Barbell Shrugged

How to pimp your pull-ups – Episode 181

Doug Larson

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  • I’ve been crossfitting for 5 months and my pull-ups have improved. I weight essentially the same (240# @ 6’2″), I can kip my pull-ups in sets of 3-5 without bands, and when I started I couldn’t kip a single pull-up. It’s clear through all my stats that my body composition is changing and I’m clearly getting stronger. Clothes are fitting better, etc…

    Obviously if I weigh less my pull-ups would improve, but I don’t want to crash diet or change much regarding my diet considering the energy I have for WODs (which is always high, and always leaving spent). My question, I guess, is would focusing on dropping weight be worth it even with the simple risk of losing gains in strength and overall energy? Or should I get huge in the shoulders and lats and pull-up my 240# ass.

    Now that I’m writing this I sound impatient, so if that’s the case let me know. Otherwise, where should I spend my efforts?

    • Sounds like you ARE doing just fine. I wouldn’t change much, other than making sure your mechanics are sound when you do strict reps. Also, make sure you work in doing work without the Kip.

  • I have really bad shoulder pain mostly as a result of doing kipping pull-ups before I had a solid foundation of strength. Now I can’t do pull-ups at all because it hurts like hell. Would there be any benefit in doing things like lat pull-downs to build strength and stability? I have tried them and they don’t seem to hurt too much.

    • They are better than nothing, for certain. Also, ever-present in the world of powerlifting, strongman, bodybuilding. Do them, while you work the progressions from this week’s episode of TechniqueWOD, and you’ll improve quickly.

  • Excellent show gentlemen! I struggle with pull-ups after a rotator cuff strain years ago and have been looking for scaling into strict form. This is exactly what I’ve been looking for! Thanks!

  • Doug mentioned the supinated dead hang to help with mobility. What area of mobility does this help improve? Is it for internal shoulder rotation or a different area?

    • It’s easier to grab the bar overhead with palms facing you. If there is a mobility issue in the shoulder, this is a way around.

  • Hey guys.

    Greetings from Malaysia.

    Great podcast. The bulk of this podcast elaborates on how to progress up to a pull up. But there is little emphasis on how to progress past that.

    The first question is where to go from there? High volume kipping pull ups? Legless rope climbs? One armed pull ups?

    Second question is the progressions to get there.

    Again, thanks for the awesome content.

    • Baz, you’re talking about another show here, aren’t you? We wouldn’t try to cover all that at once in just an hour. You wouldn’t walk away with enough info.

  • I loved the podcast. It gave me a different perspective. I hurt my shoulder by attempting kipping pull-ups and I was a loyal customer of the bands. I stopped using them and now during a WOD I try to do ring rows, but now after watching this I have more options. THANK YOU!!! Anyway, my question is: Are there any strengthening exercises you would recommend (a side from the ones you showed) I could do to achieve my first strict pull up? Something I can do after my WOD or before or on my active rest days. My goal for the year (among other things) is to attain my first strict pull up and I am just not even close… AT ALL!!! HELP! You guys are amazing! 🙂

    • Hi Nana! the way i got mine was 2 part. I had mounted a pull up bar outside the garage and every time i went past it i would jump up and do a pull up (using the jump as assistance as needed). As time passed i could get the pull up using less of a jump.
      2nd was using the technique demonstrated in the technique wod on this page, at about the 7:30 point. Laying my toes across the box (or bar stool in my case) let me extend my legs as needed for assistance to reach the top of the pull. I concentrated on using my upper body to do the work, but let my legs give me to boost needed to finish the rep. This technique also let me do workouts with pull ups in a timely manner.
      I came up with the bar stool technique 10 years ago when training in the garage alone. So i was SUPER STOKED when i saw these well educated guys suggesting the same thing!
      Take their warnings about kipping seriously. Build the foundational strength 1st. I thought once i could kip there was no reason to go back to strict. Then i trashed my shoulder and couldn’t do any for a few months. Now i’m using strict for training when there’s not a timer and for building strength, and I will kipp during WODs that have a timer running. -corey

  • After years of lifting the only method I’ve know to teach my wife to do a pull up was using a band or lat pull down. Thanks for this episode, it was my favorite for sure and I think I turned my wife onto your podcast! I’m not a crossfitter and I’ve never seen these exercises taught before. I tried them today and what a workout! Thanks again fellas.

  • I round my back when doing squats and deadlifts. What exercises can I do to strengthen my back to do these lifts correctly?

    • Much more time spent doing back raises with holds at the top, good mornings, stiff-legged deadlifts, barbell rows, sit-ups, farmers carries…you name it, you must build a stronger trunk.

  • THANK YOU so much for this episode!! I have yet to get a strict pull-up, but can manage to do single kipping pull-ups. So having these exercises and progressions to work on is great! I’m excited to do these and to see improvement. Your desire for good technique and safe progression is much appreciated! Thanks again.

  • I know I’m behind, but I just watched this episode this week. I’m just to the point where I can do 4-5 strict pull-ups unbroken. This is big progress. The next step i want to get to is C-T-B. Is this the same progression? Does the ability to do more strict pull-ups eventually lead to one CTB pull-up? Should you do negatives from the chest? Is that another technique WOD waiting to happen?

    Thanks, and I love the show.

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