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Kipping Pull-Ups with Jeff Tucker by Jeff Tucker with Jeannie Bassi - CrossFit Journal

Kipping Pull-Ups with Jeff Tucker

By Jeff Tucker with Jeannie Bassi

In Gymnastics/Tumbling, Videos

February 03, 2011

Video Article

There is no violent hip drive in the gymnastics kipping pull-up. Instead of using the lower body to drive the pull-up, the upper body powers the movement. Why is this useful? It’s insurance at exhaustion. If you have the best mechanics before working to exhaustion, you can buffer the deterioration that happens under fatigue.

“That’s why I’m saying just go ahead and initiate it with upper body in the first place,” says CrossFit Gymnastics coach Jeff Tucker.

Join Tucker and Jeannie Bassi, his gymnast and demonstrator, as they teach the gymnastics kipping pull-up.

In Part 1, Tucker drills the beginning of the movement. The gymnastics kipping pull-up starts with an opening and closing of the upper body, focusing on initiating the movement with the lats and active shoulders for strength, safety and efficiency. From there, it’s a matter of leverage, and you don’t want to create angles by breaking your extended hips, arms or knees. Pull only when your wrist angle breaks, after you have achieved momentum. Push away with active control at the top to cycle back through the swing.

In Part 2, Tucker runs a group of athletes through drills. He begins with static holds and then drills the initiation of the swing using the lats and shoulders. Next, he adds the pull when the wrists break and a push away at the top to return to the swing. The key is upper-body initiation of the movement: the better your opening and closing of your shoulders, the more momentum you have on the bar and the easier your pull-up will be.

Tucker and Bassi both emphasize “strength first” before developing kipping pull-ups. Tucker suggests greasing the groove to build upper-body strength and body control using dead hangs, negatives and band assistance. The hollow rock and “superman” are also great tools for development of the open and closed positions and the midline stabilization you will need for the pull-up.

In Part 3, the coaches begin by critiquing butterfly pull-ups, which may be great for speed but aren’t great on the elbows and shoulders. Despite the shortcomings of any variation, practicing different types of pull-ups is still useful.

“This is what I mean about being able to write with both hands, being able to have something else to pull out of your knapsack,” Tucker says.

Tucker also addresses injury and protecting previously injured joints. The gymnastics kipping pull-up safeguards against injury because it allows you to stabilize your joints, develop the muscles around them and control hyperextension.

Overall, gymnastics has a lot to offer the CrossFitter interested in improving his or her pull-up mechanics for maximum power, safety and efficiency.

Part 1: 9min 38sec
Part 2: 10min 27sec
Part 3: 9min 47sec

Video by Again Faster.

Additional reading: Kipping Pullups by Greg Glassman, published April 1, 2005.

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Part 1:
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31 Comments on “Kipping Pull-Ups with Jeff Tucker”


wrote …

Great video! I was just curious but it seems that this video (in some parts) diverges from another recent video on the pullup with Adrian Bozman that was featured on the journal. What are the pros and cons to each method and/or teaching each method? Bozman used the upward movement of the knee (the back/forward/back skip) and the violent hip (on the ground drill seen in part 1 of this video also) but in this video it seems to take you in a different direction. Any insight would be welcomed.


wrote …

Brain - as stated this is a different perspective on the swing and body form. When working with newbies, as stated in the opening remarks, we are speaking to basic strength needed, active shoulders/upper body musculature needed, and active upper body initiating this swing - as opposed to initiation with lower body.

The goal here is to give you another view and you pic what might work for you. The bigger goal for me is seeing folks use active upper tissue in this swing entirely. So if we start with that - it should translate into better movement and protection of the shoulder girdle for such movements - that demand placed on active tissue is large in the kipping pull up. I have had much success with this style of swing as it primarily hones in on the active shoulders and tight body combining a hollow form for good overall movement.


wrote …

Awesome video's !
I am a newbie working on pullups,I am 53 years old and have some shoulder and elbow issues from past injuries, my question is how many dead hang pullups would you like to see before starting kipping ?
Thanks for any advice.


wrote …

Great video, and the Gymnastic cert with Jeff Tucker was awesome!

And I like how CrossFit opens up for different perspectives on the same movements, thats the whole point of open source right? Experiment and educate yourself, don't just do what some video on the internet told you:)


wrote …

Jeff, thanks for the quick response. In the pursuit for that first pull-up or consecutive pull-ups at high speed it seems a lot of people sacrifice the shoulder complex for that task especially the bottoming out effect. The information in this video is concise and extremely helpful. I wonder about this chicken/egg concept of the strength (aka deadhang)/technique(aka swing) pendulum and what should come first and when or if you can blend the two in.


wrote …

Great videos, keep them coming Jeff. This is by far the best kipping tutorial I've seen. The emphasis on shoulder stability and strength feels like a breath of fresh air.


wrote …

Quality information Jeff. There never seems to be enough emphasis on preventing injuries and preserving joints and tissue.


wrote …

Great video. Great coaching as usual! Nice Job Team GSX.


wrote …

What is your opinion of the butterfly kipping pull up? If executed properly does it give you the same benefit as the standard kipping pull up?


wrote …

Jeff - what visual cues do you look for when you see an athlete with a big open swing? How do you know what's too much/dangerous versus acceptable range?


wrote …

Carrie & Brain,

The way I see things - we must have pre-req strength before ramping up movements. That simple. So Brian as for chicken and egg it is simple, get your basic strength down, do so with just as active a tissue in your dead hangs...

Carrie - this leads into your question - i don't have an issue with the butterfly, if, and only if, you have the real strength and understanding of the movement. That takes time. many i have come across seem to sacrifice speed and go for time before understanding form.

Kim - BOOM! you get it.

Martin - for me i want to see some good strong dead hangs with active tissue and controlled. i have never thrown out a quantitative number - you as a coach, mentor, or individual need to be honest with the situation. How many controlled dead hangs do you have, even a few are very helpful. My hope will be that you have many many dead hangs - as this basic strength issue is a cure for much if you can knock out a number of strength movements - before shooting for time. Look at it this way - what if you are called on to do merely dead hang pull ups as a standard - and all you do is kip?


Coach T


great video Coach. thanks for sharing. i just have a question regarding hip drive. when doing the proper gymnastic kipping pullup, it still seems like Jeannie is initiating the movement with momentum gained from popping the hip up. so is the goal still to have some hip drive, but without being broken at the hip so your swing stays more controlled?


wrote …

Chris - i politely disagree... The swing is initiated with the upper body, hip does not drive it nor initiates it. You especially see this when we go to the static pose - all upper musculature is starting this movement. Now that said - as she begins her swing and - taps toes the hip looks more involved for the closed body form and it is because it is... in the sense of the core being activated with a hollow or midline stabilization tightness - but to say it is driving the movement is not accurate. Make sense? The more you tap toes with your core the more hip pop you might see in this movement - but that is not initiation, this comes from the upper body.

The whole point of this exercise on form - is trying to dial in the requirement for this movement with very active tissue. However - we know you many of you will loose form over time so you may or may not see angles in the body from the side, or more hip pop or drive begin to creep in. I have some athletes who let go of hollow form greatly and we see more hip drive added to compensate - just don't let go of that upper body musculature activity.

Final point here - the large swing she demos in start - becomes more shallow as she adds her pull ups - and she then hits that hollow harder tapping toes in the move - this might be what you are referencing. Hope that helps.


wrote …

i'd like to see a video like this for the butterfly. i can knock out dead hang and strict kipping pullups no problem but the butterflys are so hard on my shoulders. i know they say that as you get better and smoother at them that goes away but i wish there was a way to learn them without putting so much strain on the shoulder.


wrote …

Great series! I love the contrast/comparison to Boz's style...diversity (and strength) rocks!

Thanks again, Tucker, for your teaching.

I'd so love to do another Gym Cert...maybe Toronto again.

PS. Jeannie is hot.


Thanks Coach. That definitely makes sense. So the toe tap is just when her toes come forward in the hollow position?


wrote …

Exactly, great words. These are the things we try and teach everyday and you have displayed them perfectly. Thank you for the new ques!

We cannot wait to come to the Gymnastics Cert in your gym.

Keep the videos coming!

Shane and Andrea Cross


wrote …

Chris, exactly.


wrote …

Can you please explain what it means to "tap toes"?


wrote …

Jeff & Jeannie,

Sincere thanks from Toronto. I knew I was abusing my elbows but didn't grasp the solution until now.

Now I have the means and confidence to start piling on the volume again!


wrote …

I love that you guys filmed all of this at my gym! the place looks cool on video :)

anytime you want to come back Jeff, please let me know!


replied to comment from Sarah Morrison

opps. I am logged in as someone else. This is James!


replied to comment from Michael Bishop

Glad to be of help. Don't let your elbows handle all that pull and control!


wrote …

Jeff - I love all your videos. Thanks! Quick question please - what is your take on hip drive for a bar muscle up?

Thanks again!


wrote …

Nice videos. I actually laughed the first time I saw someone doing a kipping pullup. But after understanding the concept of crossfit and how the kip relates, I have to admit I perfer these over standard pullups now, except when I am n a strength training only phase.


wrote …

Hi Jeff, during the swing, our centre off mass should always be under the bar?


replied to comment from Jackson Yee

Jackson - same rules apply... Drive it with upper body swing to support above the bar... Can you throw some hip in it and still get there - yes you can. However, the open and closed swing of the body is the momentum for the swing to support. The lower body leverage comes from controlling that lower tight body as it follows the upper body movement...


wrote …

Great video, Jeff! You explain the technique and the reasons behind the technique in a very easy and understandable way. I can hardly wait to hit the bar tomorrow and fine tune my pull ups! More videos please.


wrote …

Thank you for these videos. I'm new to crossfit and know that I should have the strength to do a kipping pullup. I've been watching videos and all of them but these have taught to throw the legs and hips. I got my pullup doing this but now that I see these videos I'm going to the box tomorrow to try and fix it. I don't have the bad habit with my legs and I don't want to start it.


wrote …

Kat and Shelby,

our pleasure...


wrote …

Jeff, what do you mean by toe tap at the closed position?

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