One of the most common hits on CrossFit presented by CrossFit haters and globo gym rats is the idea that the kipping pull up is not really a pull up. You see someone make an ignorant comment about this at least once a month on all our favorite avenues of social media. I usually just ignore these people, but this morning I simply couldn’t help myself…and it made for a good article since I haven’t posted one in a while…
Well executed kipping is a skill: a useful skill and a legitimate one at that in the world of gymnastics. My experience is people who hate on kipping usually lack the skill and coordination to do them properly with solid mechanics. Their strict pull ups are likely to not be technically sound either. Common faults you will find are
-not achieving full flexion of the shoulder at the bottom of the hang,
-allowing the shoulder to internally rotate in the bottom (enter potential for shoulder cuff injury),
-lack of scapular muscle activation,
-allowing the thoracic spine to go into extension (again putting the shoulder in a less than optimal position…this lack of motor control tends to manifest itself in other movements as well.),
-tilting the neck back into cervical extension (aka the chicken neck) to shorten the pull,
– etc. etc.
It really boils down to ego. The belittling of the kipping pull up tends to reveal a level of insecurity compelling the person to downplay another’s accomplishments. Again, the kipping pull up is a legitimate variant of the pull up especially within the context of CrossFit where the goal is to achieve a task as quickly and as efficiently as possible. The gymnastic kip is only one version of the kip. The butterfly kip is a more advanced version that is pretty much a CrossFit signature movement and not even found in the sport of gymnastics. This variant requires a bit more coordination as well as raw strength. It has no real application other than to do pull ups in high volume VERY quickly (in some cases less than 1 second per rep). I’ve heard of 65 in one minute CHEST to bar
Now the goal of CrossFit isn’t just competition. The competition component is a SMALL fraction of the overall non stereotypical demographic of “CrossFitters”. CrossFit was designed and developed to make people better at life in general; to prepare people for the unknown and unknowable. Let’s be honest, if you were running away from a dog and had to climb over a fence, are you really going to stop and do a strict pull up? No, you will want to know how to fire as many tissues as possible to clear the obstacle as quickly and efficiently as possible. This is an overarching theme that manifests itself in all the foundational movements: an emphasis on generating power from core to extremity. This is an emphasis sadly lacking in “traditional” fitness programs where isolation is an emphasis and not really relevant to real life. The effect for some is the production of all show no go athletes who are uncoordinated and lack the neurological wiring and awareness to use their muscles in concert with one another as they were intended. Don’t even get me started on the lack of mobility for which these “weight lifters” are famous. That’s a whole other discussion.
Simply put: a kipping pull up is a pull up. Most people who hate on them can’t do them properly anyway and should put their ego aside before they belittle people who can.