Scaling Progressions for Pull Ups and Pistol Squats

Do you struggle with either of these exercises? These progressions will help you master the movements and show you why other progressions might not be working.

How you approach your scaling progressions largely influences your likelihood of attaining a skill and the amount of time you will need to invest. This is where you have to think! If you are using assistance for certain exercises you have to take into account that you could actually be hindering your progress by using too much of a crutch or… not enough.

There is a fine line between selecting the right scaling progression for you personally, and the sad reality is that it is usually the one you don’t enjoy, it doesn’t look very cool and you still find it challenging. Let’s take the strict pull up for example, if you haven’t got your first one yet how are you approaching it? Where are you building the movement from?

THE STRICT PULL UP

Using a band?

Well at the bottom of the pull up that is when the band is most elongated therefore making the hardest initiation of the pull up the easiest part, also the thicker the band the more tendency there is to start swinging, you may feel like you’re doing pull ups because your chin is going over the bar but you’re not going to build any real strength. Fine for wods and getting your sweat on, not for pull ups if you can’t do them yet.

Jumping pull ups?

No, just no.

You’ve deleted the entire start of the movement, even if you can lower down slowly you’re still not initiating the movement yourself, your body isn’t learning anything.

Ring rows?

Yes, a phenomenal fundamental exercise that should be performed by everyone BUT in relationship to a pull up, the direction is totally different, a ring row is a horizontal pull, the pull up is a vertical pull.

Here is a great example of a pull up progression, and guess what, it’s no different to what you would see in the kids classes, for some reason as adults we can’t be seen to be going for the simpler option, but truthfully if you’ve never done these before those gains are just sitting there waiting to be had! Check it out:

Yes it sucks but you have to be committed to get the pay off.

PISTOL SCALING PROGRESSIONS

Another common movement is the pistol squat, which really needs your individual structure taken into account. Can you attain the position while holding on to something? If not then that’s your starting point, you have to find a way to become comfortable resting in the bottom by using assistance. Next you need to load the movement, so yes doing reps while holding on to something will build strength into the POSITION but not the MOVEMENT.

This is where I see people get stuck all the time, all the strength in the world but when it comes to actually doing it, fall flat on their ass. You have to train the balance aspect and again, negatives will build strength but won’t teach you how to get out of the bottom!

This is a great example of using a slight heel elevation to spend time in that bottom position (provided you have the strength and position) this is going to give you the balance element for your body to learn not to freak out, basically if your body doesn’t feel safe when performing something it will switch you off and decrease your mobility in an effort to keep you safe.

Hopefully these two examples get your thinking caps on! Get more creative with what you ACTUALLY need rather than blindly following top coaches giving quick tips (apart from me #lolz)

Aim for sets of ten with whatever progressions you devise, if you’re doing three reps then walking round the box for twenty minutes before your next set it’s too hard for you, always have that adaptation in your mind!

Follow my coach Facebook page! I would love to see any ideas you can come up with and wish you good luck in your skill acquisition!!

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About The Author

Tom Morrison is a British Weightlifting coach, martial artist and CrossFit trainer & competitor. He is known for his simplistic approach to teaching and has worked with all kinds of bodies including professional MMA fighters, football and rugby players, experienced CrossFit athletes and weightlifters, people with no mobility, people with hypermobility, people with chronic back, knee and shoulder injuries and most commonly, people with general ...

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