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.

ADVICE: Injuries, niggles & scaling, we’re here for you!

Ring muscle up

Remnants of your past sporting or desk-bound endeavours can be brought to light in the CrossFit® gym.

This is nothing but a positive thing. Backed by our world class medical staff, the Shapesmiths team have lots of opportunities to improve and fix the injuries and niggles you have been meaning to get looked at for a while. T.L.C on tap, if you will (feel free to hashtag that). 

Here’s a couple of ways you can optimize your training, and just as important, your cooldown, if carrying a niggle/injury.

  1. Talk to your coach about your niggles/injuries.

Quite commonly every coach will see issues that focus around the ankle, knee, hip, shoulder and wrist. The Shapesmiths coaches genuinely love to help you guys and girls find appropriate modifications/scalings. So please know that if you are carrying a niggle/injury that we are here to help, we are here for you.

If you are already aware of an injury/niggle the best time to highlight it and seek a suitable scaling is before a class or at the TV screen briefing.

You can also drop us a whatsapp message and flag any medical issues really early. We can pick up the thread and advise what the best course of action is quite easily.

  1. Talk to your Livewell Clinic team about your niggles/injuries.

If you have something going on, please do touch base with The Livewell Clinic!

They offer you an amazing 15min free consultation that could give you insight into whether or not you should keep training, train with modifications/scalings or, if it’s serious (think broken bones etc), to stop all together. 

Livewell practitioners can help you by using soft-tissue techniques, articulation of joints and manipulation in differing degrees to break down scar tissue and improve range and quality of motion in the body. Perfect for CrossFit®.

Contact info here: http://thelivewellclinic.co.uk/contact-us/

Keep healthy, keep happy, keep CrossFitting


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