One of the questions I get the most is “how can I get my pull-ups?” The options I usually suggest are jumping pull-ups, pull-up negatives, banded pull-ups or partner assisted pull-ups. Check out these two videos from CrossFit Invictus on two other options. You can make this part of your warm up and/or cool down.

If you are working toward strict pull-ups, here is a great modification to throw into your strength portion or as supplemental work. Using this set-up allows you to get the feel of pulling while activating the scaps and lats. It also allows you to focus on pinning your chest to the bar (by driving your elbows behind you) at the top of the pull-up which is difficult to do with other modifications for the exercise.

Focus first on activating your scaps by performing a scapular pull-up which means you pull your shoulder blades down and tight. This should always be the first movement for the pull-up – whether it be strict or kipping – in order to protect the shoulder joint and get as many of its muscles involved as possible.

Next focus is to pull down with your lats and NOT your upper traps which tend to want to take over the world. If your shoulders and neck are creeping up next to your ears, your upper traps have taken over. Reset and then try again. You might need to use a lighter band if this is difficult for you to achieve.

Finally focus on your chest-to-bar position by driving your elbows behind you as you pin the bar (PVC in this case) to your chest. Hold those scaps tight as you return the bar to the overhead position in a slow and controlled manner.

If you are working toward strict pull-ups, try this modification for when they come up in your strength OR conditioning workout. Keep the torso upright during the pull and make the movement more difficult by straightening your legs out in front of you and easier by bringing them in closer to your body to provide more assistance.

All of the other focus points from the band pull-down modification (above) apply to this as well. I like this better than the banded modification for most because it forces you to use your body weight for the negative versus riding the band down. With that being said, if you are having trouble with controlling your descent, a band might be a good option until you can achieve a 2-5 second negative in the seated position.

Being able to do strict pull-ups ensures that you are strong enough to safely kip so if that’s something you’re wanting to do, remember that we recommend men should be able to do ten unbroken strict pull-ups and women at least five before you even attempt kipping in order to prevent injury.



bench press 5 x 3

bent over row 5 x 3

CrossFit WOD:

4 rds:

200 meter run

15 kb sdhp 53#/35# RX+ 70#/44#

10 T2B

15 kb swings (same weight)

1 min rest