A practical progression to get to your first pull up

Gepubliceerd op 15 mei 2020 om 22:22


A lot of times people ask us how to learn the pull-up and although there are some neurological adaptations that need to occur, the most crucial factor for most people is organic adaptation meaning that they need to be stronger. We also feel like people don't really know how to progress or that people like to progress...real fast. This progression we showcase here is not the holy grail but it could provide a safe and long term framework to learning pull-ups with the right muscles working. We have seen people jump into pull-ups pretty fast, we like to analyze the steps before to get more data on the individual. If an individual is stuck at a certain point or is experiencing pain, you could be able to see some issues in the previous progressions. All the movements before the kipping progression are in this video:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QGU9pdD6Pdc


So the one and only goal of this progression is to get you to your goal as fast as possible taking into consideration that you don´t want any issues to occur in a later stage. Every step in this progression is equally as important and should not be skipped.

Scratch test 

The kipping pull up or basically any pull-up starts by analyzing shoulder mobility, scapular movement, thoracic mobility, and/or any other potential limitations in the upper body. You should be able to touch the opposite shoulder blade with the ribs not flaring and the elbow pointing straight up. 

Active hang

The active hang is to see if the scapula can stay in a good position for a period and if the grip is not limiting you too much. You can also see how the back and shoulder muscles deal with forces. You should be able to actively hang for 90 seconds with a full grip on the bar. This will ensure that grip and scapular stability will not be limiting factors in future practice. 

Ring rows 

The ring row is a basic yet effective strength exercise for the pull up because it trains a lot of the same muscles but in a more easy direction. It is also a really practical way to progressively overload because you can easily make it more difficult by lowering yourself down or creating a smaller angle from the body to the floor. You should be able to perform about 10 reps with the right mechanics in about a 45-degree angle. This to ensure basic upper back/bicep strength.

Feet elevated ring row

The feet elevated ring row is a more advanced ring row variation, it is not really an option to assist a lot with the feet. You should be able to perform about 10 reps with the right mechanics on a slow tempo. 


Isometric pull up 

We have progressed from horizontal pulling (ring row) to vertical pulling. We first start by analyzing what the back muscles do in this static position. After that it is basically just making sure the body knows what muscles need to fire in a ´non-complex´ situation, meaning you don’t need to move anything. You should be able to hold the isometric pull up for about 15 seconds consecutively with the right mechanics and the chin above the bar. This ensures one has spend time using motor pathways in specific ranges effectively.


Eccentric pull up

With a lot of exercises, we are eccentrically (lengthening phase) stronger than in the concentric portion (shortening). This gives us the ability to dial in the pull-up and get some similar dose-response even if we are not able to do the pull up itself. You should be able to perform about 6/7 reps with a descend of around 3 to 4 seconds with no change in speed during the entire range of motion. 



The chin-up is an easier version of the pull-up, the internet (a lot of people) claim that is due to the bicep being able to be more active. Not sure what science has to say about this but 99.99% of the people we have seen have a better chin-up than pull up. So we like to use this to our advantage by using the chin up to get used to getting your chin above the bar. You should be able to do around 8 reps with proper mechanics.



When a person can do some strict pull-ups, you should check the back muscles/shoulders to see if everything is working properly. Remember: just because a person can get his or her chin above the bar doesn´t mean it is performed correctly and that he or she is strong enough. We strive to be strong enough to do a proper pull up with everything working good, we don't just strive to be strong enough to make the movement standards. You should be able to do around 8 reps with proper mechanics to progress over into kipping pull-ups, this is a lot but it will ensure you have the right strength to move in the more dynamic kipping style. This will create a buffer for times whereas you have less tension in the upper body and fatigue is knocking on the door.

Why do kipping pull-ups?

Kipping pull-ups are allegedly increasing power output due to the ability to squeeze out more reps and get more volume in. Is this good or bad? That depends on the goal. In my opinion, most people who do CrossFit for fun are better off only doing strict pull-ups. If you want to do kipping pull-ups and are not competitive? That itself is not bad, I get that people want some variety...but variety should not come at a cost. When intensity or volume is high, there is less attention for proper form which will significantly increase the risk of injury. That is why the ´fitness industry´ has a lot of comments on CrossFit style pull-ups. Of course, a lot of those people are keyboard warriors, but there is truth in some critics that the pull-ups can be really harmful. people need to consider that some exercises are not really that effective for conditioning, the pull up is one of them. But again, off course it could be. It depends on the variables. Want to play it safe? Just do strict pull-ups.


Hollow/arch hold

The hollow and arch hold is an important piece to include in the progression towards kipping your pull-ups. It teaches very skill-specific shapes that will directly translate to the bar. Skipping this part will result in having bad motor control, but also in an increased risk of injury due to the core potentially turned off inside the kipping pull-up. You should be able to hold the full hollow and arch hold for 10 seconds with perfect body position and tension in the right places.


Beat swings 

The beat swing is basically the hollow and arch hold in a more dynamic fashion. It is crucial that you are now able to hold the hollow and arch position perfectly and adjust body parts on command. So this means that you should have ample body control. You should be able to stop on commando and be completely still.


Kipping pull up

Although there are a lot of kipping pull-up drills we have decided to not include it in this progression due to the specificity of those drills. If the right steps are taken, doing kipping pull-ups should not be so much of a deal to learn.




Make sure to take your time with these steps, a lot of times when we rush through certain progressions we end up doing a lot of extra work to erase bad movement patterns, inefficiencies or even injuries. 

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