Back in the day, for the beginner Crossfit athlete, the first major benchmark in training was the kipping pull up. I remember the first time I was able to string three pull ups together. It was at my level one cert in 2008 under the direction of Robb Wolf with Nicole Caroll and Greg Glassman watching. I was pretty jazzed up and I tore the callus right off my hand. (this was also when I stopped using chalk) It was an exciting achievement for me and many others that day.
Looking back on that day I realize more about why I was successful in such a short period of time. I had great shoulder mobility and had been working for months on gaining strength for a dead hang pull up. Which I had. These two things are what allowed me to safely and effectively perform the ballistic movement of the kipping pull up.
This leads us to the subject of strength. The body weight or gymnastic movements require as much attention and strength as the barbell movements. The biggest difference is that while you can train the different barbell movements a few times a week, the body weight movements need more volume. To be strong at pull ups you have to do a lot of pull ups. In the quest for new skills we tend to want to bypass the due diligence of gaining the strength and jump straight to the “easy way”. Enter the kip.
I am speaking specifically of the kipping pull up, butterfly pull up, kipping dip and kipping handstand push up. If you are performing these movements without the strength to support your joints, you are an injury waiting to happen.
We do kipping movements for a reason, primarily, speed. The faster we go, the more work we get done over a shorter period of time. This is “increasing work capacity”. This has a huge impact over our metabolic conditioning.
We do strict (dead hang) movements for a reason too. STRENGTH. We must have strength in our muscles in order to support our joints during these movements. So here are some guidelines…
You should not be focusing your efforts on a kipping…
…pull up if you cannot not pull yourself at least halfway to the bar. Halfway is even dicey. Or, you cannot lower yourself with control from the top position.
…handstand push up if you cannot lower yourself to the bottom position without crashing your head onto an abmat. Really, I cannot believe I just had to type that. How many times are you going to smack your head before your neck tells you to F*@K off?
…dip if you cannot lower your chest to the rings without shrugging your shoulders or “winging” your elbows.
…Butterfly pull up if you cannot reach the bottom position with out dropping all your weight into your shoulders. Does anyone really NEED to butterfly outside of competition? Is it that much more of a metabolic benefit than the regular kip? Do your shoulders ever bother you? EVER?
I ask that everyone is conscious and deliberate while doing pull ups, push ups and dips in the warm ups. Use this time to really work on gaining strict strength within the movement. Its not about fast reps, its about quality.
These things will make you a stronger, healthier athlete and yes, eventually a faster athlete.