Kipping Pull-Ups vs Strict Pull-Ups

In an earlier article we discussed the kipping pull-up and some of the exercises from which it is derived. The strict pull-up is one of these variations that is the basis for all kipping pull-ups, often forming the foundation for more advanced movements like the kipping pull-up.

In this article, we plan to revisit the strict pull-up vs the kipping pull-up to determine which is best for specific needs and goals.

Strict Pull-Ups

In the below video the strict pull-up is demonstrated. Take note in the proper set up, hand placement, and scapular control that is needed to set the back for proper execution of the strict pull-up.

Kipping Pull-Ups

In the below video the kipping pull-up is demonstrated. Note how the movement is done in a more rhythmic nature than the strict pull-up, and requires additional teaching of the “kip” to properly be executed.

Kipping Pull-Ups vs Strict Pull-Ups

In the below section we compare and contrast the strict pull-up vs kipping pull-up to determine which exercise is best for your goals.

Muscular Hypertrophy and Strength

Building muscle and foundational strength is key for any level of fitness and sport. While both pull-up movements are similar (kipping vs strict), strict pull-ups will work to develop the concentric, isometric, and eccentric muscle actions through the range of motion trained. Kipping pull-ups have a tendency to decrease the amount of strength and force production needed to complete the movement because of the kip motion propelling the body upwards (via hip extension).

Both movements can induce muscle damage, hypertrophy, and some degree of strength, however strict pull-ups are the better option for development of muscle mass and strength.

Gymnastic and Competitive Fitness Skill

Kipping pull-ups are primarily seen in gymnastics and Competitive fitness WODs/training. While they do offer benefits for coaches and athletes outside of these two sports-specific needs, strict pull-ups are still seen as a foundational bodyweight movement for all.

With that said, athletes and coaches who are looking for increased body mechanics, awareness, muscular and grip endurance, and specific gymnastics or competitive fitness skills; the kipping pull-up is a necessity for overall development of an athlete.

Likelihood of Injury

Any exercise can lead to injury if done incorrectly, in excess, or without properly addressing mobility and stability needs. Assuming those are all controlled variables, the kipping pull-up may place an individual at a higher risk of injury that a strict pull-up for a few reasons. (1) The kipping pull-up is often trainer in higher volumes than the strict pull-up and therefore places greater muscular demands and recovery needs on an individual, making it much more likely to cause excessive strain and injury to muscle and connective tissues. (2) This kipping pull-up demands greater joint stability, mobility, and control as the movement is done in a rhythmic and ballistic manner. In the event an individual does not possess sufficient scapular stabilization, midline control, and/or technique, he/she can easily create shoulder, elbow, and muscular issues.

Degree of Difficulty

Both movements can be deemed difficult, however often because of different reasons. The strict pull-up is challenging because it requires a great amount of body strength, muscle mass (in the arms and back), and a good sense of body control when hanging from a bar. Kipping pull-ups, require slightly less strength and muscle mass to perform the movement, as body momentum is used (the kip). That said, complexity is elevated due to the lifter needing to understand body rhythm, awareness, and have sufficient mobility to perform the kip.

Both movements can be challenging for a beginner, however the strict pull-up should be taught and developed first to maximize strength, muscle mass, joint and muscle tissue resilience to injury, and set the foundation for more advanced movements like the kipping pull-up.

Best for Beginners

When determining which movement is BEST for beginners (muscular development and injury risks), coaches must understand the need for fundamental strength and muscle mass created through strict pull-ups and direct regressions (band assisted pull-ups). Often, coaches and athletes may allow kipping and other forms of ballistic pull-ups (jumping pull-ups) due to the lower strength threshold needed to perform (due to the use of momentum).

While this is not entirely ill-advised, it is suggested that lifters work to build strength, joint stability, and strengthen muscle and connective tissue before partaking in higher intensity and higher eccentrically loaded ballistic movements like the kipping pull-up.

Pull-Up Articles

Check out the below pull-up progressions and exercise guides to improve your fitness and WOD performance.

Featured Image: @mikejdewar on Instagram