by MISSY ALBRECHT, DPT, CSCS, FMS| Physical Therapist/Coach
The reason I wanted to bring up this topic is because there seems to be a pretty large debate on whether an athlete needs to be able to do a strict pull-up before doing kipping pull-ups. My PT mind automatically goes to “Well, yes of course they need a base strength so they don’t swing on their ligaments and stretch them out, among other issues.” I’ll save my full opinion till the end, but I wanted to share what your lovely coaches think in order to help answer any questions/concerns and help educate those who have not really thought too much about their pull-ups.
I’ll start with the most “strict first rule” and work down to the “strict is not necessary.”
- Everyone should be first tested for their ability to hold hollow rock and superman on the ground. Then test their ability to do this while hanging on the bar. While practicing this, they are also working on 10 strict pull-ups before they are allowed to kip. Eccentric pull-ups are used to increase strength in low volumes. (This is a Navy SEAL theory.)
- Another thought is recommending 3-5 strict pull-ups but not requiring this in the athlete before they teach the kip. The coach will teach the kipping progression and also have the athlete work on their strict pull-ups either with a band or with eccentrics. If the kipping progression is not going well, the athlete may be told not to do kipping pull-ups until they get stronger (in the arms and core) but they are not forbidden from doing kipping (which means it’s up to the athlete to ultimately decide). “Encourage athletes to build pre-requisite strength through strict pull-ups instead of relying on the kip before they are ready or capable.”
- The last major thought was that some athletes may be able to build enough strength through kipping first and working on strict later. The idea behind this is that muscle adaptation occurs through the kip, and some athletes have seen improvements with their strict abilities while just working on the kip. “It may be the case for some that full range of motion kipping pull ups done at high reps CAN cause the lats and biceps to adapt more aggressively than strict alone.”
Coaches’ Thoughts on Those Who May Not Be Ready
The overall theme from the coaches is that it’s case-by-case. “I don’t have a hard and fast rule. I take it case by case and teach the kipping swing before the pull-up.” No athlete is the same and has the same fitness background, therefore what works with one athlete may or may not work for another athlete. Most coaches will stress the importance of getting the strength for the strict but also want you all to be able to learn the technique of the kipping pull-up so you can practice and improve. “Proper technique with any movement (e.g.- snatch) can largely compensate for what an athlete lacks in strength.”