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August 19, 2013


Why I haven’t taught you to kip

by Matt - 21crossfit

Here is a series of photos pulled from a supercool app called Essential Anatomy 2 (available in the App store of course, for about thirty dollars).

This first one here shows 3 of the 4 rotator cuff MUSCLES.  Top to bottom:  Supraspinatus, Infraspinatus, Teres Minor.

Image 8-16-13 at 12.17 PM

The next picture shows the fourth rotator cuff muscle, the Subscapularis (note that it is on the anterior or front side of the scapula while the others are on the posterior).Image 8-16-13 at 12.18 PM

These next 3 series delve deeper into the shoulder joint, or glenohumeral joint.  The first has removed all of the muscles and just shows connective tissue, bursa, and ligaments.  Image 8-16-13 at 12.20 PM This next one has simply removed the numerous bursa.Image 8-16-13 at 12.22 PM

This has the articular capsule highlighted.  No it isn’t normally green.  This is a very loose “wrap” around the head of the humerus and the point of articulartion with the scapula (shoulder blade).  Image 8-16-13 at 12.23 PM

This final one has everything removed except the arm bone (humerus) and scapula and the labrum (green).  .Image 8-16-13 at 12.23 PM (1)Which brings me to my point.  You have a BUNCH of STUFF that holds your shoulder together.  The rotator cuff is MUSCLE.  It is not some idea or intangible concept.  It is 4 muscles attaching your scapula and humerus together.  And muscles can be strengthened.  Your rotator cuff can be strengthened through proper training.  Pressing overhead is one such way.  Dead-hang pull-ups are another.  Isolation exercises you may have been prescribed before are another.

Finally, the Labrum.  It is a little rim of cartilage that helps make the glenoid fossa bigger.  The glenoid fossa is the little round part inside of the green labrum above.  The smooth part (head) of the humerus articulates with the scapula at the glenoid fossa.  It is pretty obvious that said fossa isn’t very deep.  It clearly does not envelop the humeral head.  The labrum is that little something extra that HELPS hold everything together.  Helps.  Along with all that connective tissue and ligaments, and four rotator cuff MUSCLES, and even indirectly some of the other big muscles that help move the arm (deltoid, etc).

So how do you injure this little Labrum?  Many a CrossFitter has done so, and there are several articles out there on the web that talk about it.  Sloppy technique with lots of exercises can cause all kinds of issues.  Impinged tissues, muscle strains, swelling.  Look at the shoulder.  There is A LOT of stuff in that area, including 3 bones that all this stuff is weaving around.  But that doesn’t necessarily injure the labrum.

The kipping pull-up has the highest potential to injure the labrum.  I’m not a doc y’all, or a PT, just an interested trainer and long time studier of strength that promotes the long term progress of those patronizing his gym.  I have injured lots of my body through lots of hard and sometimes reckless training but to my knowledge my labrum is good to go.  I personally know of a handful of folks in the broader CrossFit community that have and 2 that have at one point or another been a member of 21 CrossFit.

Every so often we get a new client that kips away and away on pull-ups but when it comes dead-hang time…they dead hang.  This is a problem.  Rewind a bit to the pictures.  Their muscles that help do a pull-up aren’t strong enough to handle their full bodyweight without a big kip from the hips and legs.  Otherwise this person would be doing dead-hang pull-ups.  Now, fast forward to where this not-strong-enough person has kipped, pulled, and successfully gotten their chin above the bar.  The down phase is where the real bad stuff happens.  The poorly informed individual that sees other folks doing it, or the CrossFit Games athletes doing it, the same individual that isn’t strong enough to handle their own bodyweight to pull themselves above the bar from a dead hang will use their ENTIRE bodyweight, PLUS DOWNWARD MOMENTUM, PLUS FORWARD MOMENTUM (gotta get that big forward swing, right?) to get ready for the next “pull-up”.   And then what.  That momentum has to go somewhere.  They’ve got to decelerate this moving body, stop it, and then accelerate it to propel themselves back above the bar.  Sounds dangerous.  If the muscles aren’t strong enough to do it, what allows this to happen?  The tough ligaments, the connective tissue, and ultimately the labrum that wants to hold all this stuff together!  Does this not sound like a RECIPE for disaster?  Do this once, not a problem.  The body is AMAZINGLY tough at some of the abuse it can handle.  Do it a hundred times, do it regularly, do it when you are tired, when your shoulders are already sore…something is going to give.  Something.  Is going.  To give.

Lastly, because I don’t want to present a lopsided argument, kips are not all bad.  If you have the strength to do regular pull-ups and the joint integrity that comes along with it, then kipping pull-ups are acceptable.  Just understand that the kipping motion should be under control.  It should not be wild and should not cause shoulder pain.  I kip sometimes.  If you aren’t strong enough to do at least 5 dead hang pull-ups, you should abstain from kips and build up the dead hang using bands, negative, jumping, bands + weight, etc.  And once you are strong enough, kips should never completely replace dead hangs.  Never.

Well, I think you all get the picture.  Take care of your body.  And now hopefully you understand more about the way we do business at 21 CrossFit.  We don’t force or even generally recommend kipping pull-ups to folks.  If you aren’t strong enough to do a dead hang pull-up, don’t let us see you kip.  If you want to learn how to kip, we can teach you.  There is more to the kip than meets the eye.  There is more to the motion than I covered above, both benefits and hazards.   Happy training!  Thoughts?


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  1. Aug 19 2013

    Very good explanation. I´m a crossfiter and a surgeon, and for sure, I couldn’t illustrate this in a simplier way. Now I understand why the dead-hang pull-ups are a very good way to warm the shoulders. Thanks a lot

    • Jason
      Aug 27 2013

      Warming the shoulders – not the point of the article. Strengthen the shoulder, then deviate as you wish (when trained by a certified professional). There is great value in being StrongFirst before performing acrobatic-like moves.

  2. Jorge
    Aug 19 2013

    Great, great article…

  3. Aug 19 2013

    Very good post. I like how you were able to bring the anatomy into play with pictures, and explain why so many people get injured due to sloppy form. In our office we see a lot of injuries where patients report that they were hurt at CF from trying to do to much, to fast, and losing form. Keep up the good work by helping others with form over reps.

  4. Aug 19 2013

    Awesome!! Thank you

  5. Aug 19 2013

    Glad it was helpful!

    • Rain Bennett
      Aug 20 2013

      What’s is the best way to contact you?

  6. Aug 19 2013

    I’m 68 years old and a 20 year Army guy and a Vietnam vet. Rappelling from a chopper took dead hang strength. We were always pulling ourselves up into or over something – and almost always under a load of #30+. Kipping is fun, but I like to put weighted dead hang pullups in our WODs.

  7. Klay
    Aug 19 2013

    I agree with you 100%. I hurt my shoulder in the army, slowly but surely I got back into shape. Because of my unit in the military we did dead hang pull-ups in our pt test and every time we entered or exited our building. So needless to say I have been trained to do a good 40+ (if needed) dead hangs. I have been working the kipping for competition, and only kipping, and my shoulder is shot. I will take your advice, thanks!

  8. Jessica
    Aug 19 2013

    This was a great break down. Thank you. I am a PT and I do disagree with one statement above where you state that overhead press is a way to strengthen the RTC. You are not wrong however it is not the best or safest way. Overhead press is the number one cause of ahoulder impingment. The RTC’s main job is to hold the humerus in the fossa and internally and externally rotate the arm. Therefore, IR and ER are the best ways to strengthen the RTC. (In my opinion =)

    • Aug 19 2013

      I have heard that before. I learned this from an excellent book by Mark Rippetoe, called Starting Strength. During a properly performed press (described in much greater detail than i can here), the rotator cuffs are worked in their normal functional state. While ER and IR therapy movements do work them, that is in isolation. It’s fine, particularly in a rehabilitative state, but arguable over which translates better to function. This is akin to favoring the pec machine to the bench press or the leg extension to the full squat. The shoulder impingement issue is also simple one of not doing the movement correctly. I’m not claiming to be an authority on this, but the book I referenced is one of the best around, and is required reading for the trainers at my gym. Olympic weightlifters are the real world authorities on supporting weight overhead. I’m yet to see a training program that has ER and IR as a primary exercise to strengthen their rotator cuff – it gets the work from the overhead lifting and stays strong that way.

      • Aug 20 2013

        As a PT I agree, IR and ER with a band isolate and do give the high EMG numbers but are not practical and definitely not the best. Lab results dont always carry over to the real world. The key is stable shoulder and progressive load. Great article!!

      • WD
        Aug 20 2013

        Imagine a golf ball on a tee. The golf ball is the head of the humerus and the tee is the glenoid. It’s a very unstable joint. In this case and in a healthy shoulder, stability is sacrificed for increased range of motion. BUT there is such thing as too much motion in a naturally “unstable” joint.

        Overhead presses and Dead Hang Pullups are NOT good methods of strengthening the rotator cuff. For instance, performing ER in sidelying with a 4# dumbbell maximally activates the cuff. Exceeding this 4# threshold does not activate the cuff any further but causes your body to recruit larger muscles (i.e. deltoids, triceps, wrist extensors) to produce what appears to be ER. More weight is not better when it comes to strengthening the cuff. It is a group of finesse and endurance muscles which seat the head of the humerus within the glenoid during upper extremity motion. The external rotators are typically weak due to postural issues, dominance of anterior musculature, injury, etc. which allows an anterior(forward) shift of the humerus relative to the glenoid creating instability within joint. Think of the golf ball now sitting on the front edge of the golf tee rather than in the center. This anterior instability has the potential to create problems in the long run.

        I’ll cover labral issues because it seems to be the common complaint/injury here:
        This anterior shift of the humerus places a tensile(stretching) load on the labrum (as well as other local structures) which if abused/overloaded could lead to a SLAP tear/lesion or a biceps tendon tear/rupture, see below:

        A. Normal glenohumeral anatomy
        B. Increased tensile load placed on biceps tendon/labrum due to joint instability

        SLAP tear:

        The instability related to cuff weakness begins the cascade of tissue trauma and perpetual overload which could ultimately result in tissue failure.

        On a side note, Mark Rippetoe’s articles champion large multi-joint movements, essentially the bigger and more involved the lift is the more likely he is to say how good it is. He has no formal education in any related Exercise Science (B.S. in Petroleum Geology) or Healthcare field and his experience within the strength and conditioning community has been trial and error executed over many decades. Albeit he was in the first group of individuals to receive the CSCS from the NSCA he has since stopped identifying himself as one. He preaches that the concept of retraining/strengthening smaller dysfunctional muscles is false. His claims that big movements work ALL the muscles and that dysfunctional muscles be damned belies his basic understanding of the anatomy and how it works to create functional, pain-free movements.

      • Kevin
        Aug 21 2013

        WD – not quite sure what your feelings were about Ripp based on your comments but I will say (this is important for others to hear also) – while credentials are important, experience can be just as good if not better. Some of the most knowledgeable people I have come across with things to say about human physiology, function, and performance have not had formal education on the subject but have been quite successful helping people achieve their best. I have also run into many with formal education and credentials that while very knowledgeable lack success when applied to the real world because they are too stuck on the text book answers. Now I am not saying this is always the case but I see it all too often.

        I will also say, academia loves research but it is notoriously dangerous for clinicians to get so attached to as it is mostly half truths. Again, I see it far too often that people take research to be gospel when it more often raises more questions than it answers.

    • Nathan
      Aug 19 2013

      Jessica, quick question (not a doc here) – by IR and ER, you mean internal and external rotation, respectively? If so, do you have any recommendations? Light dumbbells utilizing IR/ER? Thank you.

    • Jennifer Valenti
      Feb 8 2014

      What is IR and ER? I am trying to focus on strengthening the muscles to perform the strict pull ups. Thanks.

  9. Aug 19 2013

    Great article!

  10. adain
    Aug 19 2013

    Thank you for the article – and unfortunately too late for me. I was at a newer box, and coming from a shlep body, i worked hard to get my kips, and the first day i got it, i followed it with a few days of doing a lot of them in a row. Then I tore my labrum, and my surgery and recovery took forever and took a lot out of me. (hence, i’m a shlep again)… I am too embarrassed to go back, since the box went from “we the people” to the typical 6packs and shirts off and … you get the idea. Too bad the burst of boxes creates a lot of guinea pigs for the new instructors.

  11. Aimee
    Aug 19 2013

    Thanks for this. My instructor tried to teach me this on my first day and I tore my labrum. That was 2+ years ago and i still have issues.

    I didnt know this at the time, but a trainer that gives me an excercise like that on my first day shouldnt be allowed to instruct. As much as i WANT to love Crossfit, its not worth the risk for me anymore.

  12. Graham
    Aug 19 2013

    Ditto Depth Jumps, i.e. if you can’t control heavy squats, landing from a height isn’t the best thing for the lower extremity.

  13. Nestor
    Aug 19 2013

    Thanks for the info. I had a sr accident in Feb 2010 and damaged my rotator cuff. Surgeon removed the bursa and shaved off the acromion. I live in chronic pain and unable to move past 90 degrees and unable to use my shoulder. I have had an interscalene nerve block without success and due for more surgery to shave off the clavicle and clean out spurring and excess scar tissue build up. the early AC joint degrneration will hinder any success.
    Now, from overuse, my left shoulder has developed bursitis and tenosenovitis with cortisone injections scheduled for tomorrow.
    My question is, how can I avoid further injury to both shoulders (mainly left) by strengthening the muscles? Remember I am in constant chronic pain but I do not want surgery on my left shoulder as stated by doctor. I would prefer to save myself from the knife and avoid a life of agony.
    Can anyone help?

    • WD
      Aug 21 2013

      Medical Doctors will often refer you to clinicians they are familiar with and often times this person is not necessarily the best person to see for your particular problem. Remember, you are not confined to the therapist an MD recommends. Contact a physical therapist in your area but more specifically a PT who specializes in manual therapy. You can often ask the clinician if they practice manual therapy regularly or look for credentials such as MTC (Manual Therapy Certified) or OCS (Orthopedic Clinical Specialist) after their name. If you have developed bursitis within the shoulder it is beyond the help a simple search on WebMD or EHow can provide. Seek the help of an educated and trained healthcare professional who won’t just prescribe you some more medication to dull the pain.

      If you are unsure as to how to exactly go about finding a PT in your area you can utilize this tool.

  14. Jaymie
    Aug 19 2013

    A great article – nice and straight forward (especially for a rather complex topic!)
    I hope every Crossfitter reads it and appreciates that strength, technique and safety should always take priority over egos.

  15. Aug 19 2013

    Great read

  16. Aug 19 2013

    Awesome post! I’ve been telling my members this for ages. Thanks for sharing this. I hope you don’t mind, but I shared it with my members. You say it best. :)

  17. Aug 19 2013

    Thanks. I came to the same conclusion a while ago. I used to experience this:

    “That momentum has to go somewhere. They’ve got to decelerate this moving body, stop it, and then accelerate it to propel themselves back above the bar”

    all the time, and could feel the stress on my shoulders. Finally glad to see a logical explanation.

  18. Kyle
    Aug 19 2013

    I don’t do crossfit, and quite frankly almost scared to after having my labrum reconstructed twice. I can assure anyone that hurting or tearing your labrum or anything else in your shoulder for that matter is NOT something you ever want. Wish I could get into crossfit but still not sure it is a good idea and I definitely don’t want to chance a 3rd tear.

    • Aug 20 2013

      Kyle – I’m a 68 year old CrossFitter and a L1 coach. My right shoulder was totally re-built 4 years ago. My left rotator cuff is torn badly and the docs (2 opinions, 1 from a Tampa Bucs team doc) say it can’t be repaired, because it wouldn’t hold. They can replace it, but that changes everything. They both advised “live with it.” I have limited mobility, for sure, but CrossFit can be scaled to fit your situation. You can do CrossFit in a slow, steady progression and avoid the things that cause you pain… There are lots of ways to scale a WOD. Good luck!

  19. Jimmy
    Aug 20 2013

    Thanks for your input. I am an orthopedic shoulder surgeon and very active in CrossFit at a large gym. I like your emphasis on dead hang pull-ups and the need to be able to accomplish these prior to kipping. The shoulder is very complicated and I do feel that folks (especially women) have a multitude of shoulder issues if they do not properly strengthen, and maintain this strength, when doing their workouts. Most of the issues I have seen are problems with sub-acromial impingement. Usually this is due to functional issues, and not structural problems and can be properly rehabilitated doing RTC strengthening exercises and rebalancing the muscles of the shoulder. I have not seen any labral issues asides from one guy who dislocated his shoulder doing heavy OH squats and suffered an anterior labral tear. I am surprised by the comments above that a couple of people feel they sustained labral tears from kipping. I suppose it could happen, but I have not seen this problem so far. As I said, I believe most shoulder problems are likely from SAI and here is a good paper explaining this to anyone interested. Thanks for providing your prospective.

    • Aug 20 2013

      Thanks for sharing the article Jimmy. I agree totally. Labral tears are but one thing that can go wrong with the shoulder and are more severe than impingement and probably less common (as you pointed out).

      • Howie
        Aug 20 2013

        Good article, I’ve had a Labral tear plus bicep tenodesis I sustained from an injury sustained during a fire ( I’m a firefighter ). Over a year of rehab, but, one my PT actually recommended to do kips to help with my shoulder mobility ( this was about a year after rehab was complete and I’d been working out ), and I have regained full mobility, granted I have the strength to do dead hangs, and maintain good form on my kips, but my shoulder has more mobility than others I’ve known that’ve only had the shoulder surgery and are on the job with me. I agree wildly doing them, has got to put serious stress on the shoulder. Good article!

    • Kevin
      Aug 20 2013

      As a PT, a large issue I see with shoulder impingement is joint dysfunction/malalignment in the upper spine and ribs (especialy 1st rib). This dysfunction causes low grade muscle spasm in the muscles surrounding those joints (many that attach to the scapula and humerus), inhibition of strength, and eventually pain. All of these outcomes are going to impede normal glenohumeral rhythm and likely cause irritation (tendinitis, inflammation of the bursa) and impingement with repeated activity as they are stressed abnormally. Sure, excises can help as the tissue adapts but that takes far longer and may not completely resolve the symptoms. Look at research with exercise only protocols for any chronic injury and you will find improvement in subject symptoms but few subjects are left completely symptom free after weeks of PT.

  20. Aug 20 2013

    Thank you. It’s nice seeing somebody from Crossfit who goes against kipping

  21. Tarax
    Aug 20 2013

    I think people who are prone to injury or have had past injuries as myself should take extra care when attending crossfit gyms. Personally, I never kip. I don’t see the point since I can easily do 30+ dead hang pullups in a session and I don’t believe it’s good for the shoulder joint. Certainly building strength to do an exercise without the aid of momentum should be something everyone aspires to have. That said, even with accommodations for my shoulders, the last time I stepped into a crossfit gym for a WOD my shoulders were so sore for several weeks afterward that my workouts were extremely compromised and I had perpetual numbness in both arms (which I realize is largely due to scar tissue from past injury.) Alas, maybe someday when I have health insurance I’ll get my shoulders taken care of lol

  22. Allan K
    Aug 20 2013

    Some thoughts on movement, fitness and sustainability of both:
    * Full possible range of movement is not necessarily ideal (safe) range of movement
    * Ideal range of movement is not necessarily full possible range of movement
    * Being quick and explosive can be exciting and good but being too abrupt to begin or end a movement can often be problematic or at least a problem possibly waiting to happen
    *Hyper-extension of and at the shoulder girdle is often a problem or one waiting to happen
    * Pull Ups may function around the shoulder and elbow joints but they are not powered by those joints nor should those joints feel any jolt or the brunt of any effort. And so we are back to mantra 1 which is that maximum range of movement is not necessarily a safe or athletically ideal range of movement.
    * Learn to manage (start, stop, surge, drive, push, pull, change direction, balance) the body and manipulate any external loads or forces with rhythm, balance and commensurate power.

  23. Josey
    Aug 20 2013

    Loved this! Thank you so much! I have already had 3 surgeries on the left shoulder from dislocation and tying the labrum back together. Definitely going to back off on the kipping….

    Aug 20 2013

    What are your thoughts on butterfly pullups? Same loads and stressors or are they any better because they lack the big forward swing? I do tend to default to strict pullups, but will occasionally kip or butterfly. Thanks.

    • Aug 20 2013

      My personal experience is that butterfly bothers my shoulder not every time I do them, but sometimes. Regular kips have never bothered my shoulder. I have heard similar accounts from others but I haven’t wrapped my head around why yet.

      • Mel
        Aug 23 2013

        I also used to have transient shoulder pain when doing butterfly pull-ups (have never had pain from regular kipping pull-ups), but do not anymore. My supposition is that my form has improved, but certainly there could be other factors at play. In any case, the 2 things that seem to be helpful for me are: 1) trying to keep the elbows in tighter during the pull, and 2) trying to consciously resist on the descent (so that it is not jarring). Just my $0.02.

  25. Kait
    Aug 20 2013

    This is also the policy at my box – you must have dead hang pull-ups before kipping and kipping in a band is not aloud. Thank you for also saying that ‘kipping isn’t a bad thing’ for those strong enough to do it – Crossfit is all about increased work capacity and kipping allows athletes to yield more work in a shorter amount of time.

  26. Gwen
    Aug 20 2013

    Love this article. What are your thoughts on teaching clients kipping muscle ups before they can do them strict?

    • Aug 20 2013

      If they have 15 pull-ups (preferably chest to bar type) and 10-15 ring dips they should be able to learn the muscle up. This number varies depending who you talk to, but thats what i recommend. Doing a strict muscle up before a kipping one doesn’t really matter…they already should have the shoulder integrity from their dead hang (and kipping) pull-ups if they are considering the muscle up.

  27. Aug 20 2013

    Kipping and dead hang pull-ups are very different movements and proficiency at one should not lead one to think they are “ready” or “strong enough” for the other. They should be trained and progressed in different fashions and independently to avoid injury due to the very different demands. Progressing from a hanging kip, to kipping pop-ups, to kipping pull-ups and on would place a progression of specific demands that are relative to kipping pull-ups. The slow controlled movement of a strict pull up will never condition the shoulder and its static structures in the fashion needed for kipping and will not aid in protecting the shoulder during a kip no matter what number of strict pull-ups can be performed. If the intent of the prescribed workout is to work on kipping type movements than scaling kipping pull-ups to strict pull ups does not make sense. The athlete should scale kipping pull-ups to their level of kipping. If the prescribed workout calls for strict pull-ups the athlete should scale to their level of pull-ups with bands, etc. Dont assume an athlete with a large capacity for strict pull-ups is ready for kipping pull-ups and dont assume an athlete who cannot do a strict pull up will get hurt doing kipping pull ups. They both have their place, they both can be safe and or dangerous and they both need to be trained for independently.

    • Rain Bennett
      Aug 20 2013

      Hi, 21Crossfit…. I am in Chapel Hill and would like to speak with you outside of the blog. Can you email me at please? Thanks!

  28. django
    Aug 20 2013

    Finally… commonsense in the Crossfit community. Kips are why I left crossfit and train at home, my own way. Jeff Martone said at our Kettlebell Cert that you need a foundation of strength before you can even think of advanced movements. Good to see someone else teaching this too.

    • wachaos
      Aug 21 2013

      Throwing the baby out with the bathwater django? Our CF coach instills a pragmatic & preventative approach to exercise risk; within our CF family members realm of ability & technique. We can be prone to injury when a time based WOD is emphatic enough; adrenalin & ego come into play. Good judgement exists & flourishes when we apply a holistic approach to the kip conundrum. Give your box another go mate.

  29. Maxine Delaney
    Aug 20 2013

    Hi im a new crossfitter and came across your article on fb… I found this interesting and completely agree since understanding the anatomy of the shoulder joint. Our box believes the same method to work on dead hang pull ups before kipping although the temptation can be too great sometimes especially when your driven to see improvements. I found myself under the impression that because I am able to kip, I should do it to save time- beat my last amwrap, you know :) & mainly because I cant yet do pull ups without a band! So wrong!! I know that now. Thanks for saving my labrum :))

  30. robbwolf
    Aug 21 2013

    Outstanding article.

    It’s nice to talk about “the cream rises to the top” but there are some basics that no coach should leave that 2 day cert not understanding.

  31. Kieran W
    Aug 21 2013

    Great read. You talk of dead hang pullups as a foundation of strength prior to kipping. Do you recommend negative reps in developing this strength? I.e. Folks using a bar within standing reach or on a box, jumping to get over then controlling on the way down. This would develop the individual whilst managibg their frustrations at not being able to dead hang pullup yrt?

  32. Aug 21 2013

    Reblogged this on Fire Fit Performance Therapy and commented:
    Some interesting points raised, kippers have a read!

  33. Interesting article, thanks for the info – just linked to this from our CSX Facebook page:

  34. Aug 21 2013

    Great article! I’m already sharing this, where I can! We’ve been fighting against the “kip” since we opened our Gym Løfteriet. We have CrossFit classes, but for the average client looking to improve their fitness, it makes no sense to us to teach it to them. Although most of them come through our door looking for endless kipping pull-ups and mindless high rep workouts….But we do our best to educate them – but it’s an unfortunate tendency these day

  35. Ryan
    Aug 21 2013

    It’s why you need full range of motion. Functional movements won’t harm you but if you don’t have full range then you can’t do the movement properly and then it’s no longer functional. Squat snatch is a great example. There’s nothing wrong w/ the movement. It’s functional when done correctly but it takes so much mobility that a lot of people trying it aren’t doing it correctly and get injured. More on the shoulder

  36. Aug 21 2013

    Reblogged this on kropogsundhed and commented:
    Denne artikel forklarer ganske godt, hvorfor man skal være ekstra opmærksom, hvis man kipper sine pull-ups, som de gør i f.eks CrossFit. For de fleste som træner for at komme i bedre form og som ikke skal konkurrere i CrossFit, giver det ingen mening, at benytte sig eller at lære kipping pull-ups. Det vil være langt mere givende, at blive stærkere og bedre til de gode gammeldags pull-ups og chin-ups

  37. Bill L
    Aug 21 2013

    I train clients in a CF gym and I can’t tell you how many times I have warned people with previous and current shoulder pathologies about the dangers involved in Kipping Pull-ups and Muscle Ups. At least half of them ignored my warning and have had surgery on the labrum or AC Joint since.
    I am in my mid 40’s and did all the stupid things crossfitters are doing now 20 years ago. I learned( luckily) before painful and permanent injury occured, and I am more than able to “hold my own” during CF workouts without drinking the corporate Kool-Aide for exercise prescription.
    Kipping pullups are done for one reason- to minimize your time in a CF workout that involves pullups. That’s it. There is no earthly reason otherwise to perform them since they essentially do more harm ( potentially) than good to your body.

  38. Shawn P.
    Aug 21 2013

    Great read! Thanks for sharing and I’m sure alot of folks will utiize this information.

  39. Aug 21 2013

    Nice article 21CF,

    At Spartan Race, we see a lot of slaps & cuff tears on the monkey bars for the same reasons you list, plus the bars add in the need to internally rotate under body weight load in order to reach the next bar. Hurts just thinking out it!

    However, we aren’t going to get rid of the monkey bars and average joe’s with kyphotic postures are always going to come out for the races – so what to do?

    I appreciate you taking this stand because many of these weekend warriors who do get hurt, have done programs that work tons of kips and overhead pressing for 5-6 months to “prep” for their event. Now, they may have not have an “injury” prior to their race and want to blame the monkey bars, but for all the reasons you just listed, it’s a pretty safe bet their cuff / labrum was frayed or injured from training before the gun even went off. Diabetes doesn’t happen over night, neither do cuff tears – in most cases. The folks who did absolutely no training and just showed up – we can speculate pretty freely why they get hurt.

    In any case, training needs to first not hurt the client, second not set the client up for injury, third do everything else people come in for; health, performance, aesthetics, etc…. So many trainers push people for “fitness” but as soon as they toss 30 fast balls to their kid they get hurt. Again, do we blame the baseball?…whether it be life’s experiences, Spartan Races, or drunken arm-wrestling it doesn’t matter life is always going to trauma our tissues – so it’s up to the trainers to keep people safe and educate themselves to be able to do so- as you have clearly done here.

    To reference a few other posts on this thread- I would not consider OH Press to be a cuff strengthening exercise for most folks either, but I see your point, because relative to a kipping pull up…it’s probably borderline therapeutic. I’d probably vote for deadlifts being a better cuff exercise than pressing is. On the same token however, complete isolation in side lying or standing isn’t the best thing either, and definitely not as a blanket approach to “healthy” people looking to get fit, in my opinion.

    I vote for more body weight stuff overall, less external load for the first phase entirely. Probably start people off with some yoga moves, downward or bird dog, etc. to warm up then go to some rhythmic stabilization work- maybe some hand walks (clock style) starting at “12” and walking to 9 or 10 and back to 2 or 3 a few times and some go to a few push up isos at the bottom, ideally with a partner pushing slightly in a few directions….Move to a few 15yd bear crawls, forward and backward, ideally with a foam roll balanced across the lower back, then work up to a heavy TGU.

    Training overall would consist of deadlifts, loaded push ups, a few chin ups, lunges, and a lot of farmers carries.

    My two cents – for what it’s worth. Thanks for the article.

    Joe Di

  40. Tim
    Aug 21 2013

    21 CrossFit….what are your thoughts about butterfly pull-ups? Do you see the same issues?

    • Aug 21 2013

      Hi Tim – personally it’s the butterfly kips that bother my shoulders sometimes. The regular ones don’t bother me, but I have pretty good dead hang pull-ups. The mechanics of the 2 (regular swing kip and butterfly) are different that my article really doesn’t apply to the butterfly – except that folks are less likely to be able to butterfly without already having adequate dead hang pull-ups.

  41. Greg Adler
    Aug 21 2013

    Very good article. I am just 8 days post surgery for a severe rotator cuff tear and detached labrum. I could do kipping PUs all day but “something gave” 5 weeks ago when I was doing a strict L pull up — a move hardly programmed at our box. I learned, the hard way, that not all PUs are the same and you need to build up strength for all types. The other hard lesson (only because I love CrossFit for the 2 and 1/2 years since I started), is that you need to rest. I was WODing 5-6 days per week and now believe my shoulder just couldn’t take it anymore. When I read your article about the complexities of this joint, it’s no wonder I write this with one arm in a sling. I will come back and love all things CrossFit, but my patterns will change. Thank you.

    • Aug 22 2013

      Greg, saw that you were just a few days post surgery. The are excellent resources and people to help you recover at
      Check out the site!

  42. Paul Dionne
    Aug 22 2013

    FYI, on the Rippetoe book, The first and second edition of Starting Strength was co-authored with Lon Kilgore, who does have all those fancy academic credentials to write authoritatively about exercise and anatomy.

  43. Aug 23 2013

    Great article mate. Very easy to understand. I’m a coach. I will be using this to explain things to my members.

  44. bryan christopher
    Aug 25 2013

    Well done, Matt. Durham’s lucky to have a Crossfit instructor who gets it!

  45. LOVE this article. I’m not a Crossfitter, but I anticipate that, as a Personal Trainer, I will eventually come across people who kip(or want to do this instead of regular pull-ups/chin-ups). I’ll be referring them directly to your article if I do.

  46. Katie McKay
    Aug 26 2013

    Reblogged this on Palmetto Sports Massage and commented:
    Interesting facts and information about Kipping for all you CrossFitters out there.
    If you are having some problems, don’t just tough it out… get it checked out by a PT or Massage Therapist

  47. Sep 2 2013

    Hi – nice blog post. I an a PT that writes blogs about this subject and more. You are absolutely right that strict should come before kipping ideally. The difficulty is that people want to “progress” too quickly :/

    I have a nice video of some strict chest to bar pullups and some key points at this post here… ‎ – I also have some videos on pull up progressions for beginners at my youtube channel

    If you would like a blog post on any topic to do with injury prevention or performance enhancement (legal ones!), then drop me a line – I can present an experienced PT view on most topics :)

    Thanks again – nice post!

  48. Sep 2 2013

    I loved your article , which is why I followed you to, as I wish to keep track of your blog and see what else you have to offer the blogging world :) please check out my latest blog feature a song by a young man called Kurtis Robinson Every like gives him a greater chance of making it .
    Thankyou in advance and I hope to talk to you more often.
    All the best

  49. every thing
    Sep 17 2013


  50. Denise
    Sep 20 2013

    Totally agree. I got injured this way. Now I can’t do overheads, push ups, T2B and obviously kipping pull ups. It’s been a few months now. STRENGTH & TECHNIQUE has to come first.

  51. Nov 15 2013

    Heya! I’m at work surfing around your blog from my new iphone 4!

    Just wanted to say I love reading your blog
    and look forward to all your posts! Carry on the superb work!

  52. Jan 21 2014

    Very Good article, but I think the rotator cuff are not the only muscles that protect the shoulders, I think the most important muscles to move the shoulder and stabilize it are pectoralis, lats, deltoids, bíceps… These muscles has more potencial to accelerate and deccelerate the body during the pull up.
    I am completely agree, if you are not strong enough to do a pull don’t do a kipping pull up!!! Just com on sense!!!

  53. Feb 26 2014

    Great Post!!! This is my humble opinion as a CrossFit Coach in this topic area:

  54. Tracy
    Mar 19 2014

    Great post. So my problem is that my shoulder dislocates in a different place each time. The first time was during a snatch. Too far back with arms n both shoulders came out n got stuck. Now it happens during butterflies. I’m not amazing at them I’ll be honest. I’m learning. My kip sucks. My background is in strict movements. I’m a competitive bodybuilder so strict form is what I’m used to. I notice my shoulder comes out when I’m in a WOD… Strict movement like handstand kipping push ups to either kipping pull ups or butterfly attempt. I can tell form matters hugely here. My coach encourages me to rotate through the movement. Has said a lot of ppl feel like it’s dislocating or that it really is a lot of the time. I was interested in your post because I’ve been set back too much since August. My idea is to keep doing presses for strength, Turkish get ups for strength n get the c2b down efficiently. If my stupid joint wouldn’t get stuck is rotate through it but I can’t. Any suggestions??? I can do 9 strict pull ups n hv tried c2b with reverse grip. Your post was very informative that’s why I’m seeking your opinion. Thanks

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