This week on Barbell Shrugged, we’re talking about one of the most fundamental movements in all of fitness – The pull-up!
Yes, we had a little fun with this week’s title. But the truth is that you can step into any Crossfit gym in the world, at just about any time, and you will see people struggling to get their chin’s up and over the bar.
This is far more common in new athletes who haven’t yet developed enough strength in the hands, upper back and abdominals. Even with band and box-jump assistance, this basic lack of strength naturally leads to poor position and mechanics. Legs curl, backs hyper-extend, and faces strain as gravity continues to do its thing.
More advanced athletes also have their fair share of problems. While they might look good piling up the kipping reps during WODs, the eventual emergence of shoulder pain and injury is a sure sign of fundamental weaknesses that were never addressed.
Here’s the basic problem. Barbells are the most effective, versatile and standardized tool ever devised for developing human strength. Whether you’re bright green and brand new, or world class, you can progressively load a bar and build strength in all joint positions. But that’s also an inherent weakness – You can hide behind a light barbell for too long, never having to face your true weaknesses.
But that’s just not so in the pull-up, is it?
Pull-ups are like squats for your back. Photo: Josh Homes
We all have to work on our gymnastics skills precisely because gravity rides everything, especially you! Without a barbell to unload and scale down, or bands or boxes to lean against, we are forced into sorting out and refining our ability to move our own flesh correctly.
You need to build your pull-up from the bottom-up, which means taking the time to mobilize and strengthen the wrists, scapulae, hip flexors and abs with key assistance drills BEFORE you try to be a workout hero. Master the progression we discuss on this week’s show and TechniqueWOD, incorporate some of our programming tips and you will establish a strength foundation that will allow you to make continual progress on the pull-up bar and muscle-up rings.
I know that might sound impossible now, especially when gravity is feeling so heavy. But that’s a temporary thing. Master the fundamentals first and you won’t feel like a zero for very long.
If you have any training questions for us, just leave them in the comments below. We’d love to help out.
Enjoy the show!
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.