Aug 16 – How to improve your pull-ups!

When you first enter a CrossFit gym and carry out your onramp ones of the fundamentals you will be shown a pull-up or a version of the pull-up. In CrossFit the pull-up is classed as one of the more basic movements, however, in the gymnastic world a pull-up is actually one of the more intermediate movements.

You may have found yourself plugging away repeating the movements again and again and not getting anywhere, resorting to using a band for assistance every time, wondering why you are not improving.

Well, the answer is simple; using a kip or trying to progress too fast without base line strength is going to hinder your progression. In this article we will look at some of the best ways to increase your basic strength which will in turn help you to master the pull-up.


Practice hanging from the bar so that you are in a fully extended overhead position. If your arms are not straight, or your lats, chest or spine is tight, then you are already in a bad position to begin pulling as you are placing too much stress on your shoulders and spine, which could lead to injury.

Once you have mastered hanging in a fully extended overhead position with active shoulders, then and only then should you add in the pulling motion. If you find that you are really struggling to get this position then you will need to build strength whilst working on your mobility, so practice heavy deadlifts and farmer’s carries and bent-over rows to build grip and pulling strength.

Shoulder strength

Once you have nailed your mobility and worked on building your strength then you should try to spend some time purely hanging from the bar. It is a good idea to do “hangs” for time taking note of how long you can hang until you have to let go.

Bin the band

As you are looking to build strength it is a good idea to try to work on strict pull-ups as much as possible completing the full range of motion, full lock out at the bottom, to chin over the bar at the top.

Building strength

Ultimately your goal is to preform pull-ups with no band as efficiently as possible, so for this you will need to be as strong as possible. One of the best ways to build strength is through preforming ring rows. Ring rows can be progressed making them harder very easily by changing your body’s position or the ring position. Another very good way to build strength is through negative pull-ups, making sure you lower yourself as slowly as possible making the muscle work for time under tension.

Keep your eyes on the prize

Your goal is to achieve one pull-up so that is what you need to focus on, you do not have to complete a set of 10, just 1. Focus on that first rep then increase additional reps over time.

Resist the kip

Do not start using the kip in your pull-ups until you can do at least 5 strict, kipping just adds load to the shoulders even though it is more efficient.

Get on the rope

A great way to build strength whilst working on another of your CrossFit skills is to perfect your rope climb. Rope climbs are a great way to build upper body strength, especially in a pulling motion. You can also add in some rope pulls for variety.

Ultimately you need to listen to your body and work through all of the progressions before attempting to add the kip into your pull-ups. The longer you can stay away from the kip the better and the stronger you will become.


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