What is Kipping?

To kip or not to kip? For about 99% of you simply don’t do it. But lets explain what it really is.


So the kip has become a main stay over recent years in the fitness world. However it is something that is really not used in the correct context at all. I am not here to point fingers but merely to explain what the kip actually is and what it is meant to be used for.


Let me start by saying I am not a gymnast and while I coach many elements of gymnastic based training I am by no means an expert in the area. However I do use gymnastic based training extensively and have spent a lot of time learning from gymnasts and studying skills from it.


First off the kip is a high level skill and not one intended for beginners. However here is where things get a little confusing. You will see this defined in gymnastics as a “basic” skill. Remember this is basic by gymnastic standards. To put this in a frame of reference a strict muscle up is not even considered a skill in gymnastics its merely how you mount the rings or bar in order to start a routine.


So what is a kip? The kip is a skill that is used as both a mount and as a connecting skill in a bar or ring routine. The kip allows the gymnast to swing below the bar to arrive in a front support on the bar. From the front support, the gymnast may then perform any number of skills. The glide kip is the most commonly used mount on the women's uneven bars.


This poses a lot of interesting points and questions first off what is a glide kip well here is a slow motion video of one below.


Glide kip

Notice this is not an isolated skill either it is a combination of numerous skills. Essentially you have a strong hollow or dish shape, combined with a pull up, pike compression and a strict toes to bar. This looks extremely different to what we see in the fitness world doesn’t it? Notice no bent arms or winged scapula its all straight and everything is aligned nicely to allow power to be built and avoid potential shoulder problems.


The reasons for its use start to become clear looking at it this is used as a momentum movement much like a front handspring on the floor is used to start forward momentum the kip serves the same purpose in a bar routine. It is not a method for simply getting to the top of a pull up it is a combination of multiple skills that some might call a kipping muscle up. But to this gymnast it is simply a way to get onto the bar to start their work.


So what about doing these on rings? Well this is honestly an even more advanced skill and one I would really advise people to be careful with and work diligently towards. But the ring kip is not what you might be used to seeing. It is not a ring pull up or a muscle up. Both could be called a form of muscle up however much like the glide kip they look very different and simply offer a method to mount the high rings and create momentum to be used in a routine. Below are the two types the forward and backward kip sometimes referred to as Felges or ring rolls.

Forward ring kip


Back roll / back kip on rings


As you can see from the obvious effort by the athletes in these videos these are very difficult skills that comprise a number of very advanced skills by most fitness enthusiast standards. I have seen a few bicep tears from back kips and back rolls for example due to the immense strain they place on the arms.


So that’s what the kip actually is and what it is meant to be used for as you can see it’s a very demanding and advanced skill. It is also extremely different from the kip that we currently see in the fitness world. If you are using a kip to gain momentum to finish a rep then it simply means you’re not strong enough to do that rep. Your body needs time to build the strength and prepare for the movement. Building strength is a slow and difficult pursuit which is why achieving your first pull up is a moment to be celebrated once the body is ready.

If you reverse the standard kipping pull up and imagine it as lifting a weight from the floor, would you tell someone to pick up a weight heavier they can handle with as much speed and torque as possible?

Overhead Squatting Pancakes

So one thing that you end up doing a lot as a coach is giving cues. For anyone who does not know that simply means telling you something to help improve form like turn x limb out or straighten y. One thing that is, of course, true is that everyone responds to audio input differently but that’s a story for another day.


So now to explain that odd picture that is in this post. Now when we are talking about the pancakes we are not talking about the delicious food we are talking about the forward fold position as shown below.

GMB Head honcho Ryan Pancaking like a boss.

GMB Head honcho Ryan Pancaking like a boss.

When we initially start working on our pancake there is a tendency to simply try to bring your head as close to the floor as possible and round over as much as possible. This, however, will not do much to improve your pancake. This position is one where you need to rotate your hips rather than just bend forward.


So why the Overhead squat? Well, when you are in this pancake position you essentially want to recreate the feeling and alignment of an overhead squat. If you look at the overhead squat you will notice you push the hips back the stomach is pushed forward towards the floor and the arms reach up and overhead not forward.


So for any of our weightlifters or Crossfitters try out this cue and see if it helps you understand this position a bit better. You will also see many Olympic weightlifters who excel at this position like those in the video below. If you need help in developing your pancake or getting started on it feel free to drop me an email.

The road to recovery is not always straight

So I had hoped that today’s blog post would be one of good news instead it is a very mixed bag of emotions for me. For those who do not know, I broke my scaphoid a small horseshoe-shaped bone in the wrist almost 2 years ago now and have had a very long and slow recovery since. Any other bone in the wrist would be quick to recover but due to the nature of this one, it can be very complex. The injury occurred during sparring in BJJ. Below is a video of the technique used that did it.


Yesterday I had my final x-ray to examine the hand and final visit to my consultant. The hand has now fused about 50% but not fully. So it still may fuse or it might not. For such a small injury it has been one that has the potential to change the course of my life and the result of this is that might never box/do MMA or handstand again. For someone who had been doing these daily for years, this was a pretty big blow. Below is a picture of where the wrist is at now.


So what has this done for me? Well, a lot as I say it did change the course of my life. When I received the news of what had happened I was left with two choices. To wallow in depression and allow this injury to consume me or to figure out a way to train that would allow me to still work towards my goals and keep me moving. While many of my hobbies became of limits and much of the teaching techniques were out of bounds I had to do something. So that’s when I began to create a community and evolve my teaching. What I did was meet up with many other trainers of various disciplines and learn from them and link them to other like-minded people and to those people I deeply thank you. They know who they are and have kept me focused and sane. As for teaching when you are unable to use your hands while teaching a handstand then your understanding and ability to teach has to rapidly increase.

I have learned a lot from this process and while I still have a long way to go this has been a tough but valuable lesson. If you do receive a bad injury the one thing you need to realise is that this is not the end even if it means you can no longer do the things you truly love there will be options and you will need to figure out a way that will allow you to work towards those goals.

Now I luckily I can now return to some training but as a friend pointed out while I am not fully done this means that I cannot mess around with my rehab or skip steps in my training. Instead, I will have to carry out all of my wrist prep and conditioning with absolute consciousness and make sure every step of the process to do what my body needs not what I want to do. This is a huge thing with athletes when returning to training. Many jump back in head first to their pursuit. I understand this and need to be mindful. So over the following months, I will be spending a huge amount of time on wrist prep and conditioning my wrists to try regaining their use.

To everyone who has helped me on this road thank you while it has been a long winding road you have to just place one foot in front of the other and keep going.


What can religion teach us about food?

So I had the idea to write this blog after a recent discussion with the other half of Freemen Fitness. This reads as an odd title but stay with me. The idea came from a debate with someone online about diet. Now I try to avoid these debates as often they do little more than wind me up and people are often not willing to listen. However when someone preaches a diet that could have a negative impact on people’s health then I feel it needs to be addressed


Now I won’t name any particular diet or religion instead I will just refer to both terms. The point I want to make is that we can learn a lot about how we view diets by how we view religion. I am not talking about the diets that certain religions advise. Instead, it is that for many people their diet is a belief system. The beliefs being if I eat X and Y I will feel better and for some, I will be morally better than the others who don’t do as I do. Yet we know from looking at religion throughout history that if we say there is only one true way that inevitably it will cause conflict. We also know that if we address these people on their beliefs they are likely to double down and become even more resolute in their opinion.


However unlike religion when we swap from an unhealthy diet to a healthier one we will notice changes both in how we feel and how we look. Heck even if we stick to the same unhealthy diet but with fewer calories, we will notice a change. This makes diet an incredibly powerful tool for change and belief for people. We all have friends who constantly preach about their personal diet. How many times have you heard a friend say “oh I started this diet and now I feel amazing you should too” yet does that make you jump on the bandwagon?


This brings us to the world of false prophets and trust me the dietary world is full of them just like religion. They are both unregulated worlds with the ability to make huge amounts of money. Models who spout made up diets to look just like them or some quick fix diet that will allow you to lose 50 pounds in two weeks. The problem is for many we want to believe. We hold on to hope for a magic diet that will allow us to do as we please and get into the best shape of our life. Deep down we know this can’t exist yet we hold on to that hope.


The problem is that unlike religion and the open-ended questions it creates when it comes to diet we have science to help guide us. But these false prophets have infiltrated this world and muddied the waters just like many hot topics in the world and the influence that big food and those preaching certain diets have created a quagmire for the average person. Meaning that to get the simple answers is no longer simple and many people within the academic and medical world are as uneducated as most.


Yet just like most regions diet has common themes and most of what we inherently know are true. Eat whole foods, don’t eat too much, eat plants, eat vegetables, eat food that has not been processed and eat proteins that are sourced reliably. The thing with dietary science it is an evolving field and it helps to find someone who can show you these underlying themes. But at the end of the day, you need to find what works for you as there is no “one true way”. We need to accept that other things work for other people and we should accept that they are different. If they ask for help then do what you can to guide them.


I will paraphrase what someone once said to me “diet and religion are like genitals everyone has some, some are better than others and eventually you will find some you like but don’t go forcing them on those who have not asked.”



Technique vs. Concepts

So I recently had an in-depth chat with a fellow coach about what makes a good coach and what makes a great coach. One thing we agreed on was that there are those who you go to and learn techniques but the great ones teach you concepts regardless of the discipline. They do this with the view to eventually making themselves obsolete.


Sounds like a pretty terrible business model right? Well if you are not a professional athlete who needs their skills constantly refined and are simply looking to reach a base level of fitness then why would you need to stay with the same trainer for 5+ years? Seriously though why?


So let’s look at two hypothetical trainers. Both teach you the pushup, trainer A shows you it and you do it. Trainer B shows you it and explains just one concept leverage. Now if we increase or decrease this then the exercise will become easier or harder and we can now scale it to whatever level we are at.


Trainer A will show us the technique and when we can do X number of pushups then they show us what the next step is. However, trainer B has already explained the concepts of how to do it so now we can likely figure it out ourselves using what we now know. The point I am getting at is those good trainers will break down complex things and give us the concepts in a form we can understand.  A simple example would be trying to show some form of new technology to an older relative who has never handled it. If you use technical jargon they will be lost and give up similar to how many people do in the gym. But if you give it to them in simple terms they can understand then they will be able to comprehend what to do.


Learning concepts gives us the tools to figure things out and to train ourselves. If you have a trainer who just shows you one exercise after another and counts to ten for you then you might be wasting your money. Find someone who will teach you the concepts that rule over all aspects of fitness and movement and eventually you will have the tools you need. This is true for any discipline you might do so keep it in mind and feel free to use this concept in future.

If you understand how to apply leverage to body weight training you can figure out many progressions easily

If you understand how to apply leverage to body weight training you can figure out many progressions easily

New Year, New You?

I often say that New Year’s Eve is one of my least favourite holidays and it’s for the same reason that I dislike New Year resolutions so much. People always say on New Year’s Eve “something will be going on, it will be great”. Of course, this leads to nobody planning anything and the usual holiday events of trying to get into crowded venues for overpriced entertainment.

The point I am getting at here is the big loud gestures but no actual planning. If resolutions work for you then fair play, get out and do them. But for most people, it does not work or it does in the short term and often it is due to these reasons. Someone says “I want to lose weight”. Well, how much? How will you do it? Why do you have excess weight to begin? By when? Or even why do you want to lose weight?

What you should do is ask yourself the right questions and decide I want to lose x amount of weight by x time and figure out what it will take for me to get there.

For myself, this seems obvious but I know for many people with their own training this is not and they lack the time to research this stuff as well as they need. That’s why trainers exist and any of them who don’t plan well in advance for their clients’ needs to be questioned. On that same point, anyone advertising detoxes or similar fads in the New Year should be steered clear of but that's a post in itself,

I recently was discussing a client’s training program with them and showed them the potential course of their training over the next two years. Now that might sound excessive and it’s not set in stone it is a guide. This client’s goals were mainly strength based which takes a lot of time and builds slowly over the course of months and years. I like to use the analogy of carrying a weight up a mountain. If you didn’t plan the route in advance you’re setting yourself up for some trouble.

The exact same thing can be said about resolutions if you are not setting up some form of a plan as to how you might actually achieve them then you’re likely wasting your own time. My goals in January for my training and life are exactly the same as they were in December. In short, failure to plan is planning for failure. If you want to improve yourself then go get it done but figure out how and then get out and do it. If you need help doing that then seek it out either in person or online.