So we’ve taken the bands away on the pull ups, now it’s time to get strong! But where do we start?


Let’s break the pull up down into it’s component parts. What does the body do when we pull up?


First we must adduct the arms. For those of you who don’t know what that means put your arms out to your sides reaching as far as you can. Then bring them back to your side. The action of bringing the arms back to the side is called adduction, bringing a limb closer to the center of the body. This requires engaging the lats and the lower traps.


Second, we must flex the elbows, pulling the wrists towards the shoulders. This is a bicep exercise.


So we must strengthen the lats, traps, and biceps to improve our pull ups. We’re going to break the movements down into exercises hanging from the bar, and exercises not hanging from the bar.


On the Bar


Lat engagement exercise. Basically hang from a bar with straight arms. Try to pull your arms to your side while hanging from the bar, keeping your arms straight, pushing your shoulders down . You’ll move up slightly, contract and bring yourself back down.


Pull up negatives. Jump up bringing your chin over the bar. Control yourself slowly down. This will move your body through the full range of motion eccentrically, strengthening the muscles required for the pull up. We don’t recommend more than 10-20 reps of slow negatives per day.


Weighted negatives. If regular negatives are too easy, but you still aren’t getting the pull up, add weight to the negatives. This will add stress the weak part of the movement and help you improve your strength. Again, sets of 10-20 are great. If you start to descend too fast then take the weight off.


Off the Bar


Bent over barbell rows. Hinge forward, pull the barbell to your chest between your belly button and your sternum. Add a pause at the top to engage the lats more effectively.


Dumbbell bicep curls. I know these are blasphemous in the CrossFit community, but to develop elbow flexion strength, there is no better movement.


Here’s a basic 3 day per week progression you could do weekly, with a rest day in between. Adding reps, then weight to the exercises as you are able.


Day 1 – 2 sets: Lat activation x 10, Pull ups negatives x 10

Day 2 – 2 sets: Barbell bent row with pause x 10, Dumbbell bicep curls x 10

Day 3 – 2 sets: Lat activation x 10, pull up negatives x 10, bicep curls OR bent rows x 10


Gradually add sets, reps and/or weight to the movements. I wouldn’t exceed 3 sets x 15 reps per exercise, or you’ll exhaust yourself.


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