Eli and Crossover Symmetry at CrossFit Invictus in San Diego

Follow the Steps: Don’t be too Eager to Progress
Written by Michele Vieux

It’s hard to believe that Pull-Up Awareness Month is already halfway over! Hopefully you’ve been practicing your progressions, which are KEY to not only getting your first pull-up but also to making sure you’re strong enough to perform strict reps, efficient enough to perform high volumes of pull-ups in workouts and stay injury free while doing so.

Always learn the strict movement before the kipping, even though strict movements are usually much harder to achieve. Why are strict reps important? Being able to do them ensures that your shoulders have the strength base necessary to support kipping pull-ups. Since there is no momentum involved, you are relying on your shoulder muscles to move the load (in this case, you) versus the inertia you create by kipping. Working towards your first kipping pull-up without a strength base (even with bands) can do some serious damage if you aren’t at your strongest. Nobody wants a torn rotator cuff, labrum, biceps, slap tear, or shoulder dislocation because they cut corners to kip.

Premature kipping, even with a band, will likely lead to overuse and other shoulder-related injuries. Strict pull-ups prep large muscles such as the latissimus dorsi, serratus anterior, lower trapezius, and also the smaller muscle groups – teres major, supraspinatus, teres minor, infraspinatus, levator scapula, and subscapularis – that protect your shoulder girdle from the intense movement of the kip. The small muscle groups are essential to keeping the shoulder supported and mobile.

It is recommended by Invictus that men be able to perform six unbroken strict pull-ups and for women, three unbroken strict pull-ups, before they attempt kipping. Want to make the jump from kipping to butterfly pull-ups or chest-to-bar? Shoot for 15-20 perfect, unbroken kipping-pull-ups first. Eyeing those bar and ring muscle-ups? Make those 15-20 pull-ups chest-to-bar and then a strict muscle-up! Those are just our recommendations and we realize that we can’t stop you from practicing and wanting to achieve the next level but we can recommend that you continue to follow your progressions until you get there.

If you’re struggling with your strict pull-ups, go back to the drills of Pull-Up May: Week One, all of which can teach proper positioning and activation in both the strict and kipping pull-ups and all of which can be performed without touching the pull-up bar. Also start incorporating some pull-up negatives at a 51A1 tempo (more info on tempo training here), chin-over-bar static holds, and scap strengthening exercises like the Crossover Symmetry System.

The next set of progressions – Pull-Up May: Week 2 – will get you up on the pull-up bar to feel the positions we learned on the floor yesterday and transfer them to the bar. Scap pull-ups will never be the same once you understand they are the initial movement of any pull-up. Struggle with them? Do more – the test is the prescription! You can even add a foot assist just like we do with the pull-up negatives.

Every progression has it’s purpose so don’t try to speed through and skip them – even if you already have pull-ups. The body awareness they create ensures you are conserving energy and being as efficient as possible. Ask a coach to help you find the ones you struggle with the most and incorporate those skills & drills into your warm-up or cool down. I hope to see ALL our athletes practicing these progressions this week!

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Lindsey JohnsonSteve SMichał GołdaJason Simon Recent comment authors
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Lindsey Johnson
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Lindsey Johnson

as always, great advice Michele!!!

Steve S
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Steve S

This is really solid advice for new and experienced Crossfitters alike. The great Invictus programming attracts many garage Crossfitters (like me) who have nobody around to call them out on stupidity. Just because CJ and crew are smart enough not to program 100 pullups 3 days a week doesn’t mean it’s wise for you to take on the work they DO prescribe, unless you have progressed as described in this blog post. This is especially true if you are 40+ and/or a heavier athlete. I’ve been doing this stuff for several years and have done 20 butterfly pullups unbroken, and… Read more »

Michał Gołda
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Michał Gołda

I already torn my rotator cuff and I need surgery, everything because I havent got this knowledge before… Listen to them and save yourself form the injury

Jason Simon
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Jason Simon

I just recently started following this blog and thought I would chime in. I actively crossfitted for two years starting in 10 and ending with a torn bicep tendon in November of 2012. I worked out in my own garage gym and to this day I have never met with a trainer. How did I tear my bicep tendon? Yup, kipping pull ups that I had never been properly taught. I’m just about a month back into crossfit and I am going slow and steady easing back in. The advice of this article is DEAD ON. Save yourself the injury… Read more »