The Art of the Pull-Up — From 0 to 1

Jan Spalding Race & Train 0 Comments

“After strength is built, another layer we work on is the confidence, or mental space, of our athletes.”

Chelssie Urankar, CrossFit 061

By Jan Spalding, RPM publisher

       Legs strong, abs fair, arms . . .inexcusable. This summer my mantra has been ARM—Arms Do Matter. I am accepting it won’t be overnight, rather, hoping for slow and steady progress

        I cashed in a Crossfit 061 gift certificate I had purchased at the Silver Mile Silent Auction, scrunched my shoulders, told my joints not to panic, and signed up. It just so happened 061 owners Chelssie and Nick Urankar were opening a second location in Mishawaka, Crossfit 574.

        Now I am talking ground zero when it comes to my upper body strength. (Interesting, you say, since for the past six years every three articles in RPM stresses the importance of cross-training.) Exemplifying my lack of strength by barely completing three quality push ups for Chelssie, I spontaneously changed my two-month goal of 10 pull-ups to a well-formed almost one.

        At time of print, I have completed my four Crossfit Elements Program classes that included assessment, base fitness testing, and form, form, form practice. As it says on the wall: “Form first, speed follows.” Now into the classes, I am amazed at progress. Joints and muscles I thought would hurt from the intense workouts already feel stronger. And when I need to take a break from my WOD-prescribed 80-plus burpees, there’s plenty of inspiration around. Crossfit can be a beautiful sport to watch.

        I have learned: Crossfit is high intensity functional fitness that incorporates overall strength, gymnastic skill and metabolic conditioning workouts into daily routine. New elements grow from mastering the current ones. For example, there are strict, kipping, then butterly pull ups that build from the beginning movement, which is simply, the pull up.

        “After the strength is built, another layer we work on is the confidence, or mental space, of our athletes,” Chelssie instructs. “The movement we teach inside our Crossfit gym can carry over into your regular daily movement patterns so we focus on teaching from the ground up, first with very basic cues then, as you begin to understand, we add more technical cues to the movement.”

        That said, won’t you join me? I’d like to get my one down before summer’s end (I did say I’m starting from 0, right?) and I invite any of you cardio-loving I-don’t-have-time-for-strength-work compadres to challenge yourself with the simple prescriptive below.

          Though I’m sure Chelssie would prefer you come to the gym for proper form, she’s given us great DIY techniques (below) using just a few pieces of equipment. Keep an eye on form and let me know how your are doing—misery loves company!

First: Work on hanging from a pull up bar. Get comfortable hanging under your own body weight, this is the first step to getting a pull up. Dead hangs are an effective way to build shoulder stability and grip strength.

Second: Build Pulling strength. You can do this with Bent Barbell Rows (pictured), Hanging Barbell Rows from a rack or Ring Rows.













Third: Find a friend. Havaing a spotter can help your “sticking points” and will allow you to get the proper resistance in the proper areas. Using a band also can add resistance. Have your spotter help you on your way up for six sets of five to start.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *