeps you from building the strength to initiate the pull-up on your own.

With those three things said, here is a progression anyone can use over time to build pull-up strength. Once you can complete a step to perfection you are eligible to move to the next, these drills can be practiced almost daily (EXCEPT eccentrics… 2-3x/wk there), the higher the frequency the better.

Here are some videos to also help with this progression.

–          Body positions to start the pull-up.

–          Bar Holds and Eccentrics

–          Proper Jumping Pull-ups for WODs

–          Beginning the Kip

–          Hand Care


  1. 1.       1 minute dead hang
  2. 2.       30 sec Chin over Bar Hold with Black or Orange Band
  3. 3.       30 sec Chin over Bar Hold with Green Band
  4. 4.       30 sec chin over bar hold
  5. 5.       15 sec eccentric pull-up w/ black band(time spread evenly through whole movement)
  6. 6.       20 sec eccentric pull-up with green band
  7. 7.       5 Perfect reps from dead start with black band (>150lb BW) or Green (<150lb BW) @ knee
  8. 8.       30 sec bent arm (90 degree) hold w/ green band
  9. 9.       30 sec bent arm hold
  10. 10.   10 perfect reps from dead start w/ green band (>150lb BW) or Blue (<150lb BW @ foot
  11. 11.   At this point you should be able to hit 1-3 strict Pull-ups!…From there
  12. 12.   75 strict pull-ups/Wk (outside of class time)
  13. 13.   100 strict pull-ups/Wk (outside of class time)
  14. 14.   150 strict pull-ups/Wk (outside of class time)
  15. 15.   200 strict pull-ups/Wk (outside of class time)
  16. 16.   If eligible…Practice Kip. Repeat steps 12-15 w/ kip, making sure you do not exceed given number in a week before building up
  17. 17.   Repeat steps 12-15 with STRICT Chest to Bar pull ups
  18. 18.   Repeat steps 12-15 with KIPPING C2B Pull-Ups
  19. 19.   Practice Butterfly pull-up…Another story for another day!

Make sure you keep this order! You must take all steps in order, Do not Jump Around!



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