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Why You Should Master the Strict Pull-up

“If I was starting over, I would devalue the kipping pull-up and let it occur naturally. People that can’t do strict pull-ups and are trying to kip are wrong.”  – Greg Glassman, CrossFit Founder & CEO

Woah. That’s a pretty strong statement coming from “the original coach” Greg Glassman, that he REGRETS teaching kipping pull-ups as a foundational movement (here’s the full interview, 30:30).

He goes on to discuss how kipping pull-ups are not an actual gymnastics movement, instead it is something that happens naturally when doing pull-ups at a high volume (think 20 to 40 to 60 pull-ups), what Coaches like to refer to as “time under tension”.

The reason for his regret is athletes that are fixated on “doing RX” or “keeping up”  instead of focusing on the foundational movement and following CrossFit’s mantra of Mechanics, Consistency, Intensity (ever wonder why Dog Fight has it on the walls around the gym?).  An athlete should master the mechanics of a movement, then be able to perform that movement mechanically sound on a consistent basis, prior to increasing intensity.

When it comes to advanced movements such as the kipping pull-up or butterfly pull-up – they should not be attempted until an athlete can do at least a handful of strict pull-ups.  However, time and time again we see athletes in the gym attempting to move on to kipping or butterfly without mastering the foundational movement and strength required.

The correct order of operations are as follows:

  • 1 strict pull-up
  • Handful (4+) of strict pull-ups
  • Kipping pull-up
  • Consistently perform & string together kipping pull-ups (10+)
  • Strict behind the neck pull-ups (3+)
  • Butterfly pull-ups
  • Bar muscle-ups
  • Ring muscle ups

If you do not have the mechanics of a movement mastered, with the ability to repeat them consistently, you should not attempt the more complex movement.

“So where do I start?”… you may ask

If you are on Day 1, attempt a strict pull-up, progress through the list until you hit technical failure.  At that point, a coach can help prescribe strength or mobility drills to fit you such as: bicep curls, ring rows, lat pull-downs, jumping pull-ups, beat swings etc. The coaches at CrossFit Dog Fight are here to help, ask us!

At the end of that day, if you’re lacking strict pull-up strength, then you likely have some holes in other areas. Strict pull-ups carry over to nearly ALL higher-level gymnastic movements, so without them, odds are you’re not able to Rx a lot of workouts (not yet anyway).

– Coach Sarah

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