3 Ring Exercises To Build Strict Strength for Pull-Ups

Time to build that strict strength.

Do you want to crush kipping and butterfly pull-ups when they show up on the board?

Maybe you’re still on your journey to your first pull-up.

Either way, what is the secret sauce to more pull-ups?

upper body strength pull ups
train hard!

Build your strict strength.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s absolutely technical elements that you need to work on to be efficient with kipping and butterfly pull-ups. Let’s dig a little deeper though. What’s the limiting factor for most people when we see 50 pull-ups on the board?

Why do technical breakdowns happen?

From the athletes I work with on-site, I can tell you that a majority of the time, the answer usually leads back to building a strong base of strict strength. If you’re not strong enough, all your technical abilities will start to diminish once you start approaching your threshold. And I’m not sure about you, but I’m not a fan of feeling like a flailing fish trying to get my chin over the bar.

Banded Pull-Ups and Ring Rows are great tools for building your strict strength, but should absolutely not be the only things in your toolbox. Sure, if it comes up in a class workout, you may use these as scaling options.

But what are you doing outside of the workout to prepare your body to handle high volume gymnastics?

Strip the skill away.

That means we can put kipping and butterfly in our back pocket for now. Let’s focus on developing the structures necessary for efficient pull-ups:

  • Strong lats
  • Stable shoulders
  • Death grip
  • Core of steel
  • Spidey-sense-like body awareness

This doesn’t necessarily mean we always have to hop up on the pull-up bar. The phases of strength I like to think about when it comes to gymnastics movements were pointed out to me by Dave Durante.

They’ve stuck with me ever since:

  • Phase 1: Creation of body shapes
  • Phase 2: Static and controlled movement
  • Phase 3: Dynamic action
  • Phase 4: Routines, complexes, and sequences

The following exercises are focused on improving Phase 2. If you find yourself skipping phases or focused too much on dynamic action (kipping and butterfly pull-ups), you’ll be surprised with what can happen when you start feeding your weaknesses with the earlier phases.

  • Hang on to the bar longer
  • Perform large sets unbroken
  • Reduce and prevent shoulder/elbow pain
  • And much more

Exercise 1: Ring Face Pulls

The Ring Face Pull is a favorite of mine due to the engagement you can feel in throughout the entire upper back. It’s a great pulling variation that allows you to wake up the muscles that will be necessary when you hop up on the bar.

Perform 4 x 6-8 reps with a 2112 Tempo.

(Here’s an article that does a great job explaining how to read tempo prescriptions).

Exercise 2: Single Arm Ring Row

We know how beneficial the classic Ring Row can be for improving your pulling strength. I’m a huge fan of unilateral movements because we can individually address R/L imbalances while also involving movement in a different plane of motion.

To scale the difficulty of this, you can walk your feet past the rings to be more parallel with the floor (harder) or walk further away from the rings for a more upright position (easier).

Perform 4 x 6-8 reps with a 2112 Tempo.

Exercise 3: Supinated Ring Row

High volume gymnastics can take a toll on your elbows and shoulders. The goal is to mitigate this as much as possibly by addressing potential holes in your game.

Your grip is one of them.

A lot of what I did with Olympic Weightlifting and CrossFit was with a pronated grip. Think about how you would perform 5 repetitions of a Hang Clean or 10 repetitions of Toes To Bar.

If we become deficient in the following grip variations, not only might you start experiencing aches & pains, your performance will suffer:

  • Neutral Grip – Closed (ex. Farmer’s Walk)
  • Neutral Grip – Open (ex. Pinch Grip Carries)
  • Supinated (ex. Palm facing towards you if you’re hanging on a pull-up bar)

The Supinated Ring Row is a phenomenal way to challenge and support your development.

Perform 4 x 8-10 reps at 2112 Tempo.

Putting it all together

I invite you to spend 15 minutes before or after the rest of your training to work towards improving your strict strength for pull-ups. You’d be surprised at how quickly 15 minutes adds up over 5 days, 4 weeks, or 2 months.

I created a free 3 Day Sample Program that you can use to perform some of these exercises in a thoughtful and purposeful way.

It’s also blended with skill-specific progressions that supports our goal of mastering Phase 2: Static and Controlled Movement.

Give it a shot and post how this worked out for you in the comments below!

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About The Author

Misbah Haque helps recreational CrossFitters improve mobility and strength using bodybuilding and gymnastics practices. He hosts a podcast called The Airborne Mind Show, where he brings some of the smartest minds in fitness together each week. For anyone looking to improve movement quality, he’s giving away a few free gifts at theairbornemind.com.

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