Work the kip – Sun 4.23.17
Everyone wants the Kipping Pull Up, Kipping Chest to Bar, Kipping Muscle Up, the Butterfly Pull Up and all that stuff, but the key is making sure there is a foundation set before you can. That is why we program a lot of Hollow Rocks, Ring Rows and Strict Pull Ups. Here’s a good CrossFit Journal article:
The Keys to the Kip by the CrossFit Gymnastics Team
Many athletes skip right to this step—but that’s a mistake.
This series has emphasized a progression, and kipping is not the first step in the process. In our second article, we described the hollow body position, which is essential to create core control. In our third article, we covered strict pull-ups and the strength required to perform them.
Once athletes have achieved core control and acquired strict pull-ups, they will have the necessary shoulder strength and body control needed to generate momentum in kipping pull-ups. This progression creates consistent mechanics, provides the foundation for long-term progression and protects against shoulder injuries.
The kipping pull-up is an important part of the CrossFit methodology because it adds intensity to training and allows for the completion of more work in less time.
“The kipping pull-up is an outstanding example of speed and power and requires both organic adaptation (strength and stamina) and a neurological adaptation (agility, coordination, and accuracy),” according to the “CrossFit Specialty Course: Gymnastics Training Guide.”
Before mastering the kipping pull-up, athletes need to have a clear understanding of the kip. Contrary to what many believe and practice, the kip is generated through the shoulder girdle rather than the hips.
Our “Training Guide” explains: “As the feet tap forward, the hollow position is employed and the lats are actively engaged.”
Performing a shoulder-generated kip allows for stronger control of the kip and prevents creation of the pendulum effect seen when athletes generate the kip from the hips and legs.
As discussed in the previous article on the hollow body, we want to develop static control before progressing to dynamic movement. We will follow this plan with the kipping pull-up as well.
To develop static control, we start with the three positions of the kip: hollow, center and arch. Learn each static position before adding speed and momentum. Doing so creates strength as well as muscle memory.
Starting from an active hang: the athlete “pulls” down on the bar while keeping the body hollow, slightly behind the bar. He or she will return to center while showing control. Still exerting pressure on the bar and maintaining tension in the body, the athlete will then create a superman/arch position.
It’s important to avoid creating movement or flexion in the hips. This bending is seen when a hip-generated kip is employed, and the error will not allow the athlete to create a controlled swing.
After proficiency is demonstrated by slowly moving through the three positions of the kip, the athletes can move into a “beat swing.” This is the kipping portion of the movement before we add the pull-up. Try placing a sponge the between heels to maintain tension throughout the body, allowing for maximum generation and transfer of force. The athlete should start with small beat swings and then open the kip to generate more speed and power. Remember: the kip—even when larger—is driven by the shoulder girdle, not the hips and legs.
Each athlete’s kip might look different due to shoulder mobility. The power of the kip does not depend on the range of motion but rather how efficiently the athlete moves through his or her available range of motion. The power comes from the tension the athlete creates through the shoulders and core.
We do suggest the following mobility screen to check shoulder flexion and thoracic extension. The athlete places his or her hands on a wall at shoulder height and width with the fingertips pointing toward the ceiling. He or she then bends at the waist, pushing the head between the outstretched arms. From the side, a coach should determine whether the athlete can assume a flattened position of the thoracic spine with the arms in line with the thoracic spine. If this position can’t be attained, we suggest performing the shoulder and thoracic mobility breakouts covered in “Analyzing the Handstand Position.”
Athletes can also work through this series of exercises specific to the flexibility requirements of kipping pull-ups: “Kipping Pullup Mobility Moves.”
When the athlete has developed consistent mechanics in the kip and has strict pull-ups, we can add the pulling portion of the movement. To do so, the power generated as the athlete moves from the arch position to the hollow is directed vertically. The timing of the pull-up is crucial to maximum efficiency.
As the athlete pulls the body vertically, he or she should be in the hollow position as the athlete sends the elbows down and slightly back. At the top of pull-up, the body should be in the same hollow position we detailed in the second article in this series.
Once the athlete has completed the pull-up with his or her chin above the plane of the bar, he or she extends the elbows slightly to push the body away from the bar. At this point, the hollow position is maintained as the athlete lowers with both speed and control. We do not want the athlete simply dropping because doing so places unnecessary forces on the shoulder girdle.
As the arms reach extension, the kip is started again as the athlete moves into the arch position. The shoulders are active at all times, as we established in the active hang. At no point should the athlete hang from the bar without muscular tension throughout the shoulder.
For some, connecting multiple kipping pull-ups can be a challenge. Athletes who are unable to string together multiple reps should perform two-for-ones, in which a kipping pull-up is followed by an extra beat swing before the next pull-up. This drill adds emphasis on the kip and will help them develop the timing and coordination to begin stringing pull-ups together.
If at any point an athlete has difficulty with consistency of movement, we suggest taking a step back in the progression. We find athletes often move through the progressions too quickly and never fully master each step, which can create errors in subsequent steps and cause an athlete to stall.
Remember: Strength is necessary for control. If you aren’t strong enough, you won’t be able to kip with virtuosity. Master the movements at each step for optimal long-term progress.
Stand before you walk!