This week on TechniqueWOD, we’re talking about some simple and effective progressions that will help you master the strict pull-up.
If you can’t perform a dead-hang strict pull-up yet, this episode will help you get there quickly. And if you can do that, awesome! We’ll also tell you how to load the pull-up effectively so that you can keep making progress and avoid injuries.
If you can master the strict pull-up, then you’ll have absolutely no problem later on with muscle-ups and other tough gymnastics movements.
1. Start from the hang.
Keep your wrists slightly flexed and over the bar, with the thumbs wrapped all the way around. That will improve your grip and pulling strength.
Hang with your feet slightly out in front of your body, careful to maintain activated abs and a solid hollow body position. This might be hard enough on its own at the start, which is fine. Just practice. Once you can hold position for 30-seconds you’re ready to move on.
Initiate the pull-up from the very bottom, at full shoulder flexion, by drawing your shoulder blades down and back. From there you can finish the movement by pulling your chin to the bar.
Don’t curl your legs or hyperextend at any point during the pull. This compromise in mechanics will make continual progress pretty much impossible.
2. What if I can’t finish?
Here’s a simple drill you can practice.
Put a barbell in the squat rack, right at the level of your collarbone. Walk up to that bar and get into final position. Keep the very same pull-up grip. The bar should be right up next to your clavicle, with your chin just over top. Your neck should remain neutral.
All you have to do is lift your feet and keep all the same positions. Just like with the hang, practice by holding this position in 30 second bursts. In no time at all your pull-up will start to improve.
3. How should I scale?
You can work your way up to strict pull-ups a bunch of different ways. Banded pull-ups and ring rows are common examples. These are fine exercises, but the truth is that there’s very little carryover to the strict pull-up.
For better performance, you should actually make a few modifications:
- Work the rings, but place your feet up on a box and let your hips sink as low as possible. This more vertical line of pull will have more correspondence to the pull-up.
- As you get stronger, try standing on a box that’s just slightly behind the pull-up bar. Start your pull, keeping the top of your feet on the box and pushing with the legs for assistance when needed.
4. Try going slow.
This is one of the best ways to increase your pull-up strength.
Start from the top from your box. Keep your chin above the bar for 2-3 seconds, then lower your body under control, all the way down to full flexion, over about 5-10 seconds. Hold the bottom for 2-3 more seconds and you’re done.
Something like 2-3 sets of this is more than enough. But feel to increase the volume as long as you do not lose position on the descent.
5. The best ways to add weight.
With time and proper progression you will master the pull-up. And yes, sooner or later you will need to add some weight to make things harder.
The easiest thing you can do is hold a medicine ball between your legs, keeping all your key grip and body positions in mind. You can also hold a dumbbell kettlebell between your feet, both techniques work well. As you get really strong during this movement, the best thing you can do is get yourself a weighted pull-up belt.
They’re cheap and very useful.
Got a question about mastering the pull-up? Just leave a comment below, we’d love to help you out. Until then, make sure to check out Episode 181 of Barbell Shrugged. We geek out on pull-ups
If you have no idea where to get started and just want a simple, easy to follow program to get pull-ups, , check out our Get Your First Pull-Up Program in OverTime.