Strength & Fitness

October’s Skill of the Month

What are pulling exercises and which muscles do they work?

Pulling exercises predominantly work and train the muscles of the back (lats, traps, rear delts) and your biceps. Typical exercises would include pull-ups, ring rows, bent over rows, chin-ups, bicep curls, lat pulldowns, and dead rows. 

Why do we need to incorporate pulling in our exercise routine?

Pulling exercises balance out our upper body strength. In our everyday life (and in CrossFit) we do a lot of pressing or pushing movements; shoulder to overhead, wall balls, thrusters, push-ups, HSPUs, burpees, dips, putting items, or kids over our head. Without the correct balance, our bodies can create mobility issues, postural issues (rounded shoulders), injuries, as well as, aches and pains. 

Pulling movements are also very functional. Think about getting out of a pool, pulling yourself up from the ground, pulling a large load or object towards you, even picking up kids from the ground. All of these movements require you to have a strong back and core to do them safely.

CrossFit and Pulling

When it comes to CrossFit the main pulling movements that we see are chest to bars, pull-ups, and muscle-ups, however, many of these movements also incorporate kipping. Kipping is a gymnastics skill that requires a significant range of motion in your upper back and shoulders, also known as shoulder flexion. You should be able to get into this position (like a superman) on your own before attempting to force your shoulders into it while hanging from a bar. This movement, also, requires a great deal of strength to protect your body from injury.

The kipping pull-up demands greater joint stability, strength, and control as the movement is done in a rhythmic and ballistic manner. In the event an individual does not possess sufficient scapular stabilization, midline control, and/or strength, they can easily create shoulder, elbow, and muscular issues. A kipping pull up creates a lot of torque on your upper body and puts a lot of stress on the tendons and ligaments of your arms, this is why you need to develop the proper strength before attempting these movements.

Strict pull-ups are the best option for the development of muscle mass and strength in the upper back, they are a functional movement and are relatively safe. Strict pull-ups will work to develop the concentric, isometric, and eccentric muscle actions through the range of motion trained and something we STRONGLY recommend. This means… building strength through the entire pull up; pulling yourself up to the bar, then hold at the top, and then lowering back down to a hang.

Both movements can be challenging for a beginner, however, the strict pull-up should be taught and developed first to maximize strength, muscle mass, joint and muscle tissue resilience to injury, and set the foundation for more advanced movements. We don’t want to force your body into places that it doesn’t go to naturally and/or drop your bodyweight repeatedly from the top of a rep when you don’t have the musculature to support it. OVER TIME, this will create injury and/or aches and pains.

We know everyone wants to get to those “sexy” movements, we just want to help you get there safely. This is why we will be focusing on these movements next month. We want everyone to build a solid base so that we can help you achieve ALL of your goals. If you have any questions about these movements or need mobility/strength progressions, reach out to a coach, we would love to help!!

Ariel Jauss

GM / Head Coach