Recently, Brick CrossFit in NY posted an image to its Instagram page of three members performing weighted pull-ups while being assisted with bands, only to have its coaching rightfully questioned on Facebook.
On their own, there's nothing wrong with working on getting your first pull-ups using bands. There's also nothing wrong with doing weighted pull-ups to build strength. When you put them together, something doesn't compute.
The photo has since been removed from their Instagram page, but it begs the question of "Why weren't the members just encouraged to work on their regular pull-ups?"
This kind of questionable coaching seems like it could stunt the improvement of a gym's athletes and potentially lead to injuries by trying to have members work on more advanced movements when the basics haven't been performed by its members.
CrossFit's Brea wrote a post called "Get strict with your pull-up" the preaches the importance of being able to perform a basic movement before moving on to the next variation you'll use in CrossFit workouts. Coach Justin Guzman writes,
I think the drive to get a “pull-up” is so strong that some of you are willing to sacrifice true strength and even risk injury. But prioritizing your kipping ahead of a dead hang pull-up is bad business, for a couple reasons.
First, kipping pull-ups require strength and stability in the shoulder girdle. The momentum generated by the open and closed positions of the swing is enough to seriously tax the muscles, joints and connective tissue, especially if there is not a basic level of strength in those areas. Putting someone on a pull-up bar and encouraging them to swing and pull before their bodies are physically up for the task is simply irresponsible, and risks injury...
Second, the entire point of pull-ups is to build strength. While the kipping pull-up does improve strength to a degree, it is certainly not as valuable to strength gains as working dead hang pull-ups. It is entirely possible that a well coordinated person can achieve five or even ten consecutive kipping pull-ups and still not be able to perform a single dead hang. In that instance, the thing you’ve most improved is transferring the momentum from the swing into the movement. You certainly have not become as strong as you would be, had you worked to achieve even half number of dead hang pull-ups.
Undoubtedly, many athletes struggle with mobility issues that limit their abilities to perform a full squat clean, snatch, or legitimate overhead squat. Instead of working on the movements with lighter weights, pride often gets in the way of progress.
Even as an experienced CrossFit athlete, if you know that you can scale a weight or a movement so that it will actually get you to the point that you can perform the movement as prescribed with good form, it is more than okay to work on achieving a full range of motion for a movement before adding weight or moving to the next progression.
"Don’t let your ego stunt your strength development," writes Guzman. By using scales in a way that emphasizes your ability to perform the full range of motion, regardless of what weight you're using, your scales will enable you to progress in a safer way that builds good habits.