How to do a Kipping Pullup

Popularized by CrossFit, the kipping pull-up has become the holy grail of all pull-ups. A kipping pull-up, sometimes called a cheat pull-up, uses momentum to swing yourself up to the top of a pull-up. It’s a full-body workout that capitalizes on coordination and agility. Like a regular pull-up, the kipping pull-up engages the muscles in your back, shoulders and arms. A kipping pull-up is different than a regular pull-up because the momentum you create by swinging back and forth is then converted to an upward motion to get your chin up to the high bar. “Kipping” means bucking or jerking with your whole body to increase momentum.

Instructions

Begin by doing a simple warm-up:

  • Rotate your arms forward from small circles to large circles
  • Rotate your arms backward from small circles to large circles
  • Swing them back and forth across your body and behind you
  • Finish by doing some jumping jacks and shadow boxing.

To swing back and forth in a kipping pull-up, your body is in extension (stomach forward and upper and lower body behind you in an arched position) and flexion (hips back and upper and lower body forward in a hollow position). You can practice the extension and flexion position by the following exercise:

  • Lie on the floor facedown and extend your arms forward and your legs straight
  • Raise your upper and lower body as high as you can off the floor, arching your back, and keeping the front of your pelvis on the ground
  • Gently release and lower to the ground. Roll over to your back. Raise your upper and your lower body up off the ground while keeping your butt on the floor
  • Gently release and lower to the ground. Practice both positions until you are comfortable with both extension and flexion positions
  • Remember to engage your core and keep your legs together and as straight as possible. This is a great foundation for the ability to do a kipping pull-up.

Next, let’s practice extension and flexion from a hanging position:

  • Place your hands on a pull-up bar shoulder-width apart with your palms facing away from you and your thumbs wrapped around the bar
  • Swing your legs forward and backward in the extension and flexion positions
  • Try to exaggerate the movement by incorporating head and shoulder movement in order to gain momentum
  • Continue until you can fully swing from extension and flexion in a smooth, rhythmic motion.

Then, you will convert this back and forth swing into an upward motion:

  • While hanging, swing back and forth as deeply as possible.
  • On your next flexion, drive your hips upward (think about kneeing someone in the face).
  • When your hips pop up correctly, you will feel your body weight less in your hands. Practice this hip pop until you can do it with confidence.

You will then convert this hip pop into a pull-up by pulling with your arms and back, and swinging up to bar until it is level with your chin. The moment that you engage your upper body is after the hip pop, when you feel the least amount of your body weight in your hands.

  • Once you’ve got your chin up and over the bar, gently push yourself away from the bar and allow gravity to lower your body.
  • As soon as your elbows are straightened, begin the backward and forward swing again, hip pop, and pull your chin up to the bar. Repeat as often as you can.

For an advanced version, wear ankle weights or a weighed vest. This adds resistance and intensifies the exercise.

As with any exercise, remember to cool down and stretch appropriately.

For a more visual approach check out this video:

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