amy flett pull up

You see the pro’s stringing them together effortlessly on The CrossFit Games, some in your gym just seem to do them so easy, but what does it take for you to get your first Rx pull-up? 

Or your first Rx Handstand Pushup? Handstand walks? Or even your first double-under?

For most CrossFit athletes, gymnastics movements are among some of the most difficult to master. But as you probably know, becoming a good CrossFit athlete requires you to be good all-round. Which means, yes, you are going to have to perform gymnastics skills. Especially if you want to take on one of The Girls Benchmark WODs.

And for most beginners starting out, gymnastics can be a very difficult especially if you haven’t done a cartwheel since primary school!

“Women in particular have a very difficult time conquering their first strict pull-up. Since the pull-up isn’t very technical, it’s mostly due to a lack of strength, not skill, that holds women back.”

The Banded Pull-up Paradox

Most CrossFit boxes have no issues in allowing athletes to throw bands on the bar to use as an acceptable scaling for pull-ups. While this is OK for WODs, it doesn’t help much for developing pure pull-up strength. We all know that one person who has been using the same thick grey band for the last two years. Heck, it might even be you.

There are several problems with using bands:

  • If constantly used they do not help increase pull-up strength
  • The elasticity of the band causes a very low amount of force produced by the muscles so very little, if any, strengthening is being gained
  • Often leads to weird kipping pull-up – which doesn’t help with a strict pull-up
  • still requires you to do work outside of the regular WOD

The most difficult part of the pull-up is the bottom half. So using a band takes away the strength your muscles really need to be able to perform the movement. Using bands constantly can also lead to a weird looking kipping pull-up which if not fixed with proper coaching can lead to incorrect form.

While bands are acceptable for WODs, to really improve on your pull-up you will need to get proper strength programming outside of the WOD from your coaches.

Mastering your first strict pull-up and then stringing a few strict pull-ups together will help you overcome these problems of using a assistance band.


How To Conquer The Pull-Up 

The pull-up requires a dedicated strength plan. Waiting for the day the ‘pull-up progression’ is scheduled into the strength component of a class isn’t going to cut it.

You need a dedicated plan that that will simulate the actual pull-up strength required. It requires hard work and patience to build the muscle strength for a pull-up. Get a coach to provide strength programming or practice some of these movements below.

The Dead Hang








How to do it
Find a bar and just hang as long as you can! Make sure to have an overhand grip with your thumb wrapped around the front of the bar

Why it works
You might be surprised but this exercise will really test your grip strength. If you can’t perform a strict pull-up there’s a strong chance you can’t hang on a bar for more than 30 seconds either. Having a weak grip is a contributor to pull-up weaknesses. The stronger your grip is, the greater your work capacity to perform pull-ups.

The Ring Row

The Ring Row_Pull up

How to do it
Set up rings to a height that is roughly at the hip. Hold on to the rings and slowly lean back until your arms are fully extended and your torso and legs are straight. Pull on the rings until your hands reach your chest. Do not use your hips to assist you. The stronger you are, the lower you can set the rings and bring your torso to the ground.

Why it works
The ring row is a basic back strengthening exercise. If the other movements are still too difficult, even after adjusting to easier levels, stick with ring rows for a while. A study in the International Journal of Industrial Ergonomics revealed that most pulling strength is exerted when the arms are 90 degrees to the sagittal plane (a vertical plane which passes from front to rear, dividing the body into right and left halves), which means this a great exercise for beginners to start developing pulling strength.

The Segmented & Eccentric Pull-up

the segment and eccentric pull up

How to do it

The name is a little crazy, but it’s the best way to describe what you’re doing. You’ll start on a box set up to a height where you can perform a pull-up. The great part about this set-up is that it can be adjusted to any strength level. If you’re very weak, you might have to stack some plates on the box so that you’re closer to the bar (you can even be just a few inches from the bar if needed). If you’re close to your first pull-up, you’ll be setting up a height that is a lot lower.
The reason it’s called a segmented pull-up is because this height will be referred to as a segment of the repetition. For example, if you are starting your pull-up on a height where your arms are bent 90 degrees, this is a half-rep segment.
Now that you have the set-up, it’s time to do some work. Pull yourself over the bar from this position. The next step is lowering your body down in a slow and controlled manner to a complete dead hang. You’ll have to pull your feet back to avoid hitting the box. A common mistake is people who lower themselves slowly to about halfway, hold it, then drop fast. You must lower yourself slowly throughout the entire range of motion to develop bottom half strength.

Why it works
This is known as eccentric-enhanced training. What we’re really doing is overloading the eccentric phase of the pull-up, which is the going down portion. Since you’ve never performed a pull-up before, you’ve never experienced that much resistance loading on the back muscles. A study done by the Journal of Strength and Conditioning concluded that eccentric-enhanced training results in an increase in concentric power. The researchers believe that since a heavier than normal load is applied to the muscles, an increase in muscle tension and cross-bridging of fibers occurs. Another benefit of eccentric enhanced training is that it strengthens tendons. This is especially important if you plan on performing kipping and other gymnastic exercises in the future. (See photos and original article here)


Progressing is simple. Get some programming from your coaches and commit to it. Every week make small gains to continually improve and strengthen your muscles. For the segmented+eccentric pull-up, lower the starting height by removing plates. For the dead hang just hold on longer each time. For ring rows, adjust your feet so your body angle is lower. These are simple ways to measure your progress. Repeat your program for as long as it takes to get your first Rx strict pull-up!

Read this article here for extra advice => ‘7 Reasons why you’re struggling with pullups’

Want To Get Strength Programming?

Join Our 8-Week Gymnastics Course Here Starting June 6th 2015

 Don’t have a coach to get strength programming for your first pull-up? 

Join our 8-Week course here now!








Click on this link here and RSVP via the Facebook Event

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When: Starting 6th June – 8th August 2015 – Every Saturday for 8 weeks

Where: WOF CrossFit, 9A Wall Place, Kenepuru

Time: 15:00-16:30 every Saturday

Who this is for: Adults only, suitable for everyone at any level, especially beginners!

Skills to work on: Pull Ups, Muscle Ups, Hand Stand Push Ups, Kipping, Hand Stand Walks, Double Unders

Most people have problems with mobility and skill when doing gymnastics movements so the first hour of the class will be working on addressing these problems.

At the end of the hour we will have a short gymnastics focused WOD (Workout of the Day).

Here’s what you get 

  • 8 weeks gymnastics and strength programming
  • Class every Saturday
  • Home work to do during open gym – this is crucial to get your first Rx Pull-up!
  • Practice in a safe and fun environment with 2 qualified coaches

Cost: $140  (for 8 weeks – prepay upfront to secure your place)

How To Pay

Payment can be made by cash or direct debit to WOF account.
Bank account: 02-0214-0167498-000
Use your name & gymnastics as reference

There are only a few spots left! Prepay now to secure your place and get your first strict pull up!

Amy committed to the programming we gave her and achieved her first strict pull-up!

amy flett pull up




Frequently Asked Questions

Why do we have to prepay?

Spots are limited so you will need to secure your spot. For this to work you need to be committed to the programming. Prepaying is a sign that you have voted to commit to this for 8 weeks

What if I can’t commit due to my shift work?
Please contact Anastasia directly and we will work it out.

What if i can’t pay $140 all at once?
Contact Anastasia and we will arrange repayments before course starts – must be paid in full before June

NOTE: no class on the 27th June due to Rising Stars 2015 comp and no session on the 20th June due to 2 years anniversary comp & BBQ

Click on this link here and RSVP via the Facebook Event

sign up now


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