Long favored by devotees of martial arts, kipping pull-ups provide a much-needed alternative to the traditional pull up method.  This fitness tip can breathe new life into your workout, whether you are a personal trainer or a “fly solo” gym rat.

Pull-ups are always difficult to perform and for me, quite frankly, are boring too boot.  No matter how many pull-ups I can do, regardless of how good the form is, pull-ups are drudgery.  I’ve done pull-ups gripping a fat bar, on an I-beam, on a tree limb, holding onto my deck, holding a towel and with every other variation imaginable.

All these variations are just as boring.  Get in a dead hang start, no swing, knees down, pull until the head is completely over the bar, rinse and repeat. Dullsville.

Kipping pull-ups are a lot different.  If you are accustomed to performing explosive movements like the snatch, hang clean and split jerk, performing kipping pull-ups will feel way more natural.  When you’re “kipping” you use your hips to generate force that allows – requires – that these pull-ups to be performed quickly and explosively.

Here’s the checklist. 

Start from the top of the movement with head above the bar.  From this static hold drop as quickly as possible to the bottom position, all the while pushing the shoulders away from the bar and the hips towards the bar so that the body is in a kind of inverted “C” posture.  Let your legs bend at the knees so that the heels face backward/upward.

The better you get at this movement, the freer your legs will bend and the faster you will be able to drop while maintaining control. From the bottom position, explode your hips forward and upward as you pull up.  Pull hard and get the head as high above the bar as possible.  Once the set is started, there is no stopping or pausing. 

From the top position drop down again and keep the momentum going.  When fatigue sets in, or if the “groove” is lost, you’ll have to stop. I don’t look at kipping pull-ups as being better or worse/easier or harder than the traditional version.  If you can already do 15+ pull-ups at a time, adding the kipping technique to your routine will provide an additional challenge while breaking the monotony. 

Besides, seems to me that to get out of trouble in a real-world situation you’d use as much of your strength and as many of your muscles as possible in order to pull yourself up. My thought is that by using the kipping technique you’re adding more muscle groups to the mix, which is always preferable.  And the added stress that’s put on your grip muscles while doing kipping pull-ups will make regular pull-ups easier to do. 

Certainly, you still need to be able to perform “strict” pull-ups, but kipping pull-ups provide us with an interesting and effective variation.


  1. Kipping pull-ups are used at such places as Crossfit, HyperfitUSA, GymJones and other “functional fitness” gyms. Even the Marine Corps leaves it up to the discretion of the Marine whether he wants to kip or not on his physical fitness test.
    There is arguement for doing strict pull-ups, as well as for kipping. I tend to agree with you that both have their place. I definitely do both and I find that each one helps improve the other.
    I also use a steel I-Beam in my basement to do a monkey-bar type of “walk” from one end to the other.
    If you want some other awesome ideas for pull-ups, go to bodyweightculture.com and check out some of their videos.

  2. great point about the complimentary nature of these two variations. i don’t look at variations as necessarily being better, but in most cases, helping improve overall conditioning. there’s no doubt that kipping helps strict. just like doing pull-ups with a towel to strengthen the grip helps doing traditional method even if i do less reps per set with the towel.
    if you check out some of my videos, you’ll see i do what i call cliffhangers, where i do a similar move to your monkey walk, but on my deck.


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