The Great Pullup Debate

Working for the perfect bottom position--Alicia P.

A young guy came into the box the other day and talked to me about starting CrossFit.  He was a high school football player, fairly big, wanting to get bigger and more powerful.  He liked the idea of CrossFit, but was really hung up on the kipping pullup. He didn’t like the kipping pullup and kept arguing that strict deadhangs were the only way to “get bigger and stronger.”

I explained to him some of the ideas behind kipping pullups–work capacity and all that, and I made the point that while the kipping pullup is the de facto CrossFit pullup, we do all sorts of pullups.  Deadhang, L-sit, weighted, chest-2-bar, various styles of kip, jumping, muscle ups, and probably others that I can’t think of.  I took him over to the record board and showed him the records for both max weight pullup and max reps (kipping) pullup. I told him that, in the end however, he could do whatever kind of pullups he wanted to.

What is it about the kipping pullup that inspires such vitriol? That it isn’t a “real” pullup, that it is cheating.  Apples and oranges, man.  It is just a different movement.  Do them all.  Why hate?

Further talk with the high school football player brought up a point that made everything about pullups moot.  I asked him what he was doing to get bigger and stronger right now.  He replied that he does bench, pullups (deadhang I presume), some cleans, curls.  I looked at him and asked about deadlifts and squats.  He doesn’t really like deadlifts, he replied, but he does the leg press machine.  Inside I was aghast.  I wanted to grab him by the shoulders and give him a good shake and yell “why are you blathering about pullups when you don’t squat or deadlift?  That’s like worrying about side air bags while never wearing your seatbelt.”  But I just nodded my head slowly and quietly mentioned that deads and squats are pretty much the cornerstone, the very foundation, of any strength program.

However, something must have gotten through, ’cause he signed up.  You wait, he’ll be asking to learn the kipping pullup before too long, but he will have done a lot of squats and deadlifts first

Please post thoughts on the kipping pullup to Comments.

Happy Birthday Wesley!

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