pull up 1

This will be a two part series on improving your pull up. Today, we will focus specifically on pull ups with bands, and why we do not recommend them at CrossFit Wilmington.


Mastering the pull up is a major milestone in many people’s CrossFit journey. It’s also a movement that is many people don’t progress into properly, and end up stagnating on improvement.


Stop using bands to modify pull ups. They are ineffective at helping people build optimal strength through a compete range of motion. While they may help you get your chin over the bar, they are unlikely to help you build the strength required to do an unassisted pull up.


For those struggling to get their first pull up, where do they most often get stuck? Is it at the bottom of the movement, or the top? Have you seen or experienced getting half way up on a strict pull up only to stall out, and maybe kick your legs like you’re trying to ride an imaginary bicycle. I’m sure you’ve at least seen it happen.


At first glance adding bands seems like a logical way to get your chin over the bar on a pull up. You strap in and it propels you from the bottom to the top. Cool right? Not quite.


The assistance provided by a rubber band is actually inverse to the the strength required for a pull up. When you pull a band tight it provides the most assistance at the bottom of the pull up, where most people are already strongest. As we pull, the band gets shorter providing less assistance and requiring more effort. It provides the least amount of assistance at the top, where most people are weakest (remember kicking to get over the top of the bar).


So if a band provides the least amount of assistance where we need it the most, how do they help? In order to use a band to get over the bar, we have to pick one that provides too much assistance at the bottom, just so we can get over the bar at the top. Graduating from bands to regular pull ups is near impossible.


So, what should we use instead of bands?


Our suggestion for the middle of a CrossFit workout is to do ring rows or jumping pull ups. The jumping pull up is “self scaling” meaning we jump just enough to get our chin over the bar, but not more. Is jumping going to help us build strength to do a strict pull up? Maybe, but there are other exercises that will help us build strength more effectively.


Learn more about the best pull up strength building exercises in part 2, coming soon!