Building Pull-up Strength

Building Pull-up Strength

Building Pull-up Strength

So you just joined the box, and you see all this swinging and kipping on the rig. You are wondering, first, what in the world is going on? And second, how can I do that, or should I do that? Is this the right way to build pull-up strength?

Well, what you don’t realize is the foundation of the Kipping Pull-Up is NOT the Kipping Pull-Up. I know, I know, I just crushed your soul. The truth stings, but the truth is necessary to keep your shoulders healthy and build upper body strength and technique so you can show your grandchildren how to swing from the pull-up bar! Yes, intensity matters when it comes to MetCon style workouts, but not at the cost of strength or creating shoulder pain.

So let’s delve into the different styles of Pull-Ups you will see in a MetCon style Workout and evaluate the purpose of each. Then discuss how to build Pull-Up Strength for each style used in the box.

Building Pull-up Strength


This is the most traditional Pull-Up style and requires an athlete to pull their body from hanging with an overhand grip to pulling their chin above the pull-up bar without using any momentum. We often see this in skill work during a 60-minute class at the local box, but as we enter into a newer generation of fitness, we are seeing this strict skill show up in more workouts that would be considered metabolic. Box style fitness gyms have realized there is a purpose in not just intensity but also in developing strict pull-up strength for their athletes.

How to build strict pulling strength:

1) Box Assist Strict Pull-Ups: This is our favorite exercise to build pull-up strength and is used regularly in a First Pull-up Program. Toes are on a box to increase volume or get your first. Remember to use your legs as little as possible to help you get more volume and push through your sticking points.

Try this style workout:

Five sets of max effort Box Assist Pull Ups with 60 seconds of rest between sets.

Another option is to use an assisted pull-up machine with as little assistance as needed to perform 4 x5-8 reps.


2) Weighted Strict Pull-Ups: Nothing better to build strength than pulling MORE of your own body weight through space.

Try this style workout:

Grab a weight belt, or a weight vest, or hold a DB between your legs. Try to add weight each round:

5-4-3-2-2-1-1 with one minute of rest between each set


3) Eccentric Work: When we build negative strength, we elongate the muscle fibers and build better strength and control.

Try this style workout:

Accumulate 10 Pull-Ups with a 5-second negative



The Kipping Pull-Up was popularized by the  Greg Glassman, who was a former gymnast. He used the common hollow body and arch positions to build a “kip” which adds momentum in order to speed up the Pull-Up.

The issue with the Kipping Pull-Up is most athletes and coaches saw this as a means to create a way for most athletes to check the Pull-Up box on their workouts.

What many don’t understand is adding momentum creates torque on the joint and rotator cuff, and if the athlete does not have the strict strength to control the momentum and torque that the kip derives, then injuries can happen. This is how the Kipping Pull-Up got a bad rap.

The style of Pull Up is great to add intensity, BUT only when the athlete has the prerequisite strict pulling strength and shows complete control at the bottom of a Pull-Up – commonly called an active hang (muscles doing work).

Kipping Pull-Up Technique WODs:

1) Kipping Swings: Becoming more efficient in the kipping movement with shaping and grip strength will help you add volume.

Try this workout:

5 x 30 seconds on/30 seconds of rest

Max effort Kipping Swings


2) Strict + Kipping: Another way to develop strength and rhythm.

Try this workout:

Accumulate 10 complexes of:

1 Strict Pull-Up + 2 second hold at the top + 3 Kipping swings


3) Kipping Volume: Let’s continue to build that grip strength and endurance.

Try this workout:

5 x 30 seconds on/30 seconds of rest

Max effort Kipping Pull-Ups


For more help, read our article on the best exercises to learn kipping pull-ups and our Kipping Mechanics Program!



This type of Pull-Up is probably the most controversial of all the pulling movements in the box. Often we hear people say “Not one rep was done,” when they see this Pull-Up on social media.

What many don’t realize, this is not a foundational skill.

The Butterfly Pull-Up should only be implemented for advanced competitive fitness athletes ready to use their strength to add more speed. The amount of momentum that the Butterfly Pull-Up can generate can be aggressive on their shoulder joints. The Butterfly Pull-Up should be used for intensity purposes only, for the advanced athletes who can show complete control throughout the entire shoulder while creating this Pull-Up style. If you are ready to attack this skill, see how these workouts are:

How to build Butterfly Pull-Up Strength

1) Strict Butterfly Circles: Building pulling strength will be key!

Try this workout:

Accumulate 30 Strict Butterfly Circles


2) Behind the Neck Pull-Ups: These types of pull-ups use similar muscles that require full control when completing Butterfly Pull Ups.

Try this workout:

5 sets x 3 Behind the Neck Pull-Ups

Rest enough to complete all sets unbroken


3) Butterfly Pull-Ups: Time to practice this skill when under fatigue.

Try this workout:

4 rounds of:

5 Burpees into max unbroken set of Butterfly Pull-Ups

Rest 1 minute between rounds


Building Pull-up Strength Conclusion

Athletes must understand that no matter what style of Pull-Up, they must have the foundational strength to perform at the next level. Remember, strength then intensity. Which style of Pull-Up do you use most?