Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Assisted Pull Up - Three Great Tools to Help You Get There

For many, getting that first unassisted pull up is cause for celebration.  And it should be.  It's a skill that is so often programmed in CrossFit® that a week doesn't go by when we haven't seen it on the whiteboard at least once.  And having pull-ups in your wheelhouse can make you feel like you are arriving at that level of fitness you've always wanted.

If pulling your chin over that bar unassisted is out of reach, here are a few exercises to develop that pulling strength necessary for success.

Assisted Pull Ups with Resistance Bands - here's the method that is one of the most common substitutions for the strict or kipping pull-up.  Many tie the band on the bar with the lark's head knot then step into the open loop.  And although this method works, getting into position in the middle of the WOD can be a bit cumbersome.  And if the resistance band is hanging too high off the ground, sometimes athletes can move bumper plates or boxes under their station to help them get their foot into the loop easier.  Those things can be tripping hazards or expensive step stools that take equipment out of play.

We've found that using the resistance band as pictured can be a better way.  By stretching the band between J-Cups, it's a bit easier to step into and out of and with both feet on the band, the assistance is more even.  And reaching over to unhook one end after you're done is easy and keeps the area under the pull up rig open.

Gymnastic Ring Rows - Gymnastic rings are a great tool for developing pulling strength and they are so scalable that anyone can use them.  The closer to parallel your position is, the more difficult the pull.  We've even added weight to the chest during ring rows at CrossFit Victor to increase difficulty.  To make them easier, raise the height of the rings.  As your starting position moves higher and higher, the difficulty decreases.

Jumping Pull Ups - Another use for Gymnastics Rings to increase your pulling strength is with the jumping pull-up.  The idea behind this movement is to bring the height of the overhead hanging rings to just below your wrist.  When you grab the rings at this height your knees and hips have room to flex and push off the floor to assist getting you skyward.  Although the static Pull Up can be used for jumping pull ups as well, the height adjustment capability of gymnastics rings makes them the better choice.

Climbing Rope Pulls - Using a climbing rope to develop pulling strength is another great option.  And we've seen a great way to scale the rope climb down while still providing great benefit.  With rope in hand, instead of climbing up the rope, instead, keep your feet planted and use the rope to slowly lower yourself to the ground while keeping your body in a good plank position.  Once on the ground, pull yourself back up to standing.

Rope Climbs - If the scaled rope climb doesn't present enough of a challenge, full on rope climbs will get 'er done.  With your foot position correct, the majority of your body weight is lifted by your legs but since the pull is done one hand at a time this movement a perfect supplement to the pull-up.

Any of these three great tools will help bring the serious overhead pulling strength needed for movements like the pull-up, chest to bar pull-up and even the muscle up.  So even if you aren't on the pull-up bar today, training these other movements will bring that unassisted pull-up closer and closer to in the bank.

Ready to add any of these great tools to your gym?  Click on any of the images above or visit us at for more great equipment for CrossFit® and more.