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Building Power in Your Kipping Pull-Ups

Not many programs outside of CrossFit utilize kipping pull-ups to the extent that we do. Kipping allows us to perform high volume of movements (such as pull-ups and toes-to-bar) quickly and efficiently. For that reason it is tempting to start kipping as soon as possible to help get through the WOD. However, there is a right time to start kipping, and chances are that time is not now.

Kipping Pull-Ups vs. Strict Pull-Ups

Let’s get this out of the way – kipping pull-ups are different from strict pull-ups. Strict pull-ups are a strength movement, necessary for building muscle and power to help you progress in your fitness. A kip is a full body anaerobic movement that utilizes your shoulders, chest, back, and core. It is also an extremely technical movement that requires knowledge of proper body mechanics, and sufficient amount of strength to carry it out consistently. For this reason we highly recommend that you are able to execute five strict pull-ups before progressing to kipping.

Exercises to Strengthen Kipping Pull-Ups

Regardless of where you are in your strict pull-up progression there are movements that you can do to help you start (or continue) strengthening your kip. This will ensure that you have the core and chest strength needed to progress. Here are some of our favorite exercises that you can incorporate into your supplemental programming:

  1. Hollow Holds

    hollow hold

  • Lie with your back flat on the floor with your legs out straight and arms extended overhead.
  • Brace your core and slowly lift your shoulders and legs off the floor. Make sure your arms stay in-line with your ears.
  • Hold in that position for 30 seconds. Repeat 3 times.
  1. Superman Holds

    superman hold

  • Lie down on your stomach with arms extended over your head.
  • Engage your back and lift your shoulders and legs off the floor. Your arms should stay in-line with your ears.
  • Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat 3 times.
  1. Side Planks

Side planks are an amazing way to build core strength to help you with kipping, and stabilization for Olympic movements. Check out a previous post on some side plank variations.

  1. Hollow/Arch position on the bar

    hollow on bar         arch on bar

  • Jump up onto the bar and engage your shoulders so that you are actively pressing into the bar.
  • Pull through your chest and form the hollow position while hanging. Hold for a few seconds and relax.
  • Arch through the upper back into the opposing position and hold for a few seconds.
  • Once you are comfortable with the two, start transitioning back and forth.

You are kipping! Practicing this on a regular basis will help build grip strength and muscle memory for future progressions.

  1. Barbell Shrugs

    One of the most crucial things to remember during kipping pull-ups is that you should always be actively pressing into the bar with your hands. To mimic that movement we do barbell shrugs.

    IMG_0961-min (1)    IMG_0962 (1)-min

  • Grab a barbell and press it over your head.
  • Start shrugging your shoulders into your ears so that the barbell moves up and down.
  • Do 3 sets of 10, increasing weight and/or reps as you get stronger.
  1. Negative Pull-Ups

As mentioned previously, having a strong strict pull-up will help you increase volume on your kipping pull-ups. One of the best exercises for that is negative pull-ups. This will not only build strength, but will also get you more comfortable with staying on the bar and descending from it in a controlled manner.

  • Jump up to a pull-up so that your chin is over the bar.
  • As slowly as you can start to slowly descend until your arms are fully extended.
  • Do 3 sets of 10.

It doesn’t take much to get better. Just 5-10 minutes before or after class can go a long way. Good luck and happy kipping!