Tips for Kipping Pull-Up Success

Hi, friends! How’s your day going? Mine is flying by, and I love that tomorrow is FRIDAY! Hooray! :mrgreen:

A number of you guys recently asked me about kipping pull-ups, and I saw that some of you had pull-ups as a goal for 2013, so I decided to write a post about what helped me learn how to do them. Hopefully, my tips will help you too!

kipping pull-ups
[image source]

Learning progressions from my coaches

If you’re a CrossFitter, you’ve probably seen the kipping pull-up progressions before. (If not, check out the Jason Khalipa video that I posted below.) Practicing these progressions over and over again and asking my coaches questions (over and over again) was key to me learning how to do kipping pull-ups.

Watching videos on YouTube

After months and months of practice, I knew I was strong enough to do pull-ups, but I could not figure out the motion for the life of me. I could kip, no problem, but I couldn’t connect the dots with how to pull myself up to the bar. Watching videos of people doing kipping pull-ups (at home and on my iPhone at the gym) really helped me visualize what I needed to do. This video with Jason Khalipa was especially helpful.

Pausing at chin up and pushing off

When Mal coached at our box this summer, he helped me with kipping pull-ups. One of his tips, in particular, really helped me understand the movement. He told me to hold the chin up position and then push myself back and off the bar. Pushing off and swinging forward showed me just how big the kip need to be and let me feel the proper movement and momentum.

Practicing side-by-side with someone who knows how to do them

The day I did my very first kipping pull-up, I was practicing next to a friend, who already knew how to do them. I watched her do a bunch of kipping pull-ups and then I mimicked exactly what she did. Having a live example right next to me definitely helped make it possible!

Using a small band (off to the side)

When I finally learned how to do a couple of kipping pull-ups, the next step was stringing them together. (I’m still not a master at this, but I’m getting there!) What helped me was using a small band to support me while I practiced multiple kipping pull-ups in a row. One of my coaches suggested putting the band off to the side of my hands, instead of right in the middle of my body, so it was a more natural kip and didn’t pull me all around, which helped a lot. When I do WODs with a lot of pull-ups, I’ll often use a small band off to the side like this.

Be aggressive

The momentum of the kipping really helps to propel you up, so being more aggressive and “active” with my shoulders and hips really helped me string together multiple pull-ups.

Practice, practice, practice

Last but not least (and most important): PRACTICE! Lots of practice! It took me 7-8 months to figure out how to do kipping pull-ups and about a year to be able to do them in (some) workouts. It’s a hard movement, so don’t get discouraged. Practice, practice, practice, and practice some more. Eventually, it will click!

Lunch

When lunchtime rolled around yesterday afternoon, I remembered that I planned pizza made with a cauliflower crust for dinner, so I got a head start on it. (I added two eggs to the mix this time, which helped to firm it up.)

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Since I was turning on my oven to cook the cauliflower crust, I multi-tasked and cooked some Sweet Potato Wedges and chicken breasts as well. Then, I made some Cheesy Cauliflower Puree (with the extra cauliflower from the crust) since my kitchen was already a mess. And now I have a bunch of healthy, prepared foods in my fridge!

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Cheesy Cauliflower Puree

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 large head of cauliflower
  • 1 cup shredded cheese (any kind will work – I used sharp cheddar)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Break cauliflower into florets and add to a food processor (or blender); blend until the consistency is that of rice.
  2. Heat a large skillet on the stove and add olive oil, cauliflower, garlic, salt, and pepper. Sauté for 5-7 minutes until the cauliflower turns translucent and begins to soften.
  3. Transfer cauliflower mixture to a large mixing bowl and combine with shredded cheese and Parmesan. Mix until the shredded cheese is completely melted.
  4. Serve immediately and enjoy!

For lunch, I topped some of the Cheesy Cauliflower Puree (it sort of reminds me of mashed potatoes) with peas and leftover meat from the previous night’s dinner. It was SUCH a delicious and filling meal. Win-win!

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Once I finished eating, I wanted something sweet to eat, so I ate a few Sweet Potato Wedges that I cooked in coconut oil.

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Snack

After lunch, I ran a couple of errands and then returned home to find a package of goodies on my front porch from Brookside. Inside was some dark chocolate-covered goji berries, which looked quite tasty, so I immediately broke them open. And, holy goodness, they were delicious! So delicious, in fact, I ended up eating about half of the bag! Oops. Hopefully, I don’t plow through the rest of them just as quickly.

I posted the photo below on Instagram and a bunch of my followers agreed that these things are truly amazing. I can’t believe I didn’t discover them until now. I was definitely missing out!

darkchocolategoji

Workout

With a stomach full of chocolate-covered goji berries, I headed to CrossFit for a workout. (I’m surprised I didn’t barf them up during the Box Jumps!) On the agenda:

STRENGTH

Overhead Squat 6 x 3
Add weight every set.

WOD
AMRAP 12:
8 Push Jerks
8 Box Jumps
8 Barbell Rollouts

Rx: (155, 115) (24″, 20″)
L2: (135, 95) (24″, 20″)
L1: (115, 75) (24″, 20″)
Beg: weight determined by coach

I worked with a couple of friends in class, and we worked our way up to 75 pounds for the overhead squat. I wish we hadn’t run out of time because I could have kept going. Oh, well. Next time!

For the WOD, I used 65 pounds and finished 7 (rounds) + 19 (reps), even after Push Pressing the first two rounds. Brain fart. Thankfully, one of my coaches noticed that I was doing the wrong move and corrected me during the WOD. You know what? Push Jerks are way easier!

Dinner

After CrossFit, I came home and made dinner, which was chicken, broccoli, and feta pizza on a cauliflower crust.

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Delicious X 1,000,000!

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I’m seriously obsessed with this recipe. Brittney is a genius.

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I ate two pieces and then went back for a third.

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Question of the Day

Are pull-ups a fitness goal for you? Have you ever tried to do kipping pull-ups? If you can do kipping pull-ups, what are your tips for mastering them?

77 Comments

  1. I just learned how to kip maybe a month ago? And it was seriously one of the happiest days of my CrossFit ‘life’. 🙂 I can now string about 4 or 5 together on a good day and just need to keep working on them. Learned exactly the way you described!

  2. Hmm…I never saw that kipping pull up before…kind of reminds me of my gymnastics days! I am not a Cross Fitter, but I wonder if all that swinging and jerking will have any adverse effect on the shoulder joint? And, the pizza looks banging!

  3. I do pull-ups! Love doing them, in fact my husband and I used to have our pull up bar over the bed room door… anytime we had to enter the room we had to do 5. We’ve gotten a bit lazy on this but it was fun. I was a gymnast growing up so kipping was a big part of my life.
    One tip is the “c” swing. Hang from the bar and practice jus doing a C swing. You’re not swinging back and forth, it’s a controlled motion, like doing a butterfly kick when swimming.

  4. I’ve never done a Kipping Pull-Up because I’ve never tried Crossfit. That’s definitely going to be on my To-Do list this year. I think Crossfit looks extremely rewarding, and I’d love to try it! And next time I buy sweet potatoes, making wedges for sure. I see them on your blog all the time, and they always look so good. Healthy and delicious!

  5. This may sound crazy, but I love that Crossfit is such a challenge for you. You are in way better shape than I am and if I saw you at the gym I’d probably think you could do anything. It’s a nice reminder to know that we all have to work at it. I’m far from doing any pull-ups, but maybe one day!

  6. Is there a benefit to doing kipping pull ups v. regular pull ups? In gymnastics, we would do kips to get up onto the bar but they were a big no-no while doing pull ups. It was considered “cheating” b/c it utilizes momentum over strength. This was now 15 or so years ago, so i’m curious if the theory on this has changed or if they just recommend kipping pull ups so that more people can participate in pull ups. Sorry if this sounds like an obnoxious (snooty?) question, but I’m honestly asking out of curiosity. Thanks!

    1. @Vanessa N: The main benefit is being able to do them a lot faster. Kipping pull-ups are a zillion times easier (strength-wise) than regular pull-ups, so you can bang them out in a WOD.

  7. Pullups were my goal for 2012. I find it soooo much easiert to do strict pullups in stead of kipping but I’m working on them so hopefully with your hints I’ll be able to make them happen in 2013!

  8. I can’t do a pull-up for the life of me! Never have been able to without assistance. I have just never been that strong up top! Although I have noticed a significant difference since taking barre classes in my arm shape, which I love now! Still not sure I’d be able to do a pull up though!

  9. Pizza (and all your eats) look delicious.
    Costco is always sampling the choc covered gojis.
    Even though I have swimmer shoulders, I cannot do pull-ups!

  10. I have made the cauliflower pizza crust, but I also make it with leftover spaghetti squash. The flavor is devine! I like to top it with spinach or kale, banana peppers, kalamata olives, and a bit of feta.(and I don’t mind if I have to use a fork)

  11. I do assisted at the gym. It’s my goal to be able to do them unassisted. My BFF (a kick butt trainer) said ditch the assistance and get an elastic resistance band and use that instead. It’ll get you to a real pull up in no time!

  12. One of my goals for this year is 3 unassisted STRICT pull-ups! I actually achieved my goal of a Kipping pull-up in December and I was ecstatic! Today we did a WOD with 7 rounds of 7 pull-ups ( among other things) and I was so, so proud to use the thinnest band we had for them!! I never thought that possible when I started crossfit. These tips are great though! Especially the pushing away at the top– something I need to work on to be able to string them together!

  13. Definitely a long term fitness goal of mine. I need to work on my body weight to strength ratio. I am happy that I’ve gotten toes to bar – only stringing together three right now, but it’s a start. 🙂 thanks for the pointers and video links.

  14. I still can not do a regular pull-up but I’ve mastered them with the band. I think it is more out of fear that I’m not doing them. I do think I’m strong enough (at least to do one) but I’m afraid of making an ass of myself in front of a lot of people. :\

  15. I have been having so much trouble with kipping pull-ups! Just yesterday we were working on them and I got so discouraged because I still am not there yet after 6 months of Crossfit. I will try your suggestions, I’m so close so I hope they help! Thanks!

  16. I think one of the best ways to “get” your pullups is to ditch the band when you are close. I found that I was using the small band as a crutch and I wasn’t really figuring out how to do the push/pull. One thing that helped me was to stop thinking about my upper body and focus more on my hips/knee bend/kick. The bigger I popped my hips/knees, the higher I got to the bar. Another key that I’ve found with CrossFit is to PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE! I got recently got my first muscle up after a SOLID three weeks of dedicated practice (like, skipping many WODs just to work on muscle up skills). So, if you want your pullups, find the dedication to do a few sets before and after each WOD and you’ll be on your way!

  17. Tina, thanks for posting! I have been following your blog since I started crossfit in October you’ve been very inspirational (am still working on my kipping pullups; just can’t seem to string them together). But I actually wanted to ask you a clothing question – what brands of athletic apparel do you prefer, specifically your tops? I am tired of my standard sports bra & t-shirt combo but have been struggling to find cute, well-fitting sports bras and tops!

    1. I love to wear Lululemon’s TaTa Tamer with pretty much any of Reebok’s tops with built in sports bras. I also like Reebok’s CrossFit sports bra (a lot of the athletes at the Games wore it too). If you want specific links, let me know! Hope this helps! 🙂

  18. OMG I need to make both the puree and the crust! I have a head of cauliflower in my fridge that I NEED to use before it goes bad and both of these are perfect. Thank you and yes to it almost being Friday!

  19. A new crossfit studio opened in my area. I can join for either 2xs a week or 3xs or the super expensive unlimited membership! Do you think I would benefit from the 2xs a week along with my running?? Of course it is the cheaper way to go. Would appreciate any advice!!!

  20. Wow, that pizza looks amazing, I’m going to have to try that out this weekend. I’m not a huge cauliflower fan unless it’s prepared into something (does that make sense)- I won’t eat chunks of it mixed with veggies, but I’ll devour it mashed up as faux potatoes. I also make buffalo cauliflower that’s delish…just like lil buffalo chix poppers (minus the chix).

  21. One of my CrossFit goals this year is to be able to do unassisted pull ups! I def need to study kipping.

  22. One of my CrossFit goals for this year is to do unassisted pull ups. Def need to practice kipping…these are great tips! My other goal is to PR one of the “girls”.

  23. Pull-ups are definitely a goal of mine! I associate pull-ups as the epitome of strength! Thank you for your tips!

    Your eats look delicious! I’m definitely trying that pizza! YUM!

  24. I’ve never been able to do a pull up and it’s still a big goal of mine. Based on what I’ve learned about them, I think I’m using the wrong muscles because I basically try to lift myself up with just my arms. Needless to say, I need some practice.

    I’m so happy that you’re loving the cauliflower crust pizza. Your version with the broccoli and feta looks delish!

  25. Does your box make you master strict pull ups before you can kip in a wod? At my box, my coach doesn’t allow kipping pull ups until you can string together at least 3 strict pull ups. He says kipping before you build the requisite strength for a strict pull up is a recipe for injury. What are your thoughts on this?

    1. @Lisa: Our coaches don’t require anything like that, but they have a ton of modifications for people who are not yet strong enough to do the progressions/kipping.

  26. The thing that really helped me get kipping pull ups was that once I learned the kipping motion I started doing half pull ups. My box doesn’t have bands, so I guess half pull ups is my version of an assistance band. I did half pull ups during warm ups and skill sessions and now I can easily bust out up to 8 pull ups at a time.

  27. I really enjoy reading your blog, but this post brings up one of the issues I have questioned with cross fit. I am a proponent of strict, dead hang pull-ups, and I still feel confused as to the benefit of “making them easier” with kipping just so you can do more in a workout. To me, this negates the strength gains that come from doing true pull-ups. If the desire is to get your heart rate up in a workout, it seems that you could pick a million other things to do besides pull-ups. Why not do fewer, true pull-ups and work at getting stronger? I never did gymnastics as a kid, so all of my workout experience began as an adult, and I feel that there is no reason women shouldn’t work at stringing together multiple strict pull-ups without instead focusing on momentum to eliminate the strength needed.

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