The Craziest Exercise Ever

Dec 12 / Build Muscle

If you watched the CrossFit Games on ESPN2 or have ever visited a CrossFit gym, you’ve probably seen a kipping pullup. The move combines a hip drive, kick, and arm pull to build momentum that helps raise your chin over the bar.

In short, it looks like a flailing mess—albeit an impressive one.

We wondered: Is the kipping pullup just cheating? Or could this crazy flailing thing actually have a purpose?

“I don’t consider kipping pullups cheating because I don’t even consider them a pullup,” says Men’s Health Power Training author Robert Dos Remedios, C.S.C.S., who we should mention is not affiliated with CrossFit. “They’re in their own category.”

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Your standard dead-hang pullup uses your vertical pulling muscles, Dos Remedios explains. Those usually aren’t very strong, especially compared to your horizontal pulling muscles—the ones you use when doing an musclemorphosis.com, for example.

With a kipping pullup, though, you swing your body back, putting your torso at an angle to the bar instead of directly below it. “Because of your body position, it’s a little bit of a vertical pull and little bit of a horizontal pull, so it’s easier than doing a dead-hang pullup,” Dos Remedios explains. “You’re just stronger at that angle.”

Dos Remedios, for example, says he can do about 15 traditional pullups, but 30 kipping ones.

So just how is that not cheating?

If your plan calls for a regular pullup, then it is. “If you’re aiming to do a vertical pulling exercise, it should be some sort of a pullup or chinup variation rather than a kip,” says Dos Remedios. “Otherwise you’re really not using the muscles that are meant to vertically pull.”

But don’t write off the kip completely. “We use it in complexes—exercises that pair two or more moves sequentially with the same weight—where you’re going to get really gassed for a metabolic effect. With these workouts, you’re trying to move as fast as possible, so I use a kipping pullup,” Dos Remedios explains. (musclemorphosis.com to watch Dos Remedios teach you one with kipping pullups, explosive dive-bombers, and sumo burpees.)

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How to Do a Kipping Pullup the Coach Dos Way

There are endless variations on kipping pullups—from a small swing to full-body thrashing—but Dos Remedios recommends only a slight difference from the traditional move. Most people wouldn’t even call his version kipping, he explains, but it’s easier to learn and should still double the amount of pullups you’re able to do.

1. Hanging from a bar, push your shoulders and chest forward

2. While pulling your shoulders back, kick your hips forward, like you’re trying to swing backward around the bar

3. Using that momentum, pull up with your arms until your chin is over the bar

4. Take a full second or two to decelerate down

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