One thing that you will often hear me talk about, or unintentionally write about is methods to break through training plateaus. For a lot of people, myself included, plateaus are one of the biggest reasons we train. The presented challenge of doing just a little bit more than last time never gets old. As the primary Crossfit season “ends” a new one begins, maybe it's time to go over a few strategies to break through a "pull-up plateau."
1. Tempo Pull-ups:
A tempo is nothing more than a prescribed speed to an exercise. For example, 4 sets of 4 @4020 tempo means to do a 4 second decent or “negative” along with a 2 second pull to the top. Generally, tempo sets will have fewer reps, but the time under tension makes them a lot more challenging than a regular pull-up. Tempo work is great for building more muscle, and should often be resorted to by most athletes with 2 or less years of training.
2. Weighted Pull-ups:
There are a lot of different ways to incorporate weighted pull-ups into training. One common train of thought is to simply pinch a dumbbell between the feet for most sets. Once you are able to do 3 sets of 10 at a certain weight, go heavier. This is an excellent strategy for a Crossfit athlete looking to increase their pull-up capacity while preparing for a competition. Another method, which isn’t as common to see is to perform 7-10 sets of 2-3 weighted reps along with light accessory work like the Crossover Symmetry afterwards. This method is more likely to serve you well in the long run as the heavier loading and lower volume will elicit more strength adaptations. Developing a stronger pull early on in the season, coupled with the right Crossover Symmetry exercises, will leave a higher ceiling later in the season.
3. Fat Grips:
In my opinion, grip strength isn’t always given the credit that it deserves. I recently discovered these hanging out on the shelf under the stairs and have to use them to help prep for Murph this year. The first time I tried them, I noticed that they were dramatically harder than I anticipated. Although I have little experience with them, I believe that using them for a 6-8 week period of time for all accessory exercises would surely develop crushing grip strength. Being as versatile as they are, combinations of carries, rows, high pulls, and presses are endless.
If you're having a tough time stringing pull-ups together, or feeling strong hanging from the pull-up bar, give a few of these exercises a try!