Nothing in the Crossfit methodology is more misunderstood or maligned than our adoption of the kipping pull-up. Detractors see our flowing and powerful movement and immediately label it cheating. To consider the kipping pull-up cheating would be similar to saying a kettlebell swing is a cheating front raise. Simply put these people view a strict pull-up (SP) as a back and arm strength and hypertrophy exercise. On the flip side the kipping pull-up (KP) is a movement that simultaneously requires power, coordination, and flexibility. Done in high rep doses the KP is potent conditioning tool on par with high rep kettlebell lifting. In addition, the KP fits perfectly within our definition of intensity (moving large loads, long-distances, quickly) as well as our definition of functional movement (recruitment of muscles originating at the center of the body and emanating out towards the smaller muscles). Another aspect of the kipping pull-up that should be noted is its (kp) ability to produce a favorable hormonal and neurological shift. This shift is termed “endocrine response”. Movements that illicit this response are full range of motion (ROM) movements that activate a number of large muscles. On this point the Kp charges ahead of the Sp based on its ability to stimulate the legs, core, back, shoulder,and even the chest.
Are you a Kipper?
The strict pull-up (Sp) is a perfectly reasonable exercise to perform given it coincides with your fitness goals. Being that the aim of Crossfit is to illicit a, “broad general and inclusive fitness”, we spend the bulk of our time performing the kipping pull-up. However, when strength, body control, and stabilization is the goal we prescribe Sp, weighted (Wt.) Sp, and L pull-ups. This point is often over looked by the Kp detractors.
Will I get weaker if I spend the majority of my workouts kipping?
When first exploring the claims made by the Crossfit programing one thing that stuck out was their insistance that ones strict pull-up strength would dramatically increase with frequent exposure to the kipp. This notion flew in the face of specificity of adaption, namely that your stick pull-ups (weighted and non-weighted) would increase without direct focus on them. However, some notable Crossfit coaches swore it was so, which was enough to convince myself to give it a shot. What was the result? Well, after a year of following the crossfit.com main page WODS (work out of the day) I was able to do a 1 rep max strict pull-ups with 120 additional pound. Since that time I have tried a few different programs, even doing a dedicated strength phase where I focused on heavy weighted pull-ups. The dedicated work increased my 5 rep weighted max, however, I didn”t approach the 1RM strength that I has when I did kipping pull-ups almost exclusively.
Should a football player kipp?
Yes. Strength is obviously important to many athletic events/sports. But the kipping pull-up is such a powerful, hip centric movement that the carryover is quickly apparent. Athletically a person who has a high number of kipping pull-ups will be able to swing a heavyier kettlebell, jump to a higher box, and clean a higher load than the person who struggles to generate the power that is required in perfecting the kipping pull-up.
(here) is a rather long and old discussion on the topic of the kipping pull-up.
(here) is a short video clip discussing the different elements of the kipping pull-ups
(here) is an excelent kipping pull-up tutorial
Got a bunch of kipping pull-ups? wanna cycle those pull-ups faster? how about the butterfly kip? see a quick tutorial (here)