We got through Strict September…practiced Kipping into October…and now it’s time for No Band November!
For the month of November, bands will be off limits as a scaling option. (Yes, you can still use them as a stretching aid.) So what do you do if the workout calls for pull ups and you don’t have them? Your coach will have specific advice for you based on your capabilities and the details of the WOD, but here are some general ideas to get you thinking:
I. Reduce volume
- If you can do the movement at all, do at least one rep
- This way, you will still get to practice the movement, but won’t get hung up on it in a WOD
- Do 5/round instead of 10/round
- Or if the workout calls for 10 reps per round, do 2, then finish with a different movement
- 10 pull ups/round might become 2 pull ups + 8 ring rows
II. Modify the movement
- Ring rows!
- These are a fantastic option. The most common complaint I hear when I suggest ring rows is, “But they’re too easy.” If they’re too easy, that’s because you’re choosing to make them too easy: YOU get to control the difficulty level, simply by changing where you place your feet.
- Pull up/chin up negatives
- Another great option for strength development
- Jump up, hold at the top, then SLOWLY lower yourself to full extension (aim for a 2 second hold at the top, then 3+ seconds to lower to the bottom)
- These can be tricky in a conditioning workout, because you have to be disciplined enough to force yourself to go slowly
- Reducing volume is key to managing the stress on your muscles — if the WOD has 20 pull ups/round, doing 20 controlled negatives is NOT a good way to scale. Try 5-7 instead, and make them all perfect.
- Toe spot pull ups
- Also fantastic for strength development.
- Sometimes impractical in a WOD, since setting up takes up a fair amount of space on the pull up rig.
- Like pull up/chin up negatives, these require you to be disciplined enough to go slowly
- Jumping pull ups
- These can be either fast or slow
- Set up so the pull up bar is 1″ below your wrist
- Start at full extension, use your legs to jump chin over the bar
- DO NOT control the eccentric (lowering) portion of the movement
- Good option if you want to focus on conditioning and not upper body strength
- Set up as low as you can
- Use your legs only as much as necessary, so your arms still have to pull hard at the top
- You can control the eccentric to make these more like a pull up negative
- Good option if you want to focus on building strength
- Reducing volume is key with both options. Otherwise, all the eccentric loading will create too much stress on your muscles
III. Think outside the box
Pull ups and ring rows are not the only ways to work on your upper body pulling strength. Depending on what YOU need to work on, there are many other movements that can help you improve. Not all of them would be appropriate in every scenario, so check in with your coach to see when one of these options might be a good idea. Here is a small selection:
- Static hang
- Renegade rows
- Bent over DB/KB rows
- Kip swings
- Bicep curls (yeah, I went there)
IV. Final considerations
Group programming is inherently general, because we are programming for a wide range of abilities. Yet we place a high importance on making sure all our members get what THEY want and need out of their fitness experience, and we realize not everyone has the same goals. If CrossFit is the one hour of the day when you get to just come in, turn your brain off, and sweat and relieve stress…maybe you don’t want to think about setting up a toe spot station and combining that with kip swings. Maybe you just want to do ring rows and call it a day. That’s fair. Make sure your coach knows that, so our expectations for you are aligned with what you are looking for.
If, on the other hand, you really really really want to be able to do strict pull ups, you should be intentional about your choices. If you do ring rows, treat them as a strength movement and make them hard! In general, if you are scaling a movement and breeze through your sets unbroken, you’re making them too easy. Watch the people who are doing pull ups RX — chances are even our most experienced members aren’t going through all their sets unbroken. You should be working harder than they are on strength development if you want to get to their level!
The key here is knowing what you want, then being disciplined enough to use an option that will help you move toward that goal. If you really want to get better at pull ups but keep getting distracted by your desire to finish faster than everyone else, you won’t make much progress. Slow down now so you can go fast later!