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?