A recent Facebook thread – posted by world renowned CrossFit troll Drywall – has been gaining a ton of attention online, and by attention I mean unbridled shitting on. First and foremost I would just like to say – in the very rare occurrence that you stumbled upon my blog and don’t belong to my home box – I am in no way affiliated with CrossFit Brick. Instead, I felt motivated to respond to the overwhelmingly negative
press comments attached to their recent twitter post.
You can find Drywall’s post here.
So, what the hell is going on here? Weighted pull ups plus bands? BLASPHEMY! It doesn’t take much digging through uneducated garbage that are the majority of Facebook comments before understanding the apparent outrage most people have (at this point I was going to copy and paste some of the best/worst comments attached to this picture but there are literally too many to go around. I got overwhelmed). I mean we can all agree that the vast majority of Facebook/YouTube comments have, at the very least, a PHD in such issues – so they must be right. Here’s the general consensus of the issue at hand – why do weighted pull ups with a band rather than just banded and/or bodyweight pull ups with no weight.
A valid point – albeit superficial. And 99% of the time, I would agree. The issue here is that we are not provided enough context to create a truly valid opinion on the issue. Was this in the middle of the met-con? Were they allowed to kip? What was the rep scheme? All important questions to help fill in the picture to decipher what was really going on.
Being a glass half full type of guy, I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt. And at the end of the day, I have no problem with programming banded pull ups with added weight into strength/skill workout. Would I program it into a met-con? No, absolutely not, but who’s to say that’s what was going on anyway. In a strength-based workout, an exercise like this can be a great tool for developing pulling strength.
First, let’s look at how the mechanics of a normal banded pull up work. When the athlete is at the bottom of their pull up – the band is at peak tension – it provides more assistance to the athlete to get out of the hole. On the flip side, when the athlete makes their way towards the bar and band progressively loses its tension it becomes harder for the athlete to finish their pull as the band is not aiding them as much as before. This is unfortunate considering the greater majority of athletes tend to have trouble finishing the pull rather starting it.
So now, by adding weight to the athlete, they are overloading the finish of the pull and therefore developing greater strength where they need it most. Think of it this way, let’s say you are already proficient at bodyweight pull ups – no band necessary – but your weakness is that finishing pull. By adding a band to your leg you can partially circumvent the pull at the bottom of the lift and – as you pull up and lift out of the band towards the top – overload your weakness.
But here lays the true crux of the issue: CrossFit preaches constantly varied movements and programming. Why? Because variation coupled with intensity drives change. Let me put it in meathead terms – since the majority of commenters probably fall into this category. Let’s say you have a 300lb bench press, but have been stuck at that weight for 6 months – you’ve plateaued. Do you think the best way to increase your bench press is to just keep doing exactly what you’ve been doing for the past 6 months and expect your bench to miraculously rise? Keep praying. Ask any professional weightlifter, bodybuilder, or strongman and they’ll all say the same thing – when you plateau you have to change some variable, some input to drive change once again.
Back to pull ups. How many athletes do you know that have been stuck on that light band for the past 6 months and haven’t seen any progress towards their end goal of a real deal pull up? It’s the same phenomenon. A variable needs to be changes to stimulate that growth again.
This is something Louie Simmons preaches with the conjugate method, and to be honest uses a training method eerily similar to the one CrossFit Brick was using. Louie calls it the “future method” and it can be done with bench, squats, or deadlifts. Essentially, the technique involves overloading the barbell with a weight that you are currently unable to do. Then by attaching bands from the rack above the weight to the barbell itself it allows for extra assistance off the ground/chest but requires the athlete to work extremely hard to lock the weight out as the barbell lifts out of the bands. If you’re a visual learner here’s an example for you, or maybe this one, or this one – and yes I’ve seen it done with chains attached to the weight as well to create an even greater overload effect. The bottom line is this technique is used constantly by the best powerlifters in the world to help break through plateaus. It provides a different stimulus as opposed to just taking the weight down to a weight that is manageable and could be done without the assistance of bands. I would literally pay money to see one of these trolls chastise some of these powerlifters face to face the same way they criticized CrossFit Brick for essentially doing the same thing.
But inevitably the haters will hate. I would much rather my athletes work on a strict banded/weighted pull up to further their pull ups progression rather than have an athlete incapable of doing a single strict pull ups swinging away like an animal trying their best to ‘kip’ their way over the bar while simultaneously putting their shoulder at risk for a slap tear. Yet I can walk in to almost any CrossFit gym around the world and see that very thing happening everytime pull ups are programmed and nobody bats an eye. Weird. Look at your own programming and your own practices before jumping at the chance to chastise another gym within the CrossFit community.