Aimee competed in the 2013 Winter Open back in January, finishing the the thruster/pull up workout with the 3rd fastest time. Notice her good grip on the pull up bar.
Based on my time as a coach I have seen a lot of people start their journey into fitness and have picked up a few pointers that I feel may be helpful. The number one exercise that plagues most of us is the pull-up, and for good reason-it’s HARD! It’s not easy to pull our body weight off the ground, much less figure out the coordination of the kip! Our most prized possession, as a new CrossFit athlete, is the jumping pull-up; however, the jumping pull-up should only be the stepping stone to a bigger goal-the kipping pull up. I like the jumping pull-up, especially for our newbies, but it shouldn’t be relied upon. The goal of this article is to put this exercise into perspective, discuss what we are doing wrong and ways to fix it, and ultimately get that first kipping pull up.
The top picture demonstrates good grip position, with the thumb wrapped around the bar and knuckles on top.
The first “wrong” thing I see most often with the pull up is hand position. Everything, from how we grip the bar to how we extend our arms, matters in the kipping pull up. First of all, we need to use all 10 fingers when gripping the bar-wrap all those suckers around the bar, INCLUDING your thumbs! I know our old pull up structure has thicker bars and it was tough for some of you smaller handed people to get that thumb around but on the new Rogue rig, that should not be a problem or an excuse. The second problem we see among many of you is wrist position. Many of you pull with their wrists directly under the bar and knuckles facing back, or even down-not good. We actually want to grip the bar in that hook grip position, thumb wrapped on top of our index or middle finger and knuckles on top of the bar, pointed toward the sky. Once we get over the awkward feeling, this new full-fingered hook grip on the pull up bar will not only give us more strength in our pull but it also gets our shoulders in an more active position-it gets our shoulders and lats externally rotated, ready for the pull movement. The last thing we must touch on is bent arms, or not fully extending our arms while kipping. We need to get that full extension as we push away from the bar in order to get enough power and momentum to pull ourselves back up for consecutive pull ups. With bent arms, we are not getting all the power our body can naturally generate from full extension.
Two of our Basics members practice their banded pull ups during our post class Prep session.
Now, after pointing out all the things we do wrong, what can we do to do them right? Well, PRACTICE! We have all heard the saying “practice makes perfect”. And when we practice, we must practice with the correct technique-hook grip, knuckles on top of the bar and long arms. When we kip, the kip must be strong, trying to get eye level with the bar, contract the shoulders blades back and down, and keep our legs together. If you are going to practice, do it right all the time. It will be uncomfortable in the beginning as you get use to the new grip, but as you practice it, it will become more comfortable…just like everything in CrossFit. Also, if you have the kip down and it is simply the pull you struggle with, use a band. We have three different colored bands in the gym, varying in strengths, so as you get stronger you will need less help from the bands. The bands help build strength while still allowing you to do the full pulling motion. I hate when I hear someone complain about not having their kipping pull, only to find out they haven’t practiced. It’s not a natural movement, you have to teach your body to do it and you can only do that with practice, practice, practice.