by GABE CHASE
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t hate the kip. I love kipping pull ups. Kipping pull ups represent a large part of the philosophy of CrossFit, which is efficiency, or the ability to do more repetitions faster while maintaining a full range of motion.
However, I’m here to argue that strict weighted pull ups also represent a cornerstone of CrossFit, which is functional strength, and unfortunately, in a haze of sweaty metcons, sometimes this movement gets disregarded. I will now carefully lay out 5 reasons why I believe that strict weighted pull ups are an essential CrossFit movement that should be performed in any box on at least a weekly basis.
#1: They Build More Muscle
The strict pull up, particularly when performed with extra weight — be it kettlebells, dumbbells, or a vest — builds far more muscle for functional strength because of the upper body isolation required. Allow me to refresh your memory with the words of Coach Ken Crowder from “The 7 Most Underrated CrossFit Exercises”:
At [CrossFit] 77, our athletes do lots and lots of both weighted and strict pull ups. Why? Because strict pull ups are a tremendously useful way to build pulling strength by developing the lats, upper back, and shoulders.
We encourage our males to shoot for a 1RM weighted pull up at 33% of their bodyweight and our females to shoot for a 1RM weighted pull up at 20% of their bodyweight (via OPT Assessment Level 3 Upper Body Pulling).
Therefore, strict weighted pull ups (more so than kipping pull ups) are an optimal choice for CrossFitters who are training for Strongman competitions. Kipping pull ups may be better for endurance and athleticism, which has its own benefits, but strict pull ups are the way to go for building strength and muscle.
#2: They Complement Kipping Pull Ups
Much like the way the strict press complements the push press and the jerk because of the strength built in isolation, strict weighted pull ups build functional strength towards improving one’s kipping pull ups. This means that strict pull ups, especially when weighted, help a CrossFitter to improve his/her kipping stamina. As Joshua Newman of NYC CrossFit said in an article for bodyweightculture: “Strict pull ups – and weighted strict pull ups – are an excellent tool for training limit strength… In our experience, however, so long as athletes continue to mix strict pull ups into their training, gains in kipping pull up reps spills over to dead hang reps, too.” Therefore, a CrossFitter who regularly practices strict weighted pull ups will not only have more upper body muscle and strength, but he/she will also be able to perform more kipping pull ups. And, as Newman stated above, both variations of pull up benefit one another when the athlete is training hard.
#3: They Promote Full, Optimal Functionality
In the spectrum of fitness, kipping pull ups promote stamina and athletic precision, while strict pull ups (especially with weight), promote necessary strength. Additionally, although the kip is far more useful in metcons and most CrossFit workouts, the motion of a kip is impossible to perform in certain life situations, including climbing. Per Joshua Newman:
Additionally, in some real-world contexts, kipping simply isn’t possible. From some holds and positions, for example, it would be impossible for a rock climber to kip, as the rock face is in the way. In those cases, being able to perform a solid strict pull up is crucial.
Although not everyone participates in climbing as a hobby, it is an important functional skill that fits into the Boy Scout attitude of general preparedness that CrossFit espouses. Theoretically, CrossFitters train in running so that they can sprint to save a life. They train in strength and Olympic lifts so that they can remove a crushing weight from someone. They train in all these areas so that they can be prepared to do work more effectively, and sometimes this can be in dangerous, unexpected situations.
My goal is not to intimidate anyone into learning weighted pull ups, but to draw attention to the fact that we never know what life will throw at us. Therefore, it’s good to be able to pull yourself up by the bootstraps in every possible way.