Are Kipping Pull-Ups Killing Your Shoulders?!
“Don’t be mad cause it’s all about progression….” the words to a favorite song from a previous life echo through my head every time I see athletes struggling to move forward with their pull-ups! The words ring true on the streets of Brooklyn, the suburbs, and in CrossFit gyms around the world.
Kipping Pull-Ups have been widely criticized, vehemently defended, constantly blogged about, almost completely un-researched, and seldom approached with common sense.
I will try to put this in terms you can understand, and pair it with instructions you can follow…
Finally, something about Kipping Pull-Ups worth reading.
So, can Kipping Pull-Ups injure your shoulders? Absolutely! Kipping Pull-Ups are like the 85mph speed limit on Interstate 10 between Texas and California, I just made this trip, my goodness people are haulin’ out there.
The fact is, it’s faster, more complex, higher risk movement/travel, and delivers phenomenal results.
And… If we wear seat belts, watch for signs, use our mirrors, keep the tank full, tires rotated, watch the engine temperature, and pay attention to the little colored lines on the road…. Odds are we’re going to be alright..
You’re probably confused right now… Are we talking about driving fast or doing kipping pull ups… It’s the same thing. A lot of people drive fast and live long and prosperous lives without shoulder issues.
Kipping pull-ups can be performed safely, and yield higher intensity in your workout, thus a higher metabolic response, better abs, and the the whole works. Think chiseled physique, chest pounding, sweat dripping image of CrossFit we all love… THAT’S Kipping Pull-Ups done right! **Combined with a sustainable nutrition plan and active lifestyle… but we won’t go there! Not tonight anyways.**
There is also a tremendous developmental component of core strength and coordination associated with the Kipping Pull-Up, but often lost through a lack of progression.
Here is a simple template for progression and the recommended mobility you will need to make sure you can ramp up the intensity safely; today… tomorrow… and for years to come!
1420 Pull-Up RX
Mobility RX – Shoulder Flexion (arms overhead)
Diagnostic RX – The PVC Pass Through
To safely perform a kipping pull-up, we recommend being able to first perform a PVC Pass Through with relative ease. This means the PVC pipe can travel easily around the body from your waist-line in front of the body, to your waist-line behind the body. This should be done with your hands positioned only slightly wider than the shoulders and NO bending of the elbows. You should feel only very moderate tension through the shoulders and elbows as you complete this movement.
Progression RX – The 10 Step Pull-Up Program
Sets of work should be done with no more than 1 minute of rest between sets!**
Spend 1 week (3 exposures w/1 day in between at each set x rep scheme, details at bottom)
- Hinge Row 3 x 15 reps (start with 3×5, then 3×7, 3×9, 3×12, 3×15)
- Ring Row 3 x 15 reps (start with 3×5, then 3×7, 3×9, 3×12, 3×15)
- Chin Over Bar Hold 3 x 60s (start with 3x10s, 3x20s, 3x30s, 3x40s, 3x50s, 3x60s)
- 6s Eccentric 3 x 5 reps (start with 3×1, 3×2, 3×3, 3×4, 3×5)
- Partner Assisted Pull-Ups 3 x 5 reps (start with 3×1, 3×2, 3×3, 3×4, 3×5)
- Strict Pull-Ups 3 x 5 reps (start with 3×1, 3×2, 3×3, 3×4, 3×5)
- Kipping Pull-Ups 3 x 5 reps (start with 3×1, 3×2, 3×3, 3×4, 3×5)
- Chest to Bar Kipping Pull-Ups 3 x 5 reps (start with 3×1, 3×2, 3×3, 3×4, 3×5)
- Bar Muscle-Ups 3 x 5 reps (start with 3×1, 3×2, 3×3, 3×4, 3×5)
- **Butterfly Pull-Ups for style points and competitive advantage only also known at our gym by a few as “swinging elbow pull-ups”, these should ONLY be done after mastery of the rest of this template, the Butterfly Pull-Up is often the rabbit hole of an otherwise well progressed athlete! It’s a rookie move to abandon your kip development in the pursuit of faster workout times when you can’t do Bar Muscle-Ups, it’s also a mistake to abandon your Kipping Pull-Ups all together once you learn the faster movement.
Programming Template Example…
- Week 1 Monday, Wednesday, Friday Hinge Row 3 x 5
- Week 2 Monday, Wednesday, Friday Hinge Row 3 x 7
- Week 3 Monday, Wednesday, Friday Hinge Row 3 x 9
- Week 4 Monday, Wednesday, Friday Hinge Row 3 x 12
- Week 5 Monday, Wednesday, Friday Hinge Row 3 x 15
- Week 6 – Deload M/W/F Hinge row 3 x 7
- Week 7 Monday, Wednesday, Friday Ring Row 3 x 5
- Week 8 Monday, Wednesday, Friday Ring Row 3 x 7
And so on through all 10 steps, you can test out of any steps by performing the targeted set and rep scheme on your try at the progression, even if you don’t test out, be objective, you may not need to start at 3 x 5. Perhaps 3 x 9 is more appropriate. Remember, common sense… or a coach!