If you want to get a pull up…do these things…

This article is a short piece to help those of you who have asked us about pull ups, be it strict or kipping. Before I continue, let me say that I am a firm believer that if you can dedicate the time to something, consistently, it will eventually be achieved. The pull up is no different.

The purpose of strict pull ups simply is to build strength in the upper body; the other, kipping pull ups, is to produce a higher power output or roughly translated, to achieve more work in less time.  They are both different and are not intended to replace one another.  Given that being stronger and also increasing our work capacity are some of the main aims of CrossFit® we should be developing both. How, though?

Hollow Hold. Learn to love this position. It gives birth to a whole host of benefits for the exercises we use in CrossFit.

Ring Rows. Vary the angle at which you use the low set of rings. But, always maintain a hollow position and focus on using your arms and back muscles.

Strict Banded Pull Ups. Don’t be afraid of using a band to allow you to move through the full range of motion required for a strict pull up. 

‘Negative’ Pull Ups. These things are gold. Grab a box, step on it so you can then take a grip and hold your chin over the pull up bar. Then work your hardest to lower yourself as slowly as humanly possible. Think Neo from the Matrix dodging bullets slow. Adding in a  second hold for those who have kipping pull ups already is a big help too.

Bent Over Row. Assume the Deadlift position, unloaded, and while maintaining a flat back pick up a pair of Kettlebells or a barbell and pull the object to just below the Sternum.

Build more useful lean muscle and lose non-useful body fat. This one happens by showing up to the gym as often as you can, putting in the hard work and having control of your nutrition. Simple. There’s no magic pill here.  If you are unsure about what to eat,start here!

Your rule with the above is, you should never do two sessions in a row with the exact same method. Variety is key.  If you are wondering about reps and sets, just keep it simple 3-4 sets of 5-8 reps on any of the above, three times per week will have you on your way. Be aware, it could take up to 12 months for some people. Embrace it and you’ll be better for it.

Furthermore we run several pull up workshops throughout the year to help you boost your abilities.

Within the workshops we work through the differences in grip (overhand/underhand) and why you get more bang for your buck with your thumbs around the bar, particularly for strict work and if you’re just starting out in CrossFit.

We also talk through the scap pull up, use of negatives to build strength (Pull up negative), partial reps to build strength in specific ranges (Partial reps to improve specific range – bottom half and top half), and different rig set ups to help you build stronger pull ups (Low bar pull up – toe assisted, Low bar chin up – more top end range, Low bar pull up – feet elevated).

We then move on to kipping pull ups, where we took time to understand the timing of the pull combined with the kip swing with various drills that can be supported with a buddy (Banded kip swing – to make sure we’re moving through the torso not just the legs, Single leg box assisted kipping pull up, Kipping pull up with half pause, Kipping pull up with pause), the ideal shapes of a kipping pull up to identify what requires working on (C/I/J).

For further inspiration below is a great list of Pull Up Drills. Each one has a video accompanying it too!

Pull up negative

Low bar pull up – toe assisted

Low bar chin up – more top end range

Low bar pull up – feet elevated

Partial reps to improve specific range: 

Banded kip swing – to make sure we’re moving through the torso not just the legs

Single leg box assisted kipping pull up

Kipping pull up with half pause 

Kipping pull up with pause

If you would like to get some additional help with pull ups or any other gymnastics movement get in touch with us straight away for a chat!


In a headline: We have made mistakes, so you don’t have to. 

Doing more than just the Workout of the Day (WOD) and training back to back sessions is very tempting for a number of reasons. 

  • If you modified the weight, reps or movement you may feel you ‘didn’t get enough out of the workout’. 
  • You may have doubled up on a second WOD because you are eager to improve your fitness or readiness for competitions. 
  • You may just love the feel good endorphins of smashing two hours of working out and being around the gym and the community. 
  • Some folks want to drop the ‘extra weight’ they gained on holiday.

Below we want to discuss the best way to spend your time in the gym and outside of the gym to optimise your progress and ensure our community is functioning in the best possible way.  We hope to provide some education so you don’t fall into the trap that I and many of your coaches and co-owners have fallen into. 

We have made mistakes, so you don’t have to. 

Technique is everything. 

Firstly, let us  start with a quote from the founder of CrossFit® himself, Greg Glassman. We believe in this, wholeheartedly.  

Technique is EVERYTHING. Without it you will not express power in any significant measure and you will be remiss in trying. You may expend a lot of energy trying but you will not be efficient or effective in your efforts…

To make the most of the technical elements of CrossFit®, like gymnastics and weightlifting you need to be fresh. Your body absorbs the technical work better that way. 

If you smash a WOD and then go straight into Weightlifting or Gymnastics you are actually stunting your progress. Please, avoid doing this at. all. costs. If you DO want to train twice per day and you have had a good chat with a coach about the benefits for you of doing so, we would like to see AT LEAST 4 hours between sessions but ideally 6!*1

Under developed technique will of course influence your intensity (intensity being kilograms lifted or maintaining a certain pace) and without intensity you may feel like you missed out on your workout. But believe us, putting in the effort to get better technically will improve other elements of fitness you may not have considered. 

  • Coordination
  • Accuracy 
  • Agility 
  • Flexibility 
  • Balance 

And through the above it leads to development of Strength and Power.

This is why Practice Days make up 60% of our training days with built in rest to preserve quality movement. This is why we have several dedicated GYMNASTICS CLASSES for you to book into and why expert coaches are on hand for you to book in with for skills session if you so wish. 

Shapesmiths Top tip: Stay patient and ‘trust the process’ when it comes to getting better at barbell work and gymnastics. Work with your coaches to ensure you are ready to increase your intensity and when you do and are given a green light, don’t be afraid to push hard during your workout. It may hurt for a minute or two, but it’s where the results are. The only difference between your workout and someone else’s, is what you put into it. If done properly, there should not be a need to add a second WOD.


Have a purpose! More is not better; better is better.

We have often observed folks, who are really into CrossFit®, that load up and increase volume because they see the best CrossFitters in the world are doing two or three sessions per day, 4-5 days per week.

As you will read, further in this article, doing two sessions in a day is not necessarily a bad thing. You just need to have a purpose and understand the bigger picture. With no purpose and no big picture in mind you will simply break yourself down and impede your gains, brah! 

Having a purpose means knowing the energy system and muscular groups you’re trying to tax during a workout. Knowing how you are going to pace a workout to teach your body to thrive and not just get slower as a WOD progresses. It allows you to work smart and hard, not just hard. 


In order to see consistent progress in your time spent at the gym you are going to need to take some rest days. These days allow you to grow. They allow your muscles to recover. They allow your neural system chance to recuperate. 

An essential player in the recovery process is Growth Hormone (GH). It allows the body to repair itself after intense exercise through muscular hypertrophy and plays a significant role in the maintenance of lean body mass. Bigger picture: you should know that nearly 50% of GH secretion occurs during the third and fourth NREM sleep stages.

If you are regularly skimping on sleep, you are missing the body’s prime production time of GH, and thereby not recovering as you could or should be. Basically all the effort you put into your training was just thwarted by a significant percentage if you were sleep-deprived during it.


They could be for you if you are able to 

a) get enough sleep in the realm of 7.5-9 hours. 

b) you take one complete day off and one day where your volume is really low and kept to cardio/biking/trail running/yoga/swim type activities 

c) you have relatively low stress in your life. 

d) you can space the two sessions out by a minimum of 4-hours but ideally 6 hours so you can refuel, rest and recover. Back-to-back classes of any kind a huge NO.  

e) you can afford the time.

I think it’s pretty clear that only a small amount of people are capable of truly being able to hit all of the above. Therefore it’s wise to be sparing with any two per days. 

What extras can I do to keep progressing?

If you have some time and energy before or after a WOD, here are a few things you can do to get more out of your workouts:

  • Instead of doing an extra workout, practice, practice, practice! The more comfortable you get with the CrossFit movements, the sooner you’ll be able to add intensity to your workout.
  • Come into the gym 20mins early to prep for the WOD. During the WOD class utilise every available moment to practice.
  • Take advantage of any workshops and seminars. 
  • A little a day will go along way! Don’t kill yourself trying to perfect the snatch in one day. Practice a little everyday and you’ll get the hang of it.

As usual, come at use with any questions or follow ups. We are here for you!





*1 A Story, S Wong et al (2012) Eur J Appl Physiol. Divergent muscle functional and architectural responses to two successive high intensity resistance exercise sessions in competitive weightlifters and resistance trained adults.

Engine Programming Update!

Coach Vicky has been devising some amazing workouts that will boost your Engine, endorphins and energy in 45-60mins! Remember, Engine is still CrossFit®. We just press the simplification button when it comes to some of the skills (i.e. no barbells, or high skill gymnastics).

Heads up, the next 6 weeks we will be focusing on:

  • developing sustainable and repeatable efforts throughout the Engine program practice days.
  • in real terms this means learning by feel what pace you can move at sustainably for a number of movements and machines.
  • Single arm focus, with DBs & KBs to get ready for the open. If you haven’t seen, KBs are on the equipment list this year! The single arm focus is also great for those of you that want to increase shoulder stability!
  • Machine focus is on shorter sets of calories.
  • EMOMs with some skills like Wall Walks, Box Step Up footwork & Double Unders. The EMOM format allows us to keep quality movement as our priority so that we can express that quality eventually through Benchmark workouts.
  • A few repeat Benchmark workouts like Duloc which is a machine and single arm workout that will test our practice day work!
  • Time domains will tend to stay on the higher side, so 30mins of Engine CrossFit®.

Also, a heads up that over the next few weeks some evening Engines will start to transition to 545PM/630PM/715PM.

Happy Fitness-ing!

Programming: What’s coming up in Strongman & Gymnastics!?

Coach Sean has been programming some brilliant workouts for you all. Remember Strongman/Strength Class is on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 630pm & 730pm, CrossFit® Gymnastics is 530pm on Wednesday and Thursday, 515pm & 615pm on Fridays with another on Saturday at 1230pm! Lots on offer!

Here’s whats coming up!

Strongman/Strength Class

The next 6 weeks we will be focusing on:

  • A Jefferson Squats/anti-rotation theme, which will prepare for a really fun and unusual lift called the Steinborn squat!
  • Along the same theme we will have Farmers Carry Deadlifts, which will include some single arm variation and a big challenge to your trunk muscles.
  • KEG lifting – we will start to slowly increase loading. The practice sessions that we have with the Kegs are there to prep us for a Key Strongman benchmark called KEG STAND.
  • Exercises with the brand new SLEDS that we have purchased to change things up!
  • Atlas stone in more typical CrossFit® style workouts.
  • Some GREAT Benchmark workouts to watch out for: ‘The Sled Walk’ looks simple, but is a strength endurance burner, ‘Partner Double DT’ with Axle Bar, ‘Great Balls Of Fire’ which funnily enough includes the Atlas Balls!

CrossFit® Gymnastics Class

The next 6 weeks we will be focusing on:

  • Specific CrossFit® Open preparation is our main focus! We know what tends to come up over the three weeks of the CrossFit® Open see here: https://morningchalkup.com/2022/02/15/2022-crossfit-open-movement-tracker/ and so we will be sticking to the basics to help you develop any weaknesses you may have in the gymnastics realm.
  • In the main workouts of this program we will see gymnastics paired with some simple movements to create some interference. What is unique in this block is we will be introducing choose your own adventure style workouts, where you have the option (coach led) to prioritise either gymnastics or the interference aim. This is carried through from our CrossFit® program. 
  • Reminder: Wednesday & Friday gymnastics sessions are the same workout, Thursday & Saturday are also similar. This is so we can get a larger amount of you exposed to the themes!

Thanks for reading, folks! See you in class!

Your CrossFit® Kitbag Essentials.

Wondering what kit you need for CrossFit®? Shapesmiths have got you covered!


In short, if you wear the right shoes, you will lift more weight and move well. How? well, the running shoes, tennis pumps and sports fashion trainers you have on your feet often have huge padding and shock absorbing ‘tech’ built in.

For CrossFit®, rather than absorb force, you want to use the force that your body produces to help you move the weight/object you are lifting. The more force you can produce; the more weight you can move, due to the amount of ground reaction force you can produce. Newton’s third law of motion if you think back to science class.

So, what shoes do we recommend? Well, there are many all-round shoes for CrossFit®. NoBull, Nike Metcons & Reebok Nano’s are some of the best shoes on the market. They have a stiff, flat sole and durable outer. 

Which one is the best? In all honesty everyone has an opinion on this, but… it is a lot to do with personal preference. Almost everyone’s feet have 52 bones and 66 joints between the pair, that are organised in a multitude of ways. Everyone has different preferences in colourway and look. SO, our advice is to get yourself to Whatever it Takes [Discount Code: ‘ShapesmithMember’] which has all of them in one place, Nike Town or a Reebok store. When there try them on and see what you like. 

If that’s not possible right now, order a couple pairs online and try them on at home. Send back the pairs you don’t quite like.

What about Weightlifting Shoes? Great question.  Weightlifting shoes are very handy for two main reasons.

1) If you have poor ankle mobility the wedge of the heel will allow you to get into a more UPRIGHT squat position, be that for the Overhead Squat, Back or Front Squat.

2) They can add some additional stability because they are very sturdy, have a midfoot strap to limit motion (if that is relevant to you) and increase the surface area of your feet. 

Which ones should I choose?

Romaleos from Nike, Adidas do a whole range, NoBull old school lifters are beautiful. Inov8 make good WL shoes. Suitable for wider feet too. 

For more in depth insight this is a pretty comprehensive article: https://barbend.com/ultimate-guide-weightlifting-shoes/

Again, to a large degree it is personal preference. But if you consider points 1 & 2 that should inform your decision. The heel heights all vary, from shoe to shoe as do the strap location.  They also come in many pretty colourways. But try and keep it to a what you need.


If you’re still trying to master single and double unders it’s highly advisable to purchase a jump rope. Because everyone has different limb lengths, you are going to want a rope that you can customise to yourself. Our favourite customisable ropes come from SGF. What we like is that the handles last a very long time and they have a ‘RE-WIRING SERVICE’ that costs £5.50 which means you don’t need to buy a new expensive rope every time the wire gets wrecked.  

Top Tip: DON’T WRECK YOUR ROPE. Skip on a non-abrasive surface. Avoid concrete as it will wreck your rope. 

Again, totally shop around and find one that works for you, but an appropriately sized rope will definitely help you. 


Last but not least, if you are getting a handle on your pull ups it’s worthwhile investing in some gymnastics grips. These will help prevent tearing and help to keep your hands from getting too sore. 

The ones from Victory Grips work really well on our slicker bars: 


For our raw steel bars (Speal Bars) Bear Komplex grips work well!

Those three bits of kit will be an excellent investment in your CrossFit® journey and will last for a fair whack of time! So, get out there and see what works for you!

Why should you sign up for the CrossFit® Open?

It’s an often asked question. Read on for why we think you should jump on board the biggest community fitness competition in the world!

  • Accountability is the biggest reason to sign up.  Signing up commits you to making time for the 3 weeks of competition workouts. This is amazing for building positive habits in attending class regularly. The results that you want will be with you via consistency!
  • You also get to do the same workout as the best in the sport. The CrossFit® professionals. You get to see how you compare to them on the same leaderboard. This allows you to experience the same thing as the elite. We can’t all play at Wembley or go to the Olympics but we can all hit a benchmark day workout against the best of the best in the CrossFit® world.
  • The workouts will push you outside of your comfort zone. “Challenge creates change.”
  • Getting fully involved with the community and sharing a common thread of a great workout! Every Saturday we will celebrate the small wins together, talk about the exciting workouts and how you tackled them.
  • The best way to make fitness friends forever is to get stuck into a workout with one another. We are all about community at Shapesmiths. Every Saturday, our aim is to create a little fitness festival atmosphere with cool things going on. We hope you will join us and help make each Saturday super special!!


CrossFit® Programming Update Nov’ 2022

Read on for your programming update on what to expect over the coming 6-weeks in the Shapesmiths CrossFit® program! 

Following on from the previous 6-week block, as promised we progress the paused squat work that develops positional awareness into squatting at higher percentages.  If percentages aren’t working for you on any particular day, we simply turn them into an RPE rating. So 80% becomes an 8/10 effort/rate of perceived exertion level.

The next six weeks include plenty of barbell. Expect, Deadlifts, Push Press, Split Jerk and more.  You’ll also see bodyweight pressing, including more wall facing handstand push ups (HSPUs), Burpees (as we get closer to the CrossFit® Open, in February 2023) and even the Wall Ball Shot will feature and have great carryover to your pressing!

An old saying in CrossFit® is ‘everything is everything’ and it certainly is when it comes to movement patterns in CrossFit® benefiting each other via the universal motor recruitment pattern.

Some further themes:

  • We are always programming for GPP at Shapesmiths with our CrossFit® program: https://www.crossfit.com/sport/general-physical-preparedness This is what we call Classic CrossFit® with our own Shapesmiths spin.
  • Box Jump/Step Up variations again for CrossFit® Open prep.
  • Machine work (Bike, Ski, Row) with big chunks of cals and various intervals to learn how to manage, pace and master.
  • Some heavy days where the focus changes slightly to lifts, but intensity remains high.

Read more why we program heavy days at Shapesmiths here; https://www.crossfit.com/essentials/heavy-days

Further themes (which have also been consistent in every program block since 2016) include covering off seven key ways the body moves, each week:

Squat – Hinge- Push & Pull – Flex & Extend – Rotate & Twist – Run – Jump

We build around these seven themes with classic CrossFit® exercises, like the ones mentioned above, to make several couplets, triplets, chippers and more!  It’s how we get you so fit!


Ever wondered what R)AM)P) sections of our warm up stand for? Read all HERE!

Happy Wodding, fitness friends!!

Can we have a quick chat…about correctly counting reps?

We have this amazing article here called 9 things we LOVE when our members… 

We are going to add a 10th thing here… 10. any time you enter your score on WODify, be sure you complete the required reps in the workout AND record your score accurately for your workout. 


  1. Because data. It helps us program as we get to know what our community is good at and not so good at. 
  2. You’ll hit the intent of the workout and make more progress in a shorter time frame. 
  3. It shows you are considering your community and those in class with you. I think we can agree that a large number of us are a tad competitive in class when a benchmark day arrives. On these days we should strive for honest competitiveness. 
  4. Because when the CrossFit® Open comes around you’ll be glad you battled the mental demons telling you to cut the set short or telling you to post a more flattering score than you actually managed. 

In the heat of a workout it’s easy to, every so often, miscount how many reps you have completed or how many rounds you have left. It’s also possible to accidentally pop an incorrect score on WODify if you brain isn’t functioning properly, post WOD. These are honest mistakes made by folks that are sometimes NOT the best mathletes. If this is you, it’s always best to do a couple extra reps or add 10s to your time. 

If you read this and conclude that it’s quite often not an honest mistake, remember that we care about you progressing your fitness level, but no one judges how fit you are currently.  You have nothing to prove at Shapesmiths. We welcome everyone and value your effort more than anything. 

So, next time it becomes tempting to shave reps off your workout, take a breath, fight that thought and finish your workout with positivity!

Caveat: rep shaving is not the same as working with your coach to scale/modify to preserve the intent of the workout. Scaling is f*cking cool and will help you progress a heap quicker!

9 things we LOVE when you do them…at Shapesmiths.

We think that our amazing community does a stellar job of helping the coaches and management maintain an amazing atmosphere. We love having you in the arches day after day enjoying the best hour of your day! Below are 9 of the things that we especially love when we see them.

1. Arrive on time. We know sometimes life gets in the way, trains/late meetings etc. but we love it when folks get in early and mobilise/perform movement prep for specific body parts that need special attention. 

2. Come in knowing what the context of the day is, either practice, benchmark or resilience day. This makes sure we are all on the same page. If you come in a little sleep-deprived to a benchmark day, that’s totally OK. Just let the coach know what’s going on in your life and we can make a game-time decision on what’s best. If you would like some help with sleep & nutrition Feed.Fuel.Perform, led by Dr Sinead, are your go-to in-house experts on that. 

3. Grab a rope. It’s great to see lots of members are educated on correct footwear and some sort of gymnastic grips to protect their hands.  We would also recommend that you have a skipping rope set up for yourself too! They are a bit like wands in Harry Potter 😉  If you have none of those things and are unsure of the correct footwear comment below this post.

4. Waiting until everyone is done before starting to pack away their kit. It’s the worst thing to be finishing a workout, working as hard as you can and the rest of the class is cleaning and chatting it up. When we see our members offer up some gentle encouragement it warms our hearts! Obviously, two caveats to this are that some may not want/need the encouragement and sometimes the coach may have given specific instructions for a cleanup.

5. Allowing the coach to do the coaching in class. We love it when you avoid the temptation to coach your fellow classmates. Remember, everyone has had wildly different days and some comments may not be welcome.  Keep it light, keep it a swell of positivity. A rising tide raises all boats. 

6. Wear clean clothes and deodorant. We sweat a LOT at Shapesmiths. Very easily clothing can pick up smells, especially some technical apparel. So we appreciate everyone that wears clean clothes and wears deodorant/antiperspirant to keep the place smelling so fresh and so clean-clean. 

7. Cancel classes with enough notice: This is especially awesome as it opens up precious spaces for other members keen to train that day. The notice required is 10PM the night before for morning classes and 2 hours for ANY class AFTER 9AM. 

8. Helping to clean up everyone else’s equipment. This is a beautiful thing when it happens. So many of you do this here! SO MUCH LOVE FOR THIS! Keep it up!

9. Use as little chalk as possible. Some of you are very savvy. You have figured out that you don’t need as much chalk as you originally thought you did. For those not in the know, too much chalk can cause rips (it increases friction between pull up bar and your hands…science.) Too much chalk also means decreased fitness through too many unnecessary ‘chalk breaks’ (this is tongue in cheek but, still).


Have fun and play. We love it when everyone is learning, challenging themselves and having fun. Simple as that. The more smiles and laughs the better.

What does R.A.M.P mean in the Shapesmiths WOD?

Have you ever wondered what the R) AM) P) section means when you read the screens for your daily workout? Well, wonder no more!!

Since day 1, in 2016, Shapesmiths have used the RAMP warm up system to give unique structure our workouts. We use it to ensure that everything has method and thought behind it so we can maximise your time spent in the gym!

In short here’s the lowdown on what RAMP stands for!

  • Raise – Increase muscle temperature, core temperature, blood flow, muscle elasticity and neural activation.
  • Activate – Engage the muscles in preparation for the upcoming session
  • Mobilise – Focus on movement patterns which will be used during the game.
  • Potentiate/Perform – Gradually increasing the stress on the body in preparation for the upcoming competition/session.

If you would like to read more and geek out further, check the below blog!

What is the RAMP warm-up?