Kipping Pull Ups Progression Guide

What is the Kipping Pull Ups Guide and why is it here?

I spent 6-years as an instructor at CrossFit One World in the Bay Area. During that time I had the opportunity to work with hundreds of clients in our classes over the years. We also hosted dozens of seminars and I was able to see observe and talk to those people as well. In that time, I had the opportunity to pick up a thing or two on kipping pull ups.

I learned so much in that time and one of the themes I observed is this. Many people know how to progress with barbell training. This is because it’s intuitive and linear.

Less is know how to progress with the kipping pullups for wodprep. This is especially true for beginners athletes who are earlier in their journey.

The purpose of this guide and the RX CrossFit Gymnastics program is to help people progress through these body weight movements as intuitively as they would barbell movements.

Do you offer other progressions?

This is the first article in my CrossFit progression series. Each article tackles a different movement to be well rounded in CrossFit Gymnastics.

Intro to the Kipping Pull Ups Guide

The Kipping Pull Up progression is part of a series of posts and programs on this site. The posts offer an introduction to the progression. The programs offer the full progression to master the movement

Both the posts and programs are accessory strength programs for CrossFitters. The problem these posts an programs aim to solve is the chasm in programming available.

How does someone move from zero to ten chin ups in a methodical progression? The general response is to do some band pull ups. Then some box jumps. Then some negatives. Then somewhere along the lines you can do a pull up or chin up! Then once you have that then you can do more each week till you got it!

That is too ambiguous for my liking. Progressing on the kipping or butterfly pull up should be broken down into steps.

This post and my programs address this problem and deficiency in available programming. These progressions are a means to an end. The design of the progressions is so that you can graduate and move on.

Success looks like this. You can’t do a pull up or can only do a few. You start the progressions and follow them for 2 to 6 months. In that time you build up to doing 10+ strict pull ups and 20+ kipping pull ups. Stop the progression or scale back to a few sessions a month.

The goal is to unlock pull up capacity. Once unlocked you’ll maintain and build capacity with your standard CrossFit programming.

What is a Kipping Pull Up?

In the most simple terms, a pull up is when you hang from a bar and pull your way up. Usually this means getting your chin above the bar but there are exceptions to this. For example, a scapular pull up only brings your head up by about 2 inches. To be concise, a pull up will meet the following criteria.

  • Hanging. This can be from any object. A pull up bar or gymnastic rings being the most common.
  • The head becomes elevated from the hanging position. This can be 2 inches like with a scapular pull up. Or it can be much more like belly button to bar kipping pull up.

As you can imagine, there are many many pull up variations! Here is a simple strict pull up for reference.

A kipping pull up is a variation in the pull up family.

A kipping pull up is a way to use your hips and body momentum to complete a pull up. It is often used in CrossFit WOD’s for a few different reasons:

  • You can complete more reps in less time.
  • By using momentum from your hips it reduces the amount of work performed by your upper body.

This allows you to do more work with less effort. It is more efficient.

The Level Up Method

The pull up progression uses my Level Up method. The Level Up method is a framework to organize each of the RX CrossFit programs.

There are five levels. Each level has a goal to move to the next level. Each level is designed and programmed to fit the needs of athletes within that level. Once someone graduates to a new level the programming is adjusted to help reach the goal of the next level.

How to get started with the CrossFit Kipping Pull Up Guide

It is simple to get started on the pull up progressions. There are 5 levels below. Each level has a Current Ability section.

First, you should locate your current ability. Lets say that you can do two strict pull ups.  This means no hip pop, legs straight, and only pulling using upper body.

This would put you at level 2 pull up. You would then follow the instructions for level 2 until you complete the goal of that level. The goal of which is 5 strict pull ups. Once you can do that then you graduate to level 3.

Once you have your level identified then its time to get to work!

Keeping with our level 2 athlete example, the first day would look like this:

  • Warm Up: EMOM 1-3 strict pull-ups for 5 Min. Every week either try to get more consecutive pull ups or add a minute. Do not go over 10 minutes. The goal is do more each week. Whether you do this by doing more in the allotted time or more by adding more time, it doesn’t matter.
  • CrossFit Class: This will take 60-90 minutes. Do your usual thing here.
  • Cool Down exercise 1: Perform kipping pull up practice drills.
  • Cool Down exercise 2: Accumulate 20 hollow rocks. Add 5/week until you go to level 3. Do a max set of strict pull ups before and after hollow rocks

In level 2, there are four work outs to follow. This being the first. You would rotate between the four workouts until you are able to complete 5 pull ups. Then its time to move to level 3.


Level 1: CrossFit Kipping Pull Ups Progression

Does a strict pull up evade you? Not sure how to progress to get your first strict pull up? Look no further! This progression will get you your first strict pull up.

The primary purpose of this guide is to develop your kipping pull ups. The reason I have strict pull ups as the first level is for a few reasons.

First, kipping pull ups results in dynamic movement in the shoulders. When this happens our likelihood of injury increases. Couple with limited strength and we have a recipie for an injury. So the first reason is to develop strength in the shoulders, arms, and back to help prevent injury.

Second, a solid base of stength will help you do more kipping pull ups. Strict pull ups are the best tool we have for that.

Third, having enough pulling strength to do a strict pull up is a pre-requisite to muscle ups. If you plan develop that skill later on you’ll need to have a firm grasp on strict pull ups.

  • Current ability: 0 strict pull-ups. To be clear, this means not being able to hang from a bar and pull yourself up high enough where your chin clears the bar. This means without jumping, an exercise band, or any other tool.
  • Goal: 1 strict pull-up. Also, this means mastery over one strict pull up. I don’t want you to move to level 2 on your first one. You should be comfortable jumping up to a bar and getting a strict pull up pretty much any day of the week. What I recommend is to cycle through the microcycle one or two times before moving to level 2. The extra practice will prepare you for level 2. Trust me. Don’t rush good work. Take your time. Its not a race. We want you to be a quality mover. We’re not trying to race through the program as fast as possible.
  • Note 1: We are going for control on these reps. Take a look at the video clips below and you will notice I keep a nice consistent pace going up an down.
  • Note 2: To complete a self-assisted pull up will will be using a squat rack. During level 1, we will be using these to supplement band pull ups. When getting someone to their first pull up, I prefer to use both band pull ups and self-assisted pull ups. You’ll find most coaches will only use bands during the level of pull up training. The reason I don’t like that is because band pull ups do not mimic the same strength curve as a pull up. With a strict pull up, the hardest part is the bottom of the hand. With a band pull up, it is the easiest. I have a video below of what a self-assisted pull up looks like. There are MANY ways to customize this to be  easy or difficult.
    • Both legs
    • Stay on toes only.
    • Use one leg
    • Put feet on a box or bench in front of you.
    • Put weight on leg
  • Note 3: There are more variations in the upgraded programs.
Programming | Microcyle for Level 1 CrossFit Kipping Pull Up
When Day 1 Day 2 Day 3
Volume Assistance Intensity
Warm Up 3 sets 8-12 banded pull-ups. If you go over 12 move to a band with less resistance. If banded pull-ups are too difficult you can do self-assisted pull-ups until you are capable to progressing to the band  5×5 Self-assisted pull-ups. Scroll down for information about the progressions.  5×3-5 banded pull-up. If you can go over 5 reps scale up to a more difficult progression. You should attempt a small band than volume day.
Warm Up - - 3 sets of a max hang from a pull bar with 1 minute rest. This is to help build grip strength. If you can do more than a minute then you can skip.
Cool Down Accumulate 25 ring rows. Move up 3-5 reps a week until you move to level 2. If you can string together more than 10 in row make the movement more difficult by being more parallel with the floor.  3×8-12 curls with barbell  5×5 Self-assisted pull-ups.
Cool Down Accumulate 25 banded face-pulls. Move up 3-5 reps a week until you move to level 2. -

 

Ring Row | 45 degrees


Ring Row | Parallel to floor

Band Pulls


Banded Pull Up | from foot


Banded Pull Up | from knee


Leg Assisted pull-ups in squat rack - Chest Level - 2 feet on box - Low Box


Level 2: CrossFit Kipping Pull Ups Progression

In Level 2 you should be able to complete a strict pull up. This means to little thrusts with your hip to get your chin over the bar. Additionally you should be able to do this any day of the week. If you got one chin up that one time on a very good day then that doesn’t count. You should be able to walk into the gym cold, jump into a hang, and pull yourself up, any day of the week.

There are two goals in level 2.

First, we want to continue building strength in the strict pull up. Having a solid base of strength will help with our goal of mastering kipping pull ups. In this level we will work our way up to getting 5 strict pull ups in a row.

Kipping Pull Up Practice
Second, we will begin practicing the motion of kipping. In the programming we have “Kipping pull up practice” as a prescription. There are four levels of practice. The video’s are in the video library. The go from easiest to hardest.

When kipping pull up practice comes up, what I would like you to do is start with the swing. The kipping swing is the base of all the kipping pullup. You’ll need to practice this and get this down to do a kipping pull up. Feeling comfortable with this before moving to hand release. The swing involves external and internal rotation of the scapula and shoulder blades. It also involves coordination of movement with your hips. The

When you feel comortable with the swing you’ll then move to hand release. This is the the same as the swing but as you come up you release your hands for a split second and then come back down into the bottom of the swing.

Once you have hand release down we’ll combine your strict pull up practice with the kipping swing. You’ll pull yourself up, hold for a second, and push away down into the bottom of the swing. This drill mimics the movement pattern needed to string many kipping pull ups together.

Finally, we are going to do a kipping pull up! Well, almost. In this drill we do every part of a kipping pull up except at the top we hold for a split second.

Mastery of these four drills will establish a solid base for kipping pull ups in level 3.

  • Current ability: 1 strict pull-up any day of the week.
  • Goals: 5 strict pull-ups in a row with no kip. Additionally you should be able to do all four kipping pull up practice drills.
  • Objectives: Every week do more pull-ups than the last. Develop good technique for kipping. Become stronger in hollow rock position.
  • How to: Do 3-4 workouts a week. Rest day from pull-ups before day 2 and 4.

Level 2 Programming and Video in RX Gymnastics Program


Level 3: CrossFit Kipping Pull Ups Progression

At this point you should be able to string together 5 strict pull ups and have the kipping motion down. In level 3 we will begin having less of a focus on strict pull ups and more of a focus on kipping pull ups. With that said, strict pull ups should continue to be the backbone of your pull up programming. The more strict pull ups you can do the more kipping pull ups you can do. Additionally, strict pull ups help serve as the base for muscle ups.

In level 3 we focus on developing stamina in pull ups. In addition, we want to iron out the technique for kipping. This level is about taking all the pieces of level 1 and 2 together. With that we can build aptitude with kipping pull ups and start introducing them our WOD’s.

In level 3 we also begin introducing the butterfly pull up. I’ve included this as an optional skill to work on. The butterfly is faster than a kipping pull up but take more enegy and has more risk of injury with the shoulder. If you decide you’d like to develop the butterfly then see “Circles Under The Bar” video. When practicing you’ll only need to do it with head under the bar. As you get better you start making bigger and bigger circles until you can start going chin over the bar.

If you do not want to try butterfly then you can use this time to practice your kipping motion or more set of kipping pull ups.

  • Current ability: Set of 5 strict pull-ups any day of the week
  • Goal: Men 10 strict and 20 kipping. Women 7 strict and 15 kipping.
  • How to: Do 2-4 workouts a week. Rest day from pull-ups before day 2 and 4

Level 3 Programming and Video in RX Gymnastics Program


Level 4: CrossFit Kipping Pull Ups Progression

By level 4 we have proficiency with both kipping and strict pull ups. This means a few different things.

First, your kipping skills are down pat. You feel comfortable jumping up and knowing out some kipping pull ups. By now, you should have already started introducing them in your WOD’s. You may not be able to do them all but you feel it.

Second, you are getting strong enough to do a few weighted pull ups. By now, if you were to wear a weight belt you might be able to do a a weighted pull up with 5-45 lb pounds.

In level 4, we are working towards building more capacity. In your WOD’s you should be attempting to most or all of your pull ups as kipping.

  • Current ability: Men 10 strict and 20 kipping. Women 7 strict and 15 kipping.
  • Goal: Men 40 butterfly pull-ups. Women 30 butterfly pull-ups. Move to Phase 5 once you hit this goal.
  • How to: Do 2-3 workouts a week.

Level 4 Programming and Video in RX Gymnastics Program


Level 5: CrossFit Kipping Pull Ups Progression

Current ability: Men 40 butterfly or kipping pull-ups. Women 30 butterfly or kipping pull-ups.

Goal: Men 100 pull-ups in under 4:00 and women under 5:00

Objectives: Capacity

How to: Do 2-3 workouts a week. Once you complete cycle 1 go to cycle 2 and then back again.

Level 5 Programming and Video in RX Gymnastics Program

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Benefits of upgrade:

  • All  progression programming. This Includes Levels 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.
  • Also Includes progressions for HSPU, Ring Dips, and Muscle Ups.
  • Demonstration videos for each progression. Over 90+.
  • Progress tracker to track how far along you are.
  • Weekly templates to combine all movements into one program. This allows you to progress at all of the foundational movements in concert with each other.
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