Adventures in CrossFit: Kipping Pull Up Madness

Much like a preacher about to give a sermon, I feel the need to tell you all something first: I am a sinner. Yep, that’s right, I am someone who has in the past bashed CrossFit and bashed the kipping pull up. The reason why I bashed the kipping pull up was the same reason most people hate on things: I just didn’t understand it. Based on my education and experience up to that point, I made the silly assumption that I knew everything and since kipping pull ups went against my previous beliefs that pull ups are made to be done with strict form, they must be bad. But this isn’t true. It was just the effects of the Dunning Kruger principle playing out in my life. If you are not familiar with the Dunning Kruger Effect it simple shows that the less you know, the more confident you are because you haven’t been exposed to much but as you begin to learn more your confidence begins to go down as you realize how much you still don’t know. Illustration below for people who like pictures.

If you’re much like I used to be (stupid) and think you know so much more than all those CrossFitters swinging around on the pull up bars, allow me to state my case. Starting off, let me address the claim that a kipping pull up is bad technique or “cheating” the pull up. CrossFit is based off of several different training modalities and they are weight lifting, gymnastics, and conditioning. The kipping pull up is a gymnastics move. When people complain about the kipping pull up, they are doing so from the experience of pull ups as a weight lifting or body weight movement and the belief that kipping is a way of “cheating” that movement. But that is not what the kipping pull up is derived from, it comes from gymnastics. Check out the two videos below. In the first video, a gymnastics instructor explains how to develop the kip as a move on the uneven bars. In the second video, Gabby Douglas shows what being proficient in the kipping pull up really looks like.

So there lies one major problem with bitching about kipping. When you see a CrossFit athlete do it, you call it cheating. When you see an Olympic Gymnast do it, you call it a gold medal performance.

Now, for those that believe the kipping pull up is only a gymnastics movement and not optimal for building muscle, let me show a few examples of people who have done very little weight lifting if any at all but a ton of kipping pull ups.








Now, I am not arguing that kipping pull ups are any better than any other pull up. I am simply pointing out the fact that they are a legitimate movement for a specific purpose and not a bad tool to have in your arsenal. After 17 years lifting and 10 years in the fitness industry, I’m significantly more mature than I was when I first got into it and learned about CrossFit. So if you’re someone who has talked smack about the kipping pull up, be prepared, because you might be eating your words and defending them in the future.

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1 Response
  1. bertrand ronge

    So you are talking not about the muscle benefit of the kipping but about it’s use in gymnastic. Which seems a legit argument. Looking at the video, it in fact look that gymnast are not talking about kipping pull-ups but just about kipping. And if i look at what they do, they are not kipping pull-ups but kipping muscle-ups. So in the end, kipping pull-ups the way crossfit is not legit but well cheating in order to make people believe you are doing an impressive amount of pull-ups.

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