People hate CrossFit for a lot of reasons – some justified, but some not – and pull-ups are one of them. Pull-ups, in fact, fall into the category of both a justified and an unjustified cause of hate. The unjustified hate comes from misunderstanding of the standards used in CrossFit – generally when the chin passes the bar at the top and arms achieve a full extension at the bottom, that’s considered a pull-up for the purpose of a CrossFit (or totally unrelated fitness) competition (run by CrossFit people with CrossFitters competing). So by that standard, the kipping or butterfly style pull-ups we see being criticized, are actually the most efficient way to get the most reps. So why the hate?
The famous goalkeeper for Racing Universitare d’Alger, Albert Camus, would likely argue that we must create meaning out of the nihilistic idea that a pull-up is meaningless. And if we take this leap, we find that there’s a definition of the word “pull-up” and it’s something different than allowed by CrossFit standards. Let’s take a look at what constitutes a pull-up, according to recordbreakers.org (*they compile various legitimate records, whether from Guinness or elsewhere):
The chin must be raised above the bar.
Each single chin-up must be started from a hanging position, i.e. the arms must be straight in the “down” position.
You can dismount as often as you wish.
Video documentation must be provided. There must be two videos of the attempt: At one video, the camera should be at the height of the bar so that it is possible to decide whether the chin cleared the bar. At another video, the full body of the contestant must be visible all the time. A digital watch should be visible within this video recording to verify the time.
The chin must be raised above the bar level, otherwise the chin-up has to be disallowed by the judges.
Leg kicks and lower-body movements cannot be used to gain momentum in the exercise. This video clearly shows what is not allowed. The very first pull-up in this video would count, the others would be disallowed.
Only a straight bar can be used. It must be made of an inflexible matter such as steel, not of a flexible substance such as plastic or tubing. It may be of any diameter.
The Bar must be level and the height of the hands must be equal in relation and equal in height to where the chin crosses the bar.
The width of the grip can be of the athletes choosing, however hands can not be overlapped.
For all new 1-minute and 3-minute records, the record holder must agree to have the video posted in one of two ways: (1) post the video on a website and provide recordholders.org with a link, or (2) provide recordholders.org with a video recording that has been converted to a standard web-enabled format so that recordholders.org can post the video.
The results of an attempt should be submitted as soon as possible.
If you clicked on the video link above, it would bring you to a CrossFit video (*and lulz) with efficiency tips by Chris Spealler. Ergo, CrossFit-style pull-ups are literally the definition of what is not allowed in the definition of pull-ups, at least for the purposes of doing them in a valid way that allows for comparison with other pull-up records. Technically, while the movement in the gif above is a pull-up, it wouldn’t be considered one, as it violates the rule that the bar must be straight – but the movement itself, although on disallowed equipment, is what *we call a pull-up. Also you’ll note that dismounting is allowed, but this only applies to time-based records (most in a day, etc…) not consecutive, obviously. (*Here, I’m using “we” not in the royal sense, but rather in the sense of everyone except CrossFit, inclusive of every major fitness organization.)
Here’s a CrossFit-style competition pull-up (I’m unsure if shirts are allowed at this point):
The movement CF calls a pull-up should always be preceded by “kipping” or “butterfly,” to avoid people losing their minds online. And generally, just to maintain the integrity of the word and to instill some honesty in the CrossFit definition. If Camille Leblanc-Bazinet wants to claim that she can do 80 pull-ups, or 32 more than the world record for women, then she should be held to the standard by which they are judged.
This is not up for debate, this is a definitional proof. You can call a squat a pull-up, but that doesn’t make it one. CrossFit pull-up (TM, all rights reserved) would work as a name… Likewise, the movement CF calls a deadlift (which allows hitching and dropping from the top and all kinds of things disallowed everywhere else), should probably have a different name (like a “floor to waist” or something, per Dave Tate’s suggestion). As Dave would also (maybe) agree with, there are different standards for basically every movement in powerlifting when you compare them across different federations (and maybe judges). That’s why we usually see squat records broken in federations with the most lax definition of parallel, or the most liberal allowance of gear (*gear meaning a bunch of different things, all of which apply here). But if a new organization came around and allowed a squat that was the equivalent to CrossFit’s pull-up standard (a quarter squat perhaps, or one with an obtuse definition of paralell), I’d imagine the same kind of online hate would emerge.
On definitions: Calling everything else a “real pull-up” is absurd. I call pull-ups “pull-ups” – the prefix “real” seems kind of implied to me. On the other hand, dead hang pull-ups are something different (hence the necessitation of the two preceding words) because they not only require you to complete the exercise, they require you to expend effort at the bottom in order to stop your motion, or they require a more controlled pull to negate the chance of motion at the bottom. Either way, they’re harder than regular pull-ups; they deserve the additionally descriptive name. Kipping pull-ups or butterfly pull-ups are likewise something very different than regular pull-ups, because they are far, far, far, far easier. CrossFit HQ should simply stop calling these movements “pull-ups” and either replace the name with some descriptive monicker of their choosing, or refer to them with a prefix that denotes that they are performed with a kip or butterfly. The reason people get so upset at CrossFit for not doing “real pull-ups” is because it breeds a culture where CF women can claim to do 80 pull-ups aka ALMOST DOUBLE THE WORLD RECORD, and be validated by the company endorsing this feat and by extension, the culture that surrounds it. This shows a lack of respect for physical culture, and in kind has been met with commesurate disrespect – as it should be.