My first post for this blog entitled “My Best Injury” detailed how I injured and then rehabbed my elbow and also my pull-up form while working toward conquering my first ever strict pull-up. At the close of that post in July of 2018, I was not yet close to completing a strict pull-up. Well, IT FINALLY HAPPENED! In January 2018, I made a solid commitment to complete a strict pull-up and almost literally a year later; goal accomplished! I have always been amazed watching CrossFit athletes perform body weight gymnastic movements. Part of this amazement is grounded in watching an athlete so elegantly and powerfully move their body with strict control; the other part has something to do with feeling like a kid again trying to do flips in the grass on a hot day. Completing a strict pull-up had actually become a life goal of mine, set prior to joining CrossFit. I will always recall being a third grader having to complete the Presidential Fitness Challenge. As part of the Challenge, boys were required to perform pull-ups while girls had to complete a bent arm hang for time. I vividly remember wanting to do the pull-ups but not being physically able to complete a single one (our gym teacher thought girls should give it a go alongside the boys). In fact, only one girl in our class could complete a pull-up – a farm raised girl – who happened to do more pull-ups then any of the boys! Ever since that day, I have essentially daydreamed of completing a pull up. CrossFit and the year 2018 finally gave me the opportunity and the planning capability to do so!
To accomplish a strict pull-up, I trained with an emphasis on the following aspects: 1) I focused on being able to perform an active hang in a hollow position, toes pointed, 2) I did a TON of body weight eccentrics starting with my chin over the bar and when I got really good at these, I started completing weighted eccentrics, 3) I focused on maintaining a solid hollow hold throughout the entire movement-core braced, rib cage not flaring upward, toes pointed; I did NOT want a pull-up with compromised form, 4) when a WOD involved a high volume of pull-ups I did use a band, but stuck to one with which it was still very difficult to complete the prescribed number of reps-focused on quality not quantity, 5) post-WOD I would complete a series of accessory movements including heavy lat pull downs, heavy bent over dumb bell rows, resistance band pulls, etc. My goal with these movements was to ultimately fatigue all pull-up muscles i.e. lats, scapula, rhomboids, traps, teres major and minor, even core, etc. in order to stoke hypertrophy and build strength and finally, 6) REST; after 2-3 training sessions 24 hours apart, I would take a 1 to 2 day break from pull up training. I found this recovery to be awesome for increasing my strength! Finally, I firmly believe cleaning up my nutrition and focusing on consuming whole foods including lots of lean protein, vegetables and fruit made an incredible contribution to building my strength while limiting body fat. It took a long time to accomplish this pull-up goal and there were times I doubted it would happen but I had confidence in the work I was putting in and the support of my box members and ultimately, the hard work paid off!