To Kip or Not to Kip, That is the Question!

Jen showing good midline stabilization at the top of her kettlebell swing.

 

Every type of pullup has it’s loyal followers. Whether it be wide grip, narrow grip, slow behind the neck, chest to bar, over hand and under hand, outside of the CrossFit community all of these pullups seem to have one thing in common. They are all some variation of a strict pullup with no kipping being involved.

In CrossFit our default pullup is the kipping pullup. Outside our community this movement has very few supporters even amongst pullup connoisseurs. It has always been looked at as the “cheating” pullup. It is probably the most hated thing we do amongst the critics. A typical skeptic without  any prior education of CrossFit methodology initially might be willing to accept the benefit of performing functional movements at high intensity all while being constantly varied, but the moment they see a kipping pullup they say “What the hell is that?! That is an abomination. I hate you, I hate your mom and now I hate your pullups!!” Well, ok that might be a little extreme but people do get pretty uppity about pullup style. I don’t get it. We’re not talking world politics, it’s just exercise.

With that said, why do we continue to do this style of pullup even though tons of hate gets heaped on to it. Because the cycle time is faster which therefore increases the overall power output of the movement. Power equals force times distance divided by time. With the kipping pullup the force is your own body weight, the distance is the length of elevation it takes for you to travel from the full lockout position to your chin above the bar and doing that in the least amount of time (divided by time) will increase the overall power output of the movement. In other words, the more power the movement provides, the more intensity is produced and therefore the more benefits to one’s overall fitness will be seen. We are using a violent hip drive with a swinging of the shoulders to get our bodies up and over the bar. Basically more of the body is being used to do the same amount of work. It is completely analogous to the strict press versus the push press. If the weight stays the same between both movements, one will find the push press is much more efficient to get the weight overhead simply because more of the body is being used to do so.

So when discussing the benefits between the strict pullup and the kipping pullup, one of them is not simply more valid than the other they just have different end results. If I am looking for more raw upper body strength, I might go with the strict pullup or the weighted pullup. If my goal is maximum power output shared across the entire system then the kipping pullup is a more useful tool.

If you still struggle with this movement and can show the basic strength prerequisite required to do it, ask one of your coaches to help you with the mechanics. Don’t be frustrated if you don’t get it right away. With diligent practice you’ll be kipping your way towards elite fitness in no time!!

Workout:

Deadlift 5RM

Then:

400m run

10 Overhead Squats (95/65)

400m run

20 DB ground to overhead (35/20)

400m run

30 Ball Slams (40/25)

400m run

40 Toes to Bar

400m run

50 Push Press (45/33)