You must crawl before you can walk, and walk before you can run. This is something we all know to be true, but sometimes once we walk through those gym doors, our common sense goes out the window and we want to start at advanced movements, techniques, and/or weights. As the Crossfit founder and CEO Greg Glassman has said, “Ahead of efficacy is safety.”
A properly scaled movement safely maximizes relative intensity (load, speed, and range of motion) in order to continue developing that movement.
Let’s use pull-ups as a example. Before you even hang from a bar, you should have control of your hollow position. Once the hollow is mastered on the floor, we can then work on a static hanging position. Without this position, you will have a hard time learning/progressing onto pull-ups. Skipping steps creates poor training habits that will result in frustration.
The next step for long-term development of the pull-up requires athletes to learn strict strength progressions first. Kipping should not be the next step. Think “strength and form before speed”. When the proper strength and control required for a certain movement is not present, the body will find other ways to dissipate the forces being generated to muscles and connective tissue that is not prepared to handle them. This can result in injury.
Going back to step one, the “active hang” (as well as scapular pull-ups) will help to encourage proper body position while contracting the appropriate muscles. The second step is ensuring proper grip strength; the better your forearm/grip strength, the higher amount of pull-ups you are preparing your body to perform. The third step is performing assisted pull-ups (not using bands – our kneeling or toe-assisted pull-ups or negative/eccentric pull-ups)
Once you have mastered those movements, you can move into learn strict pull-up progressions.
As you can see, bodyweight/gymnastic movements have the same mental process as an Olympic lift. In your lifts, you probably have a set-up routine with your hands on the bar and your feet on the platform. With our example of pull-ups, you should also have a mental checklist: are you hanging actively and recruiting the proper muscles? Are you in a good hollow position? Are you maintaining that position throughout the movement?
And remember, this is just the proper progression for a strict pull-up; you can imagine why your coaches emphasize these steps before attempting a kipping pull-up…before anything else, it is for your safety and to ingrain proper movement patterns that will carry over to all of the movements in Crossfit and in life!