The Pull-Up is not only an individual goal for many of our members, but it's often one of those movements that determines the member's option of punching "Rx" at the end of a daily workout. And, without a doubt, Pull-Up efficiency dictates the speed and pain of a workout.
Last week, we blogged about the kip. If you missed it, take 5 minutes to read it HERE before we keep moving.
Now, let's apply the information about the kip and talk about the 5 common mistakes we see when athletes are doing Pull-Ups.
1. Your Kip Isn't Kipping. Yes, we gave you an entire blog on the kip. But we'd be doing you a disservice to not address the kip as the first common mistake. As the previous blog discussed, an inefficient or disengaged kip is simply taxing your body, shredding your palms, and setting you up for injury. Often, we experience this with athletes who learned to do kipping Pull-Ups using a band, which alters the muscle engagement of the kip and dimishes translation into a true kipping Pull-Up. You can spot it by any of the ways described in that blog post or by seeing someone perform a hefty kip with an aggressive pull and and not move upward. If you are incorporating a kip or butterfly into your Pull-Ups and aren't using it properly, then you're better off doing a strict Pull-Up or a modification.
2. You Are Wasting Energy. Let's assert for discussion's sake that you are getting at least some upward movement from your kip and can perform a kipping Pull-Up. The next common mistake we see is expending far too much energy performing the movement. That typically happens in one of two ways. First, athletes get to the top of the Pull-Up and pause. Similar to pausing on the rower or in the triple extension, it adds little benefit and puts the body under unnecessary additional tension. As soon as you clear the bar, get moving back into a new arch-hollow. Second, when returning for the next kip, athletes will push exaggeratingly away from the bar. Yes, you can't fall in a dead drop from the top of the Pull-Up and be (safely) loaded to perform a subsequent rep. But you don't need to push your body a great distance away from the bar, either. In fact, a massive push-away will likely result in a massive arch with the disengaged legs/hips and added impact on the grip. As you clear the bar, push away just enough to back down into a tight arch and ready to push into a tight hollow body and keep the cycle rolling.
3. Your Feet Are Flailing. As we talked about in the kip blog, the feet should stay together to leverage a good hollow body position. Often, we see the feet separate in the back swing and not returning together, even in the hollow body of the kip. This lessens the benefit of the kip. But, the feet can also fail you by being on the wrong side of the bar at the wrong time. It's common for athletes to perform the kip and pull upward to complete the Pull-Up, but forget about their feet. What tends to happen is the feet tuck back behind the athlete as the Pull-Up is being completed. This takes you out of the proper body position to transition into the next kip. When the head is in front of the bar, the feet are behind the vertical plane. When the chin is behind the bar, remember that you should be in a hollow body position, with the feet together and in front of the vertical plane.
4. Your Hands Are Failing You. The first mistake we see with the hands is the placement on the bar. The hands should be outside of the shoulders. How wide is contingent on preference, mobility, and even the style of Pull-Up being performed. But a position inside of the shoulders will limit the lat engagement and put the overwhelming majority of the load on the biceps and delts. The second mistake we see is the grip, itself. I'm not here trying to convert you into a thumb wrap vs monkey grip, so both camps can lay down their torches for now. However, either of those grip styles can be wrong if not active on the bar. The knuckles should never be pointing toward the ceiling; at that point, the bodyweight is in the fingers, risking failure or injury. The bar should be in the meaty part of the palm, with the knuckles pointed forward and an active wrist. This allows for controlled push-pull on the bar and active lat engagement.
5. You Aren't Building A Foundation. Kipping is intended to increase the efficiency and capacity of the athlete's ability to perform a Pull-Up. So often, athletes learn to kip into a successful Pull-Up but don't have the strength to do a strict Pull-Up. Similar to the advice in the kipping blog, think of the kip as a hack. It exists to add reps to your foundational Pull-Up capacity. There's a chart on the wall near the REV5 Fitness banner that prescribes a progression for strict Pull-Ups (this works for other movements, too, like Push-Ups). Knock these out a few times a week to build your foundation. If you can't do strict Pull-Ups, do toe-assisted Pull-Ups on a box or barbell. And don't forget about your hollow rocks, etc. This will not only make your groups bigger in the WODs, but it will strengthen the resiliency of the muscles performing the kipping Pull-Up.
All of you work so hard to perform well on a daily basis. You do it to be in control of your long term health, not because you are training to be a professional athlete. And the 10 tips in these two blogs should set you up for continued improvement and successful pursuit of that goal.
To your health...
PS - if you're not a member and are interested in what you've read, book a free No Sweat Intro HERE to continue the conversation with us.