Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sunday, May 31, 2009

In case you missed last Sunday’s post, please get it here. We had a few questions for the group…

If you don’t have pull-ups, it’s time to get some, and the only way to do that is to practice on your own. Here is a quick guide to getting your first pull-ups.

General Notes

  • There is an obvious strength-to-body weight component to pull-ups. The less dead weight (read: excess body fat) you have, the easier pull-ups will be. Use this as motivation to clean up your nutrition and increase your training frequency.
  • The full range of motion must always be trained. Since the pull-up’s movement standard begins at full elbow extension and ends when the entire head is over the bar, you must practice that motion. Training short of this will never lead to proper pull-ups. Use a “buddy” if necessary for assistance to complete the range of motion. He or she can support your feet or, from behind, place his or her hands along your rib cage to help guide and push you up.
  • Skill work and practice should always be completed before workouts, not as part of the workout (“for time”) or after it.
  • Practice all grips (e.g., overhand, underhand and mixed).
  • Note the total number of pull-ups completed and keep track over time to measure progress.
  • Do not try kipping pull-ups until you have five strict, dead-hang pull-ups. This is important—you must have (stabilizing) strength in the shoulder girdle before performing a ballistic movement like the gymnastic kip. Once you have this baseline strength, we will teach you how to kip.
  • Training to muscle failure is a recipe for disaster here. Leave your practice sessions short of exhaustion to promote recovery of your pulling muscles and connective tissues. Complete low repetition sets (three or five repetitions) and a small number of sets.


  1. Step One: Lock-offs (isometric holds) — Jump up to the top of the pull-up bar (where your head is above the bar) and hold that position for as long as you can. Time these holds to build capacity, and work them at different positions along the descent.
  2. Step Two: Negatives — Jump up to the top of the pull-up bar and slowly control your descent.
  3. Step Three: Jumping Pull-ups — Use less jump, more pull and practice control during the descent.
  4. Step Four: Jump-Stretch Band Pull-ups — Hook the rubber band around your knee for less assistance, or your foot for more assistance.
  5. Step Five: Ladders — Once you can complete a few consecutive pull-ups, work to increase your capacity with these. Take a conservative “max” number of pull-ups, and then move from one repetition up to that number. For example, when you have five pull-ups, set your “max” at three repetitions. Then, climb a ladder of one, two and three repetitions, resting  no more than 30 seconds between each sets. At the top of the ladder, or at the point of failure, restart your set at one repetition.

Rest today.



  1. Ted | May 31, 2009 at 12:26 pm

    So, should we do ladders for practice in addition to WOD and anything else? How many ladders per session? From time to time I’ve thought about trying the “Recon Ron” or the Armstrong pull-up programs. Actually, I started Recon Ron once, but the second day we had one of those 100 pull-up WODs, and never went back to it. Do you have any thoughts on those programs or do you generally recommend ladders to build capacity? Thanks.

    • coach | May 31, 2009 at 8:34 pm

      I don’t think it needs to be that technical, Ted. Ladders are a great way to add some volume without over-training. We’re simply suggesting you supplement the work and practice you’re already getting via the WODs.


  2. rebek | May 31, 2009 at 4:57 pm

    And what are your thoughts on using the gravitron for practice?

    • coach | May 31, 2009 at 8:36 pm

      The Gravitron is ok—we can put it up there with stretch band pull-ups because it works the full range of motion.


  3. bibihan | May 31, 2009 at 9:05 pm

    I did Friday’s workout today: 4 rounds x 400m run + 50 squats. 16:51.

  4. operationyetifit | June 2, 2009 at 4:19 pm

    thanks john. this is great info, especially given my current goals.


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