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.