Licence To Kip: How To Get Your Pull-Ups


Ah, the pull-up.

Something I’ve always wanted to do, mainly because I figured I would feel like a total bad-ass being able to lift my own body weight. I’d be like Rocky…but daintier.

For the guys who have been training for yonks and can’t remember NOT doing a pull-up, it may not seem like a big deal, but for me pull-ups always seemed SO HARD, and I had no idea how to work up to them. Does anyone else feel the same?

When I started training at Crossfit-U in March this year, I was nowhere near having a pull-up. So when I finally got my first kipping pull-up, I was so shocked I almost fell off the bar.

“I DID IT, I DID IT, DID YOU SEE!?” I shrieked as I victory-danced my way around the rig (yes, I get a little bit excitable).

After that, I became even more determined to keep working at it, with the aim of doing my very first WOD without the assistance of a giant stretchy rubber band. But just as I was getting the hang of kipping, Cheongy and Coach B dropped a massive bombshell: get 5 strict pull-ups before you can do kipping pull-ups in a WOD.

Ouch. I almost had a training tanty.

Anyway, I am proud to say that yes, I managed to pump out 5 strict pull-ups and thus was granted my kipping licence to go sans band in the WODs. Yay!

So today I’d like to share with you some techniques and tricks I’ve learned that will hopefully also help you in your journey towards pull-up ninja-dom. Of course, if you want actual proper professional advice, I highly recommend asking your friendly coaches Ben and Cheongy. They are the true masters 😛

Christina’s Top 6 Tips For Getting Your Pull-Ups

1.    Be consistent with your training.

Yes folks, there’s really no other way around it. All I did for the first few months (and still continue to do) was show up 3 times a week. What happens with frequent, consistent training? Not only do you get stronger, but you will also get more opportunities to learn kipping techniques and practice your banded pull-ups in the WODs.

So sign up, show up, and don’t be late! (unless you love penalty burpees)

2.    Practice, practice, practice

I’m a big believer in the phrase: “If you wanna be, do.” So if you want to be an ace at pull-ups, take that bit of extra time to practice holding your own body weight.

Just take 2 minutes at the end of each session, jump on a box under the rig, grab the bar with a close underhand grip and hold yourself up with your chin over the bar. Hold for as long as your post-WOD muscles will last, then SLOWLY lower yourself to full extension. Repeat a couple of times. Need some motivation? Get someone else to do it with you – challenge them to a “hold-off”!

3.    Use an underhand grip

In my opinion, you’re more likely to get a strict pull-up with an underhand grip than a wider overhand grip (for me it is easier as it engages more of the biceps rather than the lats). Technically, this is a ‘chin up’, but hey, it still counts!  Just make sure that your arms reach full extension at the bottom, otherwise it doesn’t count.

This may be tricky for those with limited shoulder mobility…(I know, I know, another thing for you to work on. It’s ok, just keep calm and carry on mobilising…)

5.    Remember your technique!

It may seem like you’re only engaging your arms and shoulders, but as with everything we practice in Crossfit, your whole body should be working. This means keeping your core tight, legs straight, toes pointed and glutes squeezed tight – like you’re cracking a walnut, as our coaches like to say.

Importantly, keep your shoulders locked DOWN when you’re hanging there; don’t let them pop out of their sockets.
christina canters pullups crossfit

And finally:

6.    Visualise it

Did you know that many elite athletes use visualisation techniques as part of their training, where they ‘mentally rehearse’ an action or outcome to increase the chances of it actually happening?

Well I gave this a go, and I’m pretty sure it helped me get kipping pull-ups. I’m serious! I just pictured myself going through the kipping motion, swinging my hips and effortlessly floating my chin over the bar.

(In reality, I’m pretty sure my pull-up was a lot less elegant than what I visualised, but you gotta aim high, I say!) So try visualising your perfect pull-up in your head – it may just give you that last little push you need to get you there.

So I hope you’ve been inspired to keep working towards your strict pull-ups! Just remember: if you are still not quite there, don’t be disheartened. If I – with my little girly arms – can do it, I have every confidence that you can do it too.When it comes down to it, all you really need to do is just believe in yourself.

(And train like a rabid monkey.)


Bring on the next victory dance!


I’m a big kid now…