The Take-Home Pull-up Strength Program: or how to get your first pull-up!

The Pull-up: it’s a simple movement, an essential tool for upper back, trunk, and grip strength, and a crucial building block for all gymnastics movements. If YOU want to get your first pull-up, get better at pull-ups in general, or simply use this cycle to the fullest extent you can – peruse this post!

If you are implementing any of the programming in this post on Tuesday and on Thursday of this cycle you may use the back space (where the tires, etc.) are kept for pull-up strength work.  If you choose to be in the front of the room you will be asked to reserve your work to a place that the Coach designates to provide room for any remaining classes to continue uninterrupted.  Please be mindful of the volume of any talking you do with others.

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Looking to get your first pull-up?  Start with this example and this program:

Let’s say my best pull-up right now is a Light Band plus Mini Strict pull-up.  This means this pull-up is 100% legit chin over the bar: no reaching for the chin over bar – MAYBE I want to be even more strict and say this pull-up must be collarbone to bar.  I must define for myself whether or not I will be doing just pronated grip or just supinated grip.  Whichever one you pick, I would go for the one that is hardest (that will also make the one that is easier better in most cases).

On Tuesday: I will attempt to complete 10 singles at the Light Band plus Mini level.  I need to rest as long as necessary to make these pull-ups happen OR I can make the pull-up slightly easier by adding a micro band or another mini band.  Regardless, the 10 reps that I complete must be 100% legit reps and they should be relatively fast.  At no point should I feel that I am stalling long enough for someone to yell at me to go faster. This part is CRITICAL – the program will not work with slow reps. I can just complete Tuesday, but Thursday will also help.

On Thursday: On Thursday, I want to pick a band that allows me to do a hard, but fast set of 3.  This might be the Average Band for me.  If I am using the average band, I must complete a total of 8 x 3 pull-ups (8 sets of 3 reps of pull-ups) with the Average Band that are 100% legit – I can rest as long as I need to between sets.  If I can complete 8 x 3, then the following week I will attempt to 6 x 4, then 5 x 5, then 4 x 6, then 3 x 8.  Once I’ve reached this point, then I go back to the beginning with a more difficult band, or I can add an exact amount of weight by strapping on a belt.  If I choose the band option I can move to a Light Band plus Mini plus Micro combo for another 8 x 3.  If for any reason this option is impossible for me to complete I can also begin this program’s process with 10 x 2.  And then, work my up from there – again, with 100% Legit reps – where EACH of these reps should be smooth (not EASY, but not ever REALLY stalling).

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Looking to get your first 10 strict pull-ups in a row?

Follow the same protocol as above but instead of a band. When you get to the bit on Thursday where you might be completing 3 x 8.  Attempt a set of 10 the following week.

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Looking to get better at kipping pull-ups or chest to bar pull-ups?

Complete the same protocol but with kipping pull-ups if you are fairly new to them or, if chest-to-bar pull-ups are fairly difficult for you but try to complete Tuesday as strict pull-ups and Thursday as kipping pull-up sets.  Additionally, if you are completing chest to bar pull-ups, try adding in one more day in the weekend where you complete 3 max attempts in a hold at the very top of the chest-to-bar pull-up and to keep yourself honest, attempt to hold an abmat between your chest and the pull-up bar as you hold.

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Looking to get better at doing kipping pull-ups for longer?

Pick a certain number of pull-ups that you want to proficiency to be able to do – let’s say, a total number that you want to be doable for you (150 chest to bar pull-ups? 100 kipping pull-ups?).

From there, pick a way of breaking up these reps that you can manage mentally.  So, in the case of 150 chest-to-bar pull-ups, let’s say that you believe 10 chest-to-bar pull-ups at a time for the first 100 reps would be doable and from there, 10 sets of 5 reps.  If it’s 100 kipping pull-ups, maybe you can manage thinking about doing 5 sets of 10 kipping pull-ups, and then 10 sets of 5 to complete the allotted reps.

Finally, choose a time that you would like to complete these by.  An ideal time for 150 chest-to-bar pull-ups would be 7 minutes for men and 9 minutes for most women.  Times below that are completely normal.  For 100 kipping pull-ups 4-5 minutes for men and 6-7 minutes for most women are ideal.

Lastly, complete this total number of pull-ups broken up into sets one day of the week (preferably Tuesday) outside of the normal volume of pull-ups you might be doing in workouts of the day. So, on Tuesday, no matter how long the 150 Chest-to-Bar Pull-ups take you in the sets and rep schemes that you’ve chosen, complete the reps you’ve allotted.  Obviously, if you’ve over shot and 150 C2B Pull-ups done in the format above takes an hour – you need to reassess your volume.  At the start, no amount of pull-ups should take you more than 20 minutes to complete.

Also, do keep tabs on your hand health throughout this process because it will greatly affect your ability to train at all and your ability to progress within this program specifically. Use this article as a guide.

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