Kipping Pull Ups and Shoulder Health. What You Should Know

Kipping Pull Ups And Shoulder Health. What You Should Know.

What is kipping?

According to a publication by CrossFit, “the kip is a transference of movement first generated in the horizontal plane, where it comes cheap and easy, to the vertical plane, where momentum and a perfectly timed pull from the back launch the athlete forcefully upward.”

Basically, it’s a swing from the bar to gain momentum forward and backward before doing things like pull ups, toes to bar, or muscle ups. 

What is the point of kipping? 

There are a few purposes of kipping, one being to demand more athleticism and coordination from the movement. Another being to better translate to higher level skills like toes to bar and muscle ups. The largest purpose of kipping is to improve efficiency of the movement so that you can maintain a higher intensity of a workout. One of the greatest benefits of CrossFits is working at a very high intensity (which is healthy in appropriate doses), and if you were doing strict pull ups, it would take far more time than doing kipping pull ups. More time for the same number of reps means lower intensity, and then we may lose the intent of the workout (depending on how the workout was written, of course).

How do you kip?

Kipping is a shoulder and core dominant movement, where you push and pull from your shoulders to transition from a hollow position to an arched position. See the videos below. 

Are kipping pull-ups easier than strict pull ups?

They are different. Strict pull ups will demand more from your lats and pure pulling muscles. Kipping pull ups will demand more from your control based shoulder muscles as the shoulders are having to stabilize as the body moves through a larger range of motion. So it’s easier to do more reps of kipping pull ups, but it’s harder on different areas of the shoulder. 

Can you get injured doing pull ups?

You can get injured doing almost anything, usually the problem is the dosage. If you try to do more than the body is ready for, you’re at injury risk. So, yes, you can get injured doing pull ups whether they’re strict or kipping. The more prepared your body is (aka the stronger your pull up muscles are) and the more efficient you are with the movement, the less likely you are to get injured. In general, pull ups are a very healthy motion to practice and improve on. 

What muscles does a kipping pull up work?

Kipping pull ups are going to work your shoulder stabilizing muscles, as well as your lats, upper back muscles, biceps, grip muscles, and a handful of other muscles. More importantly though, kipping pull ups require mobility from a few key areas, like the thoracic spine (upper back), the lats, and the chest, and these mobility restrictions are typically the issues for those struggling with kipping efficiency. Kipping is also challenging from a coordination standpoint.

Does kipping develop strength?

Kipping will absolutely develop strength in the shoulders, core, and grip muscles. Strict pull ups will develop strength more aggressively in the lats, but kipping is a more efficient way of performing multiple pull ups in a row, and will definitely still develop strength in the lats if you perform enough repetitions. 

What does kipping do for your body?

Kipping develops coordination with swinging from the bar in a really healthy way throughout the shoulders. It will also develop specific shoulder strength. Most importantly it will allow you to perform more pull ups in a shorter time, so that you can keep the intensity of a specific workout higher and therefore continue to get the benefits of high intensity workouts. 

How do you master kipping?

Lots of practice! Driving the motion through the shoulders and moving from the hollow position to the arch position (lots of core control and strength) will provide for a more efficient motion, making it easier to master kipping. 

Is kipping cheating?

It depends what your goal is. If the goal is simply to get the chin over the bar, using the momentum of a kip is going to allow you to do that more efficiently, with less energy. If the goal is to only build strength in your pulling muscles (lats, biceps, etc), you’ll get closer to your goal without using the kip. 

The word “cheating” implies that there are rules that you’re breaking. So, if the rules say you aren’t allowed to use the kipping swing for momentum when completing a pull up (aka a strict pull up), then yes, kipping is cheating. Most of the time in a CrossFit style workout, the rules don’t specify how you get your chin over the bar, so kipping is not cheating, it is in fact doing the opposite and allowing you to complete the workout more efficiently.

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