You have to stand before you can walk. You have to squat before you can stand. And you should be able to both squat and stand before you can jump and land, correct?
If you cannot even stand on your feet, how will you survive the force of landing on them? The added force of your bodyweight and gravity combined with a fast descent would be much more force than you could withstand. Simple right? If you can’t stand or land correctly, you have no business jumping yet.
If this is the case, why do we believe it is okay to kip?
What Is Kipping?
Kipping is a movement where the body will arch, then hollow quickly, or vice versa, to create momentum to complete things like pull-ups, muscle ups, handstand pushups, and even dips during workouts. Often times, they will be strung together to create a continuous motion with a bounce at the bottom of a rep. This allows for more of a movement to be done in a shorter amount of time. There is however, a right and wrong time to kip.
When NOT To Kip?
So when is the right time? Sadly, it’s not when most people do it.
Strength Training Workouts
For most people, this is certainly not the right time to kip, and even more so not the right time to string kips together. Why? Because you’re trying to gain strength. If you are trying to gain strength, why cheat the movement by adding momentum? Especially if you cannot do that movement in the first place. There are better tools to use than momentum. This holds even more true for continuous kipping movements like pull-ups due to the amount of force the shoulders received at the bottom of the motion.
What To Do Instead
If you are having trouble building new strength abilities like pull ups and dips, utilize eccentrics (slowly lowering down) and isometrics (static pauses).
For pull-ups, eccentrics, starting with the neck or chest touching the bar and lowering down is a great way to build up to a complete pull-up. Since your body is stronger during the eccentric phase of the movement versus the concentric (lifting), you will be able to get much more time under tension. Build up to sets of 30 seconds and you should be close to a full pull-up.
Isometrics are also great tools to use to break through sticking points. Isometrics are where you will pause during a movement to build strength in that joint range. If you get to a 30 second negative and still don’t have a chin up, try adding isometrics to the top, where your neck or chest reaches the bar, and bottom, just before your arms lockout. Build up to ten seconds each and see how your pull-ups progress.
These movements also have the benefit of being much more slow and controlled. Keeping you from adding hundreds of pounds of force that you are not ready for. This is much safer than continuously bouncing out the bottom of the pull-up when you are not truly strong in that range.
Endurance Training Workouts
You will also see kipping mentioned as a tool for endurance. This mainly applies to people who have fitness test such as people being scouted for military service. Kipping is sometimes suggested as a tool to build reps. I am not a fan. Why? Well why use kipping when there are other tools to build up the reps? More effective ones.
What To Do Instead
I like to use two things to increase endurance.
First, increasing my strength. Think about it. If you can squat 100 pounds 1 time as a max effort, 100 pounds is pretty hard, right? Well let’s say you can squat 300 pounds as a max effort. Now 100 is only 1/3rd of your max! Now you have much more capacity to build endurance and the lifts at 100 pounds will be much easier.
The same applies to pull-ups and other movements. Instead of kipping to add reps, get stronger. After building up to one arm pull ups and rope climbs, for example you will find a normal pull-up to be much easier after. I have never focused on high rep pull-ups during my workouts, but can still get into the 20s without any sort of direct endurance work on them, or having to kip. This is because I focus my training for strength.
Another tool I like is the drop set. A drop set is where you perform a variation of a movement. Going back to our pull-up example, let’s say you perform 5 and then begin to fatigue. Take a short 10 second break then begin performing chin ups with your hands facing yourself. This is a stronger movement than the pull up movement, so most people will be able to crank out a few more reps. After you fatigue with those, rest again, then perform chin ups with your palms facing each other. This drop set works by squeezing out every bit of effort you can muster . Do it for a workout cycle and test your max again. Done right, your progress will increase.
When To Kip: Movement Training
This is where I believe kipping can play a role. A concept I learned from Ido Portal was to train harder and make training harder, but move efficiently. What this means is that during training, I will purposely try to make things more difficult to increase strength, variety, and my abilities. For a pull-up, I may place my arms wider than shoulder width to increase the difficulty of the movement.
But during movement, such as parkour, this is where I am okay with using kipping. If I am hanging off a bar and looking to pull up and jump to a higher bar, this is where I will add kipping. I won’t do it during training because that is where I seek to build strength. But I will do it during movement because my goal there is to be fluid and efficient. Something I believe kipping can help with.
There you have it. During workouts and training, let’s remove the kip. Don’t completely throw it away though. Instead, go use it during a parkour class, or try it during gymnastics. Just make sure you are strong and prepared for whatever movement you do.
Yarrow, J., Borsa, P., Borst, S., Sitren, J., Stevens, B., White, L. Early-Phase Neuroendocrine Responses and Strength Adaptations Following Eccentric-Enhanced Resistance Training. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2008. 22(4), 1205-1214.
Cowell, J., Cronin, J., et al. Eccentric Muscle Actions and How the Strength and Conditioning Specialist Might Use Them for a Variety of Purposes. Strength and Conditioning Journal. 2012. 34(3), 33-48.
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