This may seem weird, but pull-ups have the power to make me feel like I am the best CrossFitter in the world, or the worst athlete that ever existed. When you see pull-ups in a WOD, you generally fall under the “WOOP WOOP” category or the “NOOOO” category. If you are efficient you can’t understand why anyone would dread a WOD with pull-ups. However, there are many of you who fall in the second, less efficient category. We want everyone to fall under the “WOOP WOOP” category, which is why we are spending the next month focusing on our pull-ups.
Why do we do pull-ups?
This simple movement is great for building shoulder strength! When done properly, it works a lot of larger muscles in your shoulders, arms and back.
The primary movers: the latissimus dorsi. Your lats are like wings on the sides of you. This muscle must be engaged to efficiently do pull-ups.
So how do we engage these wings? If you stand with your arms above your head, and pull your shoulder blades down, like you are pulling them in towards your spine, you should feel your flexion in your lats. This is what you want to do when you are getting ready to pull-up on that bar.
You can’t do this RX?
As someone who loves CrossFit, I try to get everyone to try it. Its out of love; I want everyone to have this wonderful experience. When trying to convince people the most common excuse I hear is “I can’t even do a pull-up”, as if you are less than qualified to do CrossFit because you can’t get your chin over a bar. Most of us are not athletically gifted like Matt Williamson, and we need to scale the pull-up in order to build strength.
How do I scale APPROPRIATELY?
I’m glad you asked.
If we want to build strength we have to choose the right scaling option. If we aren’t challenging ourselves we won’t see improvements. Yet if we choose an option that is not attainable we will either injure ourselves or leave feeling frustrated. So here are some options:
The Jumping Pull-up
Strict Banded Pull-ups
Partner Assisted Pull-ups
Once you are able to do strict pull-ups, you can move on to learn how to do kipping and butterfly pullups. In Part 2 of “Scaling School: The Pull-up” I will discuss how to decide which modification to choose depending on the desired stimulus of the WOD, as well as how to build strength on the pull-up. We can all love pull-ups, but they require time and skill work!