Saturday, December 18, 2010

12/18/10 Kipping versus 'regular' pullups

First, today is a rest day for me. And much-needed; my abs, shoulders and lats are still sore.

Today I want to address the topic of kipping versus regular dead-hang pullups. There is a perception that kipping pullups are somehow a 'cheat', and not as effective as regular pullups. Like anything else, this is a matter of perspective, based on individual goals. For a video of how to kip, click here.

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First, a definition. A "kipping" pullup involves the basic pullup movement, but paired with a movement or thrust of the legs and hips to create momentum and propel the body upward into the pulling movement. As far as I can tell, the word "kip" comes from an old gymnastic move that involved swinging the legs. Obviously, this reduces the work load on the lats and shoulders, causing many people to call this a "cheat".

I want to suggest that kipping has a place in your workout, provided that it's utilized in the proper way: to provide coordination and endurance in a strength workout.

Regular dead-hang pullups are one of the best exercises (save perhaps weighted pullups) for developing strength in the shoulders and back. Many workouts that I create or borrow from other sites involve regular pullups utilized as a strength movement. They are also a very functional exercise; many people training or working in fields involving military, police or fire work have to make these movements on a regular basis. When I prescribe regular pullups, they're designed to build strength in the lats and shoulders.

Kipping pullups perform a slightly different function. While still working on the literal strength of the lats and shoulders (albeit to a lesser extent), they also incorporate elements of endurance, explosiveness and muscular coordination. Many people find it difficult to combine the hip movement necessary to properly kip; learning this increases your ability to coordinate multiple muscle groups. In addition, a proper kip allows you to do more pullups as a faster pace, training your body to perform a strength movement while it is taxed on a cardiovascular level. And if you really consider it, a kip is the movement that one would naturally perform if you needed to pull yourself up in a real-world situation where speed and efficiency mattered. There would be no reason to waste a store of potential power (your legs and hips) if they were available to you.

So the next time you design or attempt a workout that involves kipping pullups, don't automatically assume that it's not as effective as doing regular pullups. Rather, keep your particular goal for that workout in mind. There's a good chance that kipping pullups will help you reach it.

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