Thursday, July 17, 2014

Pull- Ups: Variations on The Bar (with pics & a video!) (a rehash from April 16th post)

When I first entered a Crossfit Box, it was like I had found the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow; not kidding. I felt honored to finally find where the super buff bodies were built and whipped into existence. My eyes opened to strength, hard muscles & extreme fitness! There were suddenly so many exciting technical movements to learn; oh how sweet! The first skill I really ached to learn was kipping pull ups, however to my demise, it took me over a year and a half (and one pregnancy) to learn them.

Watching an established cross-fitter, the pull up appears simplistic. However, anyone who has had to learn them (all of the us!) knows there is more skill involved than what appears. Now that I look back, it was mostly my mind that stopped me from nailing the kip.  With all the skills to learn, I put pull ups on the back burner once the reality of the movement took hold. My WOD pull ups always included the green band for the first year. The green band can be a necessary tool initially, but will work against you if used as a crutch for too long. Honestly, I stopped trying to learn my kipping pull ups and accepted that I would use the band for infinity & beyond. Luckily, an amazing coach (that’s you Bradley!) saw my potential & called me out on it (oh the nerve!) He worked with me after class to help me up to the bar to reach my goal!

My coach’s training progression had me standing on a small box (12”) below the pull up bar. I would grip the bar pull up style leaving my feet on the box, then lean forward and pull back. Each movement, I was either rounding my back or arching it while using my hips & arms to control the movement. It was me moving slowly through the pull up motion, moving back and forth ahead of and then behind the bar. Once I felt comfortable like this, I started to do a combo of jumping pull ups with the same swinging movement. This was all I needed for my body to change how it looked at pull ups, thank you cell memory!
This child-like joy is a gimme when swinging!
This practice went on for weeks and I did it every class until I was ready to get up to the bar without the box under my feet. At first, my leg swings were wild and too forceful, and using too much energy. But eventually as I kept doing WODS like this; my body got tired enough to find a flow that was more efficient. Thus, I welcomed my kipping pull ups with loving arms (pun intended!)  No band, no problem.

Yes! A kipping pull-up has happened

If you struggle with pull ups, believe me: I know all too well how incredibly frustrating it is! Mostly, you just need to remember that your body can be trained, don't self-defeat by thinking you can't do it. It also takes a lot of practice, so put in the time and you will get them, know that! And don't expect pull ups to magically work without the effort, that wouldn't be fair to the others who struggled before you!
Also be prepared for some brutal damage to your hands. Read this article for the Proper Care and Treatment of Your Hands. I have suffered many times with broken skin that will hold you back from a lot of pull up training, thus it's best to use preventative measures to avoid that happening.

As for learning other methods of pull ups. I know of two other versions: dead hang and butterfly pull ups. Butterfly pull ups are similar to kipping however, they are more fluid and take less time to complete. When you see Crossfit athletes competing in competions, they usually do butterfly pull ups because they are the quickest. Dead hang pull ups are static, and there should be no kip (no hip movement). I never really had to work on my dead hang pull ups, because they seem to come naturally after kipping. Where some people (haters) might say kipping pulll ups are not pull ups at all, I would beg to differ. The kipping pull up actually originated from gymnastics, thus the movement is in line with muscle ups and handstand push ups. There are all kinds of pull ups so it's best to vary your workouts with different styles of pulling yourself up to the bar.

How to learn butterfly pull ups, great video with Chris Spealer