The “Why” of the Kipping Pull-up

Few things are quite as controversial in CrossFit as the kipping pull-up. Check out any blog post or YouTube video referencing it, and you’re sure to find lots of trollers making their opinions known: “A kipping pull-up is NOT a real pull-up.” “It’s cheating.” So why do we do them?

Well, first off, there is definitely a difference between a strict pull-up and a kipping pull-up – and there IS a time and a place for both. A strict pull-up is an excellent strength building tool. It isolates the upper body to build pulling strength by developing the lats, upper back, and shoulders. A kipping pull-up, on the other hand, builds power. Power = work divided by time.  The more work you do in a shorter amount of time, the more your power output. Kipping pull-ups allow more muscles to share the workload, and thus more work to be performed. And because kipping pull-ups allow you to do reps more quickly, and more OF them before fatigue sets in, your power output is greater.

CrossFit as a training methodology is very focused on the power output of the athlete. We care about Power more so than Strength or Endurance or even Speed because Power taxes your whole human system – and elicits a neuroendocrine response. (The neuroendocrine response is basically what gets us the results we’re looking for. If you want to nerd out on what exactly that means, you can follow this link here.)

The main point of most of our workouts is to measure/challenge power output (that’s your score that gets written up on the whiteboard – how quickly were you able to perform the prescribed work?) When we increase an individual’s ability to output power, we can see an increase in absolute strength, speed, endurance and stamina. If workouts are designed to increase absolute strength only, strength is the only area of improvement. We prefer improvement in all areas of fitness!

So kipping pull-ups are great for their ability to increase your power, but that’s not where the benefits end! The kipping pull-up is also a highly technical movement that requires a great deal of athleticism and flexibility to perform correctly. Your timing and coordination must be on-point. Remember, in CrossFit, we’re not just interested in how strong you are or how fast you are. There are 10 different general physical skills that we look to improve:  cardiovascular/respiratory endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speed, coordination, agility, balance, and accuracy. Kipping pull-ups hit a bunch of them, making you overall more awesome!

So next time you encounter a troll, you can tell ’em to go back to the cave from whence they came.

The “Why” of the Kipping Pull-up

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