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.

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