Scaling Options for Pull-Ups

CrossFit has taken the world by storm for many different reasons. It has not only become a competitive sport, but has also turned into a fitness community that has produced tremendous results for the everyday person. The true beauty of the sport is that anyone can do it – young, old, ex-college athlete, stay-at-home mom, nine-to-five working dad, etc. How is this possible? Because all movements in CrossFit are scalable. Here is the most common gymnastics movement and several options on how to scale them to your ability level. 


For most individuals just starting out in CrossFit, having the ability to perform pull-ups in a workout is an elusive skill. Here are some alternative pull-up options:

  1. Jumping Pull-Ups – The bar should be set up so it is at least 6 inches above the top of your head when you are standing tall. At the bottom, the arms must be fully extended. At the top, the chin must break the horizontal plane of the bar. 
  2. Banded Strict Pull-Ups – Tie a band to a bar above the top of your head. Place one foot in the band and maintain a hollow position with your body. At the bottom, the arms must be fully extended. Pull straight down until your chin breaks the horizontal plane of the bar.
  3. Ring rows – Set up a set of rings so that they are about waist height. To start the pulling motion, pull your shoulder blades back together and maintain a straight, plank-like position with your body. Keep your core engaged throughout the movement so that your hips remain in line with your body. Next, drive the elbows back, brushing them past the rib cage, and pull with the arms until the chest passes through the rings. Return to full extension at the bottom position. 
  4. Negatives – Place a bench or box directly under the pull-up bar. Grip the bar at the top-most position of the pull-up (arms flexed and chin above the bar). Maintaining a hollow body position, slowly lower yourself straight down, taking as much time as possible, into the dead hang position (arms fully extended at the bottom). Get back to the starting position and repeat the process.