Kipping Pullup Technique
Written by: Coach Slater
Before starting, let’s all agree that the kipping pullup is a point of vehement contention in the strength & conditioning world. But, it’s an accepted movement in CrossFit because it allows you to execute more reps in a shorter period of time. And yes, you need to have full range-of-motion in your shoulders before attempting one, meaning that you can hang from the bar with your elbows straight, armpits forward, and spine braced in a neutral position, and be able to perform strict pullups to address some basic strength needs before you start spastically swinging from the bar.
Now that we have that out of the way… Let’s discuss five important facets of the kipping pullup. This article won’t cover everything you could ever want to know, but it’ll give you a great start.
The first thing I think we should focus on is eliminating every “angle” your body creates while swinging on the bar. Meaning, you shouldn’t have bent/broken/angled positions at the elbow, shoulder, spine, hip, knee, or ankle… every angle is a point of leaking power. You need to be disciplined with your position from hands to feet, keeping straight arms, and generating power through the shoulders. You want to stay long and still create speed and power with your abs and spinal erectors engaged.
Speed Thru the Middle
When going from an extended to a flexed position, you really need to accelerate so you create enough momentum to elevate your body toward the bar. So, you’re trying to close your hip angle while raising your center of mass and preparing for a violent kip toward the bar. I prefer people do this with straight legs (again to eliminate “angles”), but I understand that if you’re new to kipping and lacking speed, then you may need to bend your knees. In that case, I think it helps to imagine that you’re kneeing someone in the face. Violent imagery works well here.
Hips; Not Arms
A common mistake in learning the kipping pull-up is pulling with the arms before fully utilizing the power of the hip. You need to be patient and keep the arms straight until the hip drive has created a moment of weightlessness on the bar, before pulling yourself to the bar. You’ll push yourself away from the bar, like pushing the bar straight down, but with straight arms. Using your lats to move your center of gravity will help you attack the bar a little horizontally and not strictly vertical, so you’re able to smoothly transition into your next rep.
Push Away at the Top
Once you reach your chin over the bar, don’t just allow yourself to drop straight down. Keep the elbows forward so lats are engaged and push your body from the bar in that flexed position. You want to use that push to drive your body back thru the middle into the extended position. Also, as you push away, you want to smoothly transition into the bottom of the swing and not allow yourself to crash at the bottom, yanking at your shoulders. And when you push away at the top, eliminate that bend at your hip. No angles, remember? Push away with a straight line from torso to toes, as if you were simply falling over backwards.
An overarching concept that applies to the swing and kip is that you should have your elbows forward at all times. Doing so puts your shoulders into the most advantageous and stable position. So, at the bottom of the swing, get your elbows forward by turning your pinkies toward each other while thinking about bending the bar in half in front of you. Same applies to the top of the swing as you push away from the bar. Elbows forward.