Workout of the Day

A Common Pull-up Fault, Dissected


Have you ever committed the fault of craning your neck to reach your chin over the bar in a pull-up? As common as this fault is, chances are that you’ve made the mistake at least a few times; and if you’ve been a student of CrossFit No Boundaries for long enough, you’ve probably heard our coaches cue a neutral neck position in the pull-up at least a dozen times.

We ascribe a standardized range of motion to our pull-ups: reps must start with straight arms in the dead hang, and the chin must move over the plane of the bar at the top of the rep. Unfortunately, the chin over the bar standard is often misinterpreted or misapplied to mean “I need to reach my chin over the bar” rather than “I need to pull my body high enough that my chin goes over the bar.”

The problem with craning your neck and reaching your chin up and forward (“chicken necking”) is twofold.

First, it misses the intention of our range of motion standard. The focus of the pull-up is, as the name implies, capacity to pull. It makes sense, then, that our standard would be based around your capacities to pull your body through a full range of motion, not to contort your spine. If you are only meeting the chin-over-bar standard by reaching your chin, you’re not actually meeting the standard.

Second, craning your neck actually puts you in a less optimal position for performance and safety. Take a moment to imagine, if you will, performing a maximal effort split jerk with your eyes fixed on the ceiling and head craned back. Cringe-worthy, right? While the split jerk and the pull-up are not the same, the concept holds true: hyperextending your cervical spine is neither ideally healthy nor effective for pull-ups (or split jerks).

Next time you find yourself doing pull-ups, take a moment to check in on your execution: are you pulling your chin over the bar and maintaining a neutral neck position, or craning your neck to look for birds in the sky?

- PS


  • With a partner…

  • 3 rounds, 45s at each station for max reps:

    • Alternating dumbbell snatch (50/35) (together)

    • 10m side shuffle (alternate)

    • Toes to bar (together)

    • 50’ sled push (3 plates/2 plates) (alternate)

    • KBS (53/35) (together)

  • 3 mins rest