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Do Not Kip your Pull Ups before reading this

Since the massive expansion of the Crossfit brand, there has been a lot of discussion about some of their training practices. I’m not here today to share my opinions, good or bad, on the Crossfit movement as a whole, I am however going to talk about one technique they use a lot. One that I abhor and feel is far from suitable for the majority of the training population.

That is the Kipping Pull Up.

Here’s what one crossfitter has to say about them:

“Kipping pullups are to strict weighted pullups. What box jumps are to barbell squats.” And that’s fair, to a point.

The problem lies in the injury rate. The general rule of thumb with plyometric training (box jumps being a form of plyo) is that the athlete MUST be able to squat 1.5 x bodyweight prior to embarking on a plyometric training program. that ensures that the tendons, ligaments, body awareness & mechanics are all good before they start jumping around. – that’s fair, if a tad over protective. For de-conditioned people to launch into plyo’s is to invite disaster.

Much like asking them to do kipping pull ups. As this is a “new” movement, or a movement derived from gymnastics, there is little good info on it. In a gymnastic setting the kip is used as part of a skill move, not blasted out as a repetition conditioning drill. The gymnasts are also extremely well conditioned. In terms of it being a “new” move, then there hasn’t been time for research and therefore guidelines to be set in place. From what I have read, it does seem that Kipping pull ups injure weaker and / or more flexible athletes more than the stronger guys. this is (I assume) down to the same reasons that plyo’s require a minimum strength level in the squat. The bottom of a kipping pull takes the shoulder into end range of motion, with the entire weight of the body travelling at speed. Think about that: I’m 85kgs. If a Pull up requires me to lift 90% of my bodyweight, then for a kip i must arrest 76.5kg’s amplified by inertia to an unknown number with a shoulder that is being pulled into an omoplata submission type of position. Now tell me how that’s good for me? Especially since the shoulder is about the least stable joint in the body and the most commonly injured.

Check out Crossfit injuries and you’ll see a rake of shoulder labrum (SLAP) tears. All of which are kip related. There’s actually a very good write up on the subject on Adam Houston’s blog, HERE

long story short: Get good, VERY good at real pull ups, then start to kip, when I say good I’m talking a 3RM loaded with 50% your bodyweight, I’m talking 20 straight, strict bodyweight reps. Don’t do it the other way around. Better yet, don’t do them AT ALL.

But for those of you who simply drank too much of the crossfit cool aid and will continue to kip regardless of what’s said, I highly recommend you check the following video for some great tips of how to implement the kip fully into your lifestlye:

You can learn more about safe, effective bodyweight training during my upcoming workshop at Galway Kettlebells, November 10th. Details HERE

Regards Dave

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