How To Get a Strict Pullup in 4 Weeks

Weekly Programming Links:  Group ClassVenice Barbell Club, Track Night

Monday, April 28, 2014


Fire Hydrants
Foam Roll Glutes
PVC Dislocates
Keg Drill
Banded Overhead/Lat Distraction


2x Rounds, unbroken set with empty barbell:
5 Back Squat, 5 Front Squat, 5 Overhead Squat
5 Strict Press, 5 Push Press, 5 Push Jerk

Classic Strength

Back Squat 3×3- Rest 2 minutes between sets
Press 3×3- Rest 2 minutes between sets

Notes:  You will perform your back squats first, then your presses second.  This is the same work being performed as the Advanced strength, except without percentages.  This is designed for the newer athlete that does not have a true 1 rep max, but we still want you to keep track of these numbers because you will be repeating them over the coming weeks  Perform 2 warmup sets and then add weight each set as needed.  The last set will be like the advanced where you will perform as many reps as you can.

Advanced Strength

Wendler Cycle 1, Week 2

Back Squat: 70% x 3, 80% x 3, 90% x 3+
Press:  70% x 3, 80% x 3, 90% x 3+

Notes:  Percentages are based off 90% of true 1 RM. When you see 3+, that means you do the max reps you can manage with that weight, with the goal of setting a rep record in each workout.  Perform a few warm up sets before getting into your working sets.  Keep rest intervals around 2 minutes.  Click HERE for a full description of the Wendler 531 cycle.

Classic Conditioning

AMRAP 16 minutes:
Row 500 meters
5 Power snatch (95/65)
10 Overhead squats
15 Pull ups 

Notes: If unable to achieve full depth in the squat, sub with front squats.  Ring rows may also be performed. 

Advanced Conditioning

For time:
Row 1000 meters
30 Squat Snatches (135/95)
50 Chest to bar Pull ups
-20 minute cap-

Cool Down

Couch Stretch, 1 min each
Pigeon Stretch, 1 min each
Lat Stretch, 1 min each


A recent change in our gym has been an increased emphasis on goal setting and tracking to measure progress.  Step one is to set a goal.  Step two is to set up an action plan.  Step three is to execute that plan.  As you measure progress along the way you might leave things exactly as they are if progress is good, or if progress is stalled you might reassess, adjust, and execute a new plan.  You continue on this path until your goal has been reached.

Three months ago Diso posted our official “How To” guide for getting you first Strict Pullup for the EIE competitors.  One month ago I reposted it with the reminder that working on strict movement with full range of motion will help everyone with all pulling movements regardless of your current physical ability.  Today, five weeks after my last post, I wanted to share a successful case study using our How To Get Your First Strict Pullup Guide.  

Stephanie started with zero pullups.  She started Crossfit nine months ago and had little to no upper body strength.  She started exclusively on ring rows, eventually moved to strict pullups with blue/red band combo, one day magically figured out kipping with that same band combo, and now does high rep kipping pullups in workouts with a blue band, and can perform a few kipping with just a red band.  Her number one goal since joining PCF has always been to get one strict pullup, and it was finally time to attack her goal head on using our Pullup Guide, which we would follow to the letter:  3x times a week, 5×5 Negatives with red band, 5 second descent, 3 sets pullup and 2 sets chinup grip, as well as 3×10 Strict Pullup with red band and partner spotter, 2 sets pullup and 1 set chinup grip.  Her before tests were 0 strict pullups (couldn’t get out of bottom at all), 0 pullups with purple band (got 1/3 the way up), and two pullups with red band.  

After ever session she was extremely sore in the lats and/or biceps.  Very quickly, during the third week,  I noticed her chinup grip was becoming very strong, I barely had to give any help at all in the first few reps of the strict set.  So in week three I asked her to do her first strict chinup (palms facing in).  She did it no problem.  She still couldn’t do a pullup in regular grip but I asked her to do an unbanded kipping pullup.  She did two perfect reps, her first.  A week later she looked even stronger, and we tested if she could do a switch grip pullup (one palm facing in and one palm facing out), which was no problem at all.  Right now she is still only halfway up with a strict pullup with both palms facing away but I’m not worried, that’s right around the corner.

4 weeks, 12 sessions, 300 negatives, 360 strict reps is all it took to go from not even being able to come out of the bottom at all, to having the strength to do one legit switch grip pullup and two unbroken kipping pullups!  

The 5/3/1 cycle is starting it’s second week today, and I predict similar results if you stick with the lifts for each of the the consecutive seven weeks.  As a reminder, we will be doing the Back Squat/Strict Press on Mondays, the Bench Press on Wednesdays, and the Deadlift on Fridays.  Only one workout per lift per week.  If your goal is to increase your strength in any one of those lifts, the action plan is one workout per week, only eight sessions in total.  Now it is up to you to execute that plan.  We will retest in two months, and at that point you can reassess your progress and make adjustments as needed.  If your goal is the Pullup, like Stephanie’s above, talk to a coach, go to open gym, or pair up with a  friend and follow the template.  It will leave you sore, increase your upper body strength, and help you reach your goal much quicker than you think!

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