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!
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