Sunday 4.03.11

The Pull Up.

The Pull Up is a great test of strength, the ability to pull yourself from a dead hang, to above the bar is very useful, functional, and develops many of the muscles in the back, shoulders, and arms.  Many of you at The Compound are working on getting your pull up.  Some of you have just recently got your kipping pull up (GOOD JOB!) and have found that once you got one, stringing together a few is getting easier.  It is always a great achievement when anyone gets their first pull up of any type, having been unable to do so previously and I’ve enjoyed watching the improvements.

This pic was on last year
Unfortunately; there are a bunch of photos just like this one all over the internet, CrossFit affiliate websites, etc.  What is a kipping pull up? It is using the momentum of the swing to get you moving upward. When people knock kipping pull-ups and say you are just "flopping around the bar” or doing a “cheating pull up”, it is a pretty accurate description of what we are doing, albeit ignorant in its purpose.

Is the kipping pull up a test of strength? Maybe. It definitely takes strength to perform the movement. Pit one person who isn't all that strong but has a very efficient kipping technique against someone who is very strong and not good at kipping, and you may have a scenario where the efficient kipper gets his chin over the bar more. 
But don't let achieving a kipping pull-up be your end goal.  If your kip looks like the girl in the picture above, that’s no problem, she is certainly fit and able.  But you should understand that the kipping pull up position (lower back over-extended, shoulders pulling away from the body, with legs akimbo) is a transitory position on your way to getting strict pull ups or chin ups, weighted pull ups, L-Pull ups, muscle ups, etc; all of which are great movements to increase overall upper body strength. Being stronger at strict pulls makes so many other movements easier.

As you work on strict pull ups, if you work on “quieting the body” during the pull up, you will be trying to use less and less of a swing.  With less of a swing, you find that you can keep a “hollow body” position (legs extended forward and squeezed together, toes pointed, back elongated to “stack the spine”) and still get enough momentum to get above the bar.  As you streamline the body in a hollow position, it does a few things that an erratic swing or even a butterfly pull up or any other swinging variation can’t do:

  1. It creates a better transition to making the pull up an upper body strength movement with a kip assist (instead of the other way around).
  2. It trains the Hollow Body position in another plain, which will assist any exercise where a hollow body is needed for efficiency and safety (handstand push ups, free handstands, muscle ups, overhead presses, etc.)
  3. And lastly, less torn hands.
Also from, these ladies appear to be in more control of their bodies, allowing minimally swing and a more solid position for multiple kipping pull ups
We are all working on some aspect of our pull ups. There is always more achievements to be made. The kipping pull up is a great tool for faster workout times, building your metcon capacity, etc, but there are a lot of workouts out there with strict, weights and L-pulls ups. I know all you will want to complete those workouts in the future, and we’ll try to help you get there. cc


  1. CFFB WOD: 2 mile walk w/ 50lb backpack


  2. Chanda and Kelly
    4 mile run at Pena Adobe--47:24