Discipline And Trying To Get Your First Pull-up

Some people know what they want. They make a plan (or ask their coach to make one for them), they do the work, and they get results. What is the difference between people who get results and those who don’t? DISCIPLINE.

CrossFit can be fun, but most of the time its just plain hard work in order to reach the result you want. And not everyone is willing to put in the work. Discipline is showing up and doing the work every single day without loss of enthusiasm.

Let’s discuss the concept of discipline by accepting a physical challenge and relentlessly working towards achieving a set goal. Let’s talk about strict pull-ups.

Everyone is obsessed with getting his or her first pull-up. I remember I was too. A movement that looks so simple is yet one of the most difficult exercises. Getting a pull-up is also one of the very first steps in working towards getting the muscle-up.

There are many exercises you need to do in order to get yourself on the right path to getting your first pull-up. Here is a list of some of those exercises and what you need to know about each one in order to benefit from them:

1. Banded pull-ups: Most people start out with the green band that is the one that provides the most support. Once you are able to do multiple reps comfortably, you can move on to the next band, which is the blue band and then the red band. The important thing to remember when using bands is not to get too reliant on them. The band is there to assist you in lifting your chin over the bar. You still need to be contracting your upper back muscles and using your arms to pull yourself up. Don’t get attached to the band. I let the girls at CrossFit Q8move on to a harder band and practice even if they can only do 2 to 3 pull-ups with that harder band. It needs to be challenging or else you’re wasting your time.

2. Negative pull-ups: This exercise is great and I still practice negative pull-ups to get me stronger. The idea of a negative movement is starting in the finishing position of a pull-up (chin over the bar) and lowering yourself in a slow and controlled way. You need to remember to hold at the top and come down as slow as possible. Dropping down quickly is not a negative pull-up. If you don’t have the strength to hold your bodyweight for a few seconds and lower yourself slowly, then you can do the same exercise but with a band. If you usually use the blue band, then use a red band for your negatives. That way you are getting a little bit of assistance but you are still using your own strength to perform the exercise.

3. Chin-ups: Another variation of pull-ups is a chin-up. A chin-up is when you have the palm of your hands facing towards you when holding the bar. Chin-ups are going to strengthen different muscle groups that will assist you in getting stronger with pull-ups. You can practice chin-ups just like pull-ups: with a band and negatives.

4. Ring rows: This exercise is neglected by many and passed on as a very easy exercise, when actually it can be very difficult. Ring rows are an excellent addition to your program for getting stronger with pull-ups. You use the same muscles that you would use when performing a pull-up. When starting out, you want the rings to be hanging at chest level and your feet slightly behind the rings when standing. Lean back and keep your whole body tight: abs, butt, legs, and back. When you pull your chest towards the rings, make sure you squeeze your back muscles and feel the movement. Once that gets easier there are so many variations to make this movement more challenging and beneficial. The more you place your feet farther away in front of the rings the more horizontal your body will be to the ground. This will make the movement much harder. Another variation is to keep lowering the rings and as they get lower it will get more challenging. One more variation is to lower the rings as far as they go and place your feet on a box. The level of your feet should be as high as or higher than the rings. This one is really difficult and I struggle to do it myself!


Each of these exercises needs to be practiced consistently in order to gain strength and achieve a pull-up. If you come to the gym and practice pull-ups once a week, then forget about improving your pull-ups. If you come to the gym and swing aimlessly with a band that’s way too easy for you because you don’t want to put the effort, then forget about improving your pull-ups. If you get excited and start doing the work one day, two days, one week, then start to lose interest and stop practicing and jump to a completely different goal, then forget about improving your pull-ups. Getting your first pull-up needs DISCIPLINE.

You need to be disciplined in training by practicing as often as possible. You need to be disciplined in training by doing all the steps necessary to get stronger. You need to be disciplined in training by doing the exercise with intent and real effort. You need to be disciplined in training by working as long as it will take without losing interest. Because those who stick with the program long enough, will reach the result they want. These are lessons that you should take with you when trying to achieve any goal, not just pull-ups.

P.S. at CrossFit Q8 some of our girls did the work necessary and achieved their first pull-up (woohoo!!). Also, the girls are not allowed to even attempt kipping pull-ups unless they have at least one strict pull-up. The only reason for that is safety. I’m not trying to be a mean coach. If you don’t have the shoulder and back strength to support you then a kipping pull-up is asking for an injury to happen.

Now put in the work and lets celebrate your first strict pull-up!

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