How to Know When You're Ready for Kipping Pull Ups

May 06, 2015 7 Comments

You sweat, you toil and you curse. You train in negatives, progressions and assisted formats to build up the muscles. And then one day you finally pass that bloody breaking point, your chin crests the bar and victory is yours.

Pull ups. God bless them, amiright?

Though the nemesis of many, there is such sweet satisfaction when you finally complete your first pull up. As any box-goer knows, pull ups are a staple in WODs and for many other athletes they are a  milestone marker that we strive so desperately to improve.

Alongside pull ups are their Crossfit counterpart, the kipping pull up. And with that a whole onslaught of criticism and misinformation.  

Before I dive into the facts, I want to be crystal clear on one thing; there is indeed a specific time when you should be doing kipping pull ups and it is NOT before you have mastered the strict pull up.

A lot of new athlete's look at the kipping pull up as a cheat - the shortcut to Rx'ing a WOD because you can use the momentum of the kip to crest the bar and "complete" your pull up movement. Unfortunately, this sort of thinking is what leads to shoulder injuries. 

Full disclosure: I have injured myself because I tried kipping before I was ready. The result was 1 week of severe shoulder pain and nearly 3 weeks total out of the box recuperating. *shakes head* Silly me.

Kipping pull ups are not strict pull ups. Though criticized for being a made up movement (which happens to be true!), kipping is a highly technical movement that requires the muscles and joint strength built from mastering strict pull ups to complete safely and efficiently.

Strict pull ups are purely strength. The ability for you to be able to defy gravity and pull your entire body mass above a bar. The main muscles used for this movement include your lats, traps, delts, pecs and biceps. There are several other minor muscle groups that are essential to complete this movement, but ultimately they all work together to increase your shoulder girdle stability.

You wouldn't sprint without learning to run first, and the same goes with kipping pull ups. Robert Camacho from Breaking Muscle said it best, "They're a hundred meter sprint for your arms. Kipping pull ups aren't meant for building raw strength and if you see them or use them that way, that's on you, pal."

Kipping pull ups rely heavily on proper biomechanical functionality. Simply put,  you best have damn good form!

To truly master the kipping pull up you not only require the musculature from dominate strict pull ups, but you need to have core stability so you aren't flailing around like a moron. To test your core strength you should:

  • Test your ability to hold hollow rock and superman on the ground - we suggest 30-40 second intervals


    Test your ability to hang on the bar, practicing with at least 10 strict pull-ups and 10 scapular elevations

Once you are strong and stable enough to perform this movement, make sure to focus on maintaining your correct form. Have a coach or friend watch or video the movement so you can see what needs improvement. 

It's up to you to listen to your body and make the best decisions for it. Good things come to those who work their asses off for them, so put in the effort and I promise you'll enjoy the spoils.

Tell me; what are your thoughts on kipping pull ups? Share in the comments below and PLEASE only respectful, constructive comments. While we love a little controversy, rude or aggressive responses are absolutely not how we run things over here in the VIP WOD Nation community!

Haven't Quite Mastered Your Strict Pull Ups? Get a Resistance Band to Help Your Progressions!


7 Responses


June 05, 2015

Hi, I don’t want to disagree but I think that every pearson have a different body. I can do a lot of kipping, about 15/20 in a row and I just learnt butterfly, and I can do it preatty well, but honestly I’m still not able to do strict. Sometimes I can and sometimes I can’t. i discovered that kipping and butterfly its all about movement and flexibility and momentum… But strength is not my strength…hehe… I’m still working on the strict, but I do not think you need to master one to be able to do another…


May 13, 2015

Thank you! I have yet to be able to do a single unassisted pull up. My coach actually encourages us to do kipping pull ups before we do strict pulls ups, which I don’t agree with. “Thankfully” I can’t seem to wrap my mind around the whole movement thing because I want to be capable of strict pull ups before moving on. Your article makes me feel about my train of thought.

Team WOD Nation
Team WOD Nation

May 12, 2015

Lucianna – That is amazing that your Coach is being responsible and helping you focus on working up to a movement, rather than just sending you out there and potentially harming yourself.
The criticisms about kipping pull ups are a shame because they are a result of misinformation. Like we said above, kipping is not a strict pull up and their purposes are different.
Keep up the awesome work and keep us posted on your butterfly progress!


May 12, 2015

I love kipping pull-up and I agree that need to be watched from close…. I still suck on strict pull-ups but can do an avarege of 15 kipping pull-up. I didn’t learn by myself my coach worked hard with me for over a month to get my core and shoulders stronger, to get a perfect beat swing until I was allowed to try it without a band, next step is the butterfly but my coach says that I’m not ready yet he wants me to get more consistent on my kipping pull ups first….. It may take a while but I’m not in a rush.
I really hate when I hear people saying that kipping is cheating, that it makes the pull up easier. I just wish that those that criticize the movement jump on the bar and show me how they do it…. They have no idea how hard it is

Team WOD Nation
Team WOD Nation

May 11, 2015

Ty – your advice on scaling is great. Definitely better to be safe than sorry!

Barbara – keep up the awesome work!!! How many strict pull ups can you do now?

Barbara Jordan. (AKA: Mama J @ the box)
Barbara Jordan. (AKA: Mama J @ the box)

May 07, 2015

I agree you need to get your strict before Kipping and I can do only 4 strict in a row and 15 -20 Kipping. I love the Kipping pull ups. They are fun to do and I want to master more strict pull ups in a row.


May 07, 2015

Actually I like the three types of pull ups. The strict, kipping & the butterfly. Each for a different reason.
1) strict for obvious reasons to build more strength either body weight only or added weight.
2) kipping I tend to use when I can not string anymore butterfly pull ups together when doing a high rep wod. And I use the kip for bar muscle ups.
3) butterfly pull ups mainly when speed is required for PRing a wod. Such as FRAN. Or when there is a large rep count in a wod.

But I agree with making sure your ready for any of these movements . Started banded and work you way up. Many times I see egos get the better of people whom I know we’re great athletically when younger, but haven’t been so much as they got older. Then they think they can move the same as they did 15 to 20 years earlier. When I began Crossfit I scaled everything to only 70% of Rx for any given workout. It allowed my body to adjust to the soreness and more importantly the movements in a safe manner. I did that for about a year maybe a little more. I still will scale some workouts because I don’t care what people think I’m in there to get healthy not injured. ( don’t get me wrong I’ve had my injuries) . Nothing crazy but still.
Be careful in what ever you do, even walking you can sprain an ankle.

Happy wodding

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