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The Pullup by Greg Glassman - CrossFit Journal

The Pullup

By Greg Glassman

In Exercises, Reference

April 01, 2003

PDF Article

Interesting, intelligent, useful information about the pull-up is not easy to come by. Here’s an interesting article we found from Clarence Bass’ site on Pavel’s theory of “greasing the groove” (

Find us another. Please! There are internet sites and message boards dedicated to bench press technique, mechanics, routines, and performance, where nothing similar exists for the pull-up.

How can a movement of such enormous import stir such little interest? It doesn’t make sense that the pull-up doesn’t inspire the same discussion, analysis, and overall attention that so many other movements do like the bench press and squat.

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4 Comments on “The Pullup”


wrote …

An excellent workout for "greasing the groove" are Ladders. Goes as follows:
perform one rep of any exercise, rest, perform two reps, rest, perform three reps, etc… until you’ve reached the point at which going any higher would cause you to hit muscle failure on subsequent sets. Once you’ve reached that point, come back down without repeating the highest number. The rest interval between sets should be approximately the same amount of time it would take a training partner to perform the same number of reps. You’ll have more rest as the numbers get higher, and less rest as the numbers get lower on the way back down to one. If you’ve reached the bottom of your Ladder (1 rep) and the set time hasn’t expired, simply start another ladder.
Remember, don’t train your ego, train your muscles to perform the exercises correctly. If you reach muscle failure at any point during your ladder workout, you went to high before coming back down. Remember this is meant to be a high-volume/low-intensity workout.
It is OK to perform the ladder workout in the low rep range- possibly even repeated singles towards the end of the workout, in order to avoid hitting failure.
Try doing this at least twice a week for any movement that you would like greater proficiency in.


wrote …

For mind-altering info on pullups, check out John Gill's website. John is legendary in the climbing community for being the father of bouldering, and for putting up climbs that defied what most other climbers thought was humanly possible.


wrote …

Wow, you're right Coach, I all my years, although few, I've never had so much good information about completing a single pull-up effectively, and efficiently as this.

Never heard the term "close the back". I've completed 30 pull-ups in a row before, but with "closing the back", just a few were very tiring. Thanks!


wrote …

Regarding the shoulders in pullups, when in the bottom position, should the shoulders always be held tight or "active", or are they allowed to fully extend or "relax"?

Page 2 of this article states "Go from full hang to chest pressing tightly to the bar". Full hang to me indicates that the shoulders are allowed to hang free or extend. This seems consistent with what I see in gymnastics competition on the high and uneven bars, and in kipping pullups. Having said that, as a beginner who can't yet pull half his bodyweight, maybe I'm just not picking up on the subtleties.

I bring this up because I've seen some other sources state that if you don't maintain a tight/active shoulder then you're setting yourself up for injury. With all the pullups performed by crossfitters every day, I figured this community would be able to tell me whether this is a valid statement, or just paranoia (or somewhere in between).


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