Categorized as: Exercise

The Easiest Way To Learn the Kipping Pull up

Written By Mario Ashley, MBA, Owner Naples S&C

The Kipping Pullup gets a bad rap in the fitness industry. It’s a misunderstood exercise but done properly has potential to build amazing upper body pulling strength.

The “kip” as it is called is a generalized term in the sport of gymnastics that allows for amazing feats of strength on the rings and uneven bars like you might see in the Olympics. The actual kip isn’t even an exercise is the sport of gymnastics. It’s just something you do as a prerequisite to higher level movements like the Iron Cross and Maltese.

The actual kip isn’t even an exercise is the sport of gymnastics. Its just something you do as a prerequisite to movement

I’m not writing this to sell the idea of the Kipping Pull up, in fact, I think you should train all styles of pull-ups. Kipping Pullups, Strict Pullups, Weighted Pullups, and Chin ups all have useful purposes in training.

The intent of this article is to teach coaches and athletes how to easily instruct the Kipping Pull up if they are interested in adding it to their own training.

There are 3 variables that make a great Kipping Pullup:

  1. The Beat Swing
  2. The Pullup
  3. The Push Away

The Beat Swing

This is the most visible portion of the Kipping Pullup. The athlete aggressively flexes and extends the shoulder girdle while flexing and extending the hips in a coordinated manner. From the side profile, it looks more like a pendulum. When the athlete’s shoulder are extended fully the chest remains in front of the vertical plane and the legs remain behind the vertical plane but when the athlete flexes the shoulder the chest swings back behind the bar while the legs and hips shoot forward in front of the vertical plane. This motions done with speed and coordination is known as the beat swing. This is where all the power comes from in the Kipping Pullup.

The Pull up

Learning the beat swing is useless if you can’t do a pull-up. The kip is supposed to compliment someone’s strength by offering more power and cycle rate to the pull-up. Being able to perform strict pull-ups is based on your strength-to-bodyweight ratio. Women usually take much longer to develop the pull-up because of this fact. For instance, I have two women who come into my gym. One lady weighs 180lbs with 35% body and hasn’t exercised in over a year. On the other hand, I have another lady who weighs 135 lbs with 20% body fat and has exercise consistently for the last 6 months. Who will be likely to perform pull ups first? This fact is rarely discussed.

It’s important that we develop an appropriate strength-to-body weight ratio because no amount of bicep curls will ever trump being extremely overweight.

It’s important that we develop an appropriate strength-to-body weight ratio’s because no amount of bicep curls will ever trump being extremely overweight. We have to get their weight down, get them stronger, train the pull-up in various manners and hopefully, over the next year, they’ll be able to perform their first set of strict pull-ups. It’s also important to note that grip strength plays an important role in ones’ ability to perform high rep kipping pullups.

The Push Away

This is the most neglected piece of the kipping pull-up as there aren’t many exercises that describe the purpose of the push away. Performing one kipping pull-up at a time is easy. It’s connecting them that requires coordination. If you can imagine the kipping motion produce a C-shape motion of the chest. In order to keep the kip continues the push away at the finish position is paramount. You literally want to feel yourself repel from the top of the bar, is so much as you feel pressure in your palms from pressing away so hard.

Other Resources

Kip Swing Progression

Butterfly Kipping Pullups

The Squat is the epitome of functionality

The beauty of functional movements is that our goal is to build enough mobility to make those movements feel most natural. In doing so it will make those movements easier and allow us a greater capacity to perform at our greatest potential. We want to work on those movements that improve on mobility natural.

The Olympic lifts are a great example of functionality. They require us to squat, lift the weight from the ground and press overhead. They are all movements that we perform in everyday life to a certain degree.

Here’s a link to a great mobility drill you can use when barbell lifting to help with an upright torso. As goofy as this kid looks here, his name is Jon North, and he holds the American Record for a 365lb snatch.

Another test we recommend all our athletes to perform is the 10-minute squat test. The concept is easy, the execution difficult. Can you sit in a relax squat for 1ominutes without having to stand up due to cramps or painful joints? If you can there’s no need to stretching. If you can’t, you need to sit in a squat more often. This test alone has developed great range of motion for our athletes than any other test we have ever tried. 

Learning the Power Clean in 60 seconds

The utility of the Power Clean is unparalleled. Not only does this exercise develop explosive power coupled appropriately can produce effective conditioning doses. 

As a staple exercise in our gym, our coaches have mastered a simple warmup for the Power Clean. At the novice and intermediate level, the Power Clean is a hybrid exercise of both the Deadlift and a partial Front Squat. The third most crucial instructional advice we teach is how to add speed and timing to the lift. 

Deadlift

The narrow stance and hand placement of the Power Clean are very similar to the Deadlift, plus or minus a few inches. More importantly, we teach our athletes how to initiate the Power Clean with their legs and not their back. When the deadlift is trained correctly the transition to the Power Clean is smooth. 

Front Squat

If the start position is the DL, then the finish position is a partial front squat. Here the athletes learn approximate heights where they feel comfortable catching the bar, while learning how vital resting the bar across the shoulders is. Pausing athletes in the partial squat teaches them balance and body awareness. For coaches it allows us to see possible errors in the Power Clean before ever attempting the entire motion. 

Hang Power Clean

The considerable distance from the ground to partial front squat creates multiple error points. By starting in a hang and “dragging the bar to the top of the knee” before jumping to the Front Squat works miracles in timing and lack of explosiveness. Keep it simple. “Jump and land in a partial front squat” eliminates the tendency of pausing and overthinking. 

Power Clean

The effectiveness of this teaching progression is that we can chunk this movement into its parts before building it back up. An error in the Power Clean is usually an error in Steps 1, 2, and/or 3. Placing the athlete at the step and correcting the fault is the smartest thing a coach can do.

As you get more comfortable coaching this progression, this can be performed as a warmup. When you’re first learning this complex it acts more like an instructional piece.

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