Breaking Down the Kipping Pull Up

Kipping Pull Up

The Kipping Pull Up

The kipping pull up is a standard movement not only in any CrossFit class but also throughout the sport of fitness. Starting from a dead hang position, the athlete pulls their chin above the bar using a combination of arm and full-body movements. This means that it is acceptable to use the legs and/or hips in order to achieve the movement. It might sound like a simple “cheated” pull up but it is important to remember the purpose of a kipping pull up.

The value of a kipping pull up extends beyond strict pulling strength. First, a certain amount of body awareness is necessary in order to competently achieve a kipping pull up. The correct timing of this movement is something that anyone can master, but it takes dedication to achieve it effortlessly. Athletes able to perform a kipping pull up soon become aware of the cardiovascular demands of completing multiple seamless reps, keeping the body tight, forcefully extending the hips, and finishing the pull with their arms. It requires one to use a large amount of muscle, which in turn puts an immense demand on the body to turn over oxygen. Forearm and grip fatigue follow, and until they understand these kinds of limitations, novice athletes will likely tear their hands. Finally, using the hips to generate force allows athletes to perform cheated reps that would otherwise be impossible due to the low fatigue threshold of a strict pull up.

Before you Start

Now, you might be reading this and think to yourself that kipping pull ups sound great and that you want to give them a shot, but here’s a word of warning: This movement should be respected. The majority of shoulder injuries in CrossFit athletes stem from a lack of proper training or requisite upper body strength to safely complete this movement pattern. Ligaments and tendons develop more slowly than muscles. Additionally, being able to complete a kipping pull up does not mean that it should be done under more high stress conditions. Being able to drive a car doesn’t make someone qualified to enter a race. Systematic and progressive loading of the shoulder through proper programming is always recommended before adding volume or chaos to a newly developed skill.

If you are at the point where you can perform a kipping pull up but fail to link them in a series, it is possible that you simply lack upper body strength (strength is never a weakness!). It may also be beneficial to examine the efficiency of your movement. Let’s break down this movement into its parts so that we can get a better understanding of how to increase its efficiency.

The Kip

Otherwise known as the “beat swing,” this movement consists of actively moving between the hollow and arch positions while maintaining tension. The more potential energy you can create through the length and depth of your beat swing, the easier the remainder of the movement will become.

Popping of the Hip

Often overlooked by beginners (especially those that have an immature beat swing), the dynamic opening of the hips at the back end  of the beat swing will help to generate force and push your entire body above the bar.

The Pull

After opening your hips, all that is left is to pull yourself to the bar using your arms. It is important to maintain tension throughout the movement pattern.

The Push Off

Another step that is often overlooked and/or under utilized is pushing off the bar to return back into the beat swing. This will help to recycle your momentum, which keeps the movement fluid and demands less energy for multiple reps.

Now that you have a clearer picture of the kipping pull up’s performance points as well as an understanding of why it is a valuable tool, I hope you can start practicing and refining your technique. It is always recommended to build the static strength to do at least a single strict pull up before adding this more dynamic peice into your training. Finally, if you have any questions about the kipping pull up, how to implement it, or the progressions that lead to unlocking your first strict pull up, feel free to contact us at We’d be more than happy to help you along your fitness journey!


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