Stop Doing This: The Kipping Pullup

Would you go to the gym with the express intent of injuring yourself?

Probably not.

However, if you’re doing kipping pullups that’s exactly what you may be doing.


I can’t tell you when you’ll get hurt but I can tell you, if you do kipping pullups long enough you WILL get injured.

First Things First:

 Stop Doing this Incredibly Stupid Movement

Second Things Second:

The kip is NOT MEANT to be an exercise. It’s meant to be a SKILL used in the COMPETITIVE SPORT of gymnastics.

The Kip <—- overly simplistic explanation of how/ why it works and is viable for competitive gymnasts —–> is a way to use the entire body to generate momentum horizontally which can be harnessed and transferred into a vertical motion.

“The kip serves two specific purposes on the uneven parallel bars: It is the way a gymnast gets from the bottom to the top of the bar (the high or the low) with her hips resting on the apparatus; and it is often the way a gymnast will mount the bars. The kip provides the gymnasts with the proper positioning to then perform skills such as hip circles and release moves. It is a critical component to making a bar routine flow smoothly from one skill to the next.”-

IT has NOTHING to do with building the fitness level and athleticism of the athlete.

It’s a SKILL that helps conserve energy and set up the elements of the routine.

Unless you’re a competitive gymnast you have no reason to be doing kips.

Hell, unless you actively participate in any sport there is no reason to practice potentially dangerous skill elements of that sport.

You may want to, but there is no good reason to.

*Yes, I know everything is potentially dangerous, and there is a “safe” way to to many things that are fundamentally dangerous for most people.  You get the point….I hope.

Case in point: There is NO WAY IN HELL that I’m going to go on a hockey rink and practice blocking shots.

I did LOTS of it for a long time.

But it:

  1. Sucks
  2. Hurts like hell
  3. Sucks
  4. Serves no purpose at this point. I DON’T PLAY HOCKEY ANYMORE.

Sooo, the risk of practicing shot blocking is high and the payoff is VERY LOW at this point.

Therefore, it’s a SKILL I don’t need to practice.

That is the problem with the Kip…High risk and, for the average person, virtually no reward.

So why the F are so many people doing something that is just going to jack them up?

A: “Cause it lets me do more pullups.” <—-actual answer from a SLAP tear (we’ll get to that) post rehab client.

And that’s a sh@tty, somewhat pathetic, reason.

Is There No Standard Anymore? 

If you want to do pullups, just do pullups. Don’t do some half-assed wannabe pullup and feel good about a giant B.S. number.

Why is the Kip F-ing atrocious not so good for your shoulder:

It IS the mechanism of injury for a SLAP tear.

As in: If you do these enough, often enough, you WILL most likely get a SLAP tear.

I can’t tell you when exactly an injury will occur because everyone has different tissue tolerance and repair rates, but if you wanted a SLAP tear, this is how you would do it.

Before we go further: Biomechanics are Biomenchanics.

We know what’s safe, what’s stable and what good movement should look like.

“The physiology is not debatable, only the programming”- Kelly Starrett.

*I know, Kelly thinks they’re fine, I disagree, it’s cool, professionals can disagree on things.

We can’t make things up and make excuses/ allowances for bad movement.

Just like a squat with knees that collapse, it’s bad movementend of story.

What is a SLAP tear: Superior Labrum Anterior- Posterior tear.

“The term SLAP stands for Superior Labrum Anterior and Posterior. In a SLAP injury, the top (superior) part of the labrum is injured. This top area is also where the biceps tendon attaches to the labrum. A SLAP tear occurs both in front (anterior) and back (posterior) of this attachment point. The biceps tendon can be involved in the injury, as well.” –



What Causes a SLAP Tear: From the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons

“Injuries to the superior labrum can be caused by acute trauma or by repetitive shoulder motion. An acute SLAP injury may result from:

  • A motor vehicle accident
  • A fall onto an outstretched arm
  • Forceful pulling on the arm, such as when trying to catch a heavy object
  • Rapid or forceful movement of the arm when it is above the level of the shoulder
  • Shoulder dislocation

People who participate in repetitive overhead sports, such as throwing athletes or weightlifters, can experience labrum tears as a result of repeated shoulder motion.”

This is EXACTLY what happens when doing a Kipping Pullup.

OpenShouldersKipStole it from

To reach the above position the musculature of the shoulder which “packs” the shoulder and centers the head of the Humerus in the joint must relax.

Basically this means you’re “hanging off the hard structures” at the above point.

The Scapula (a bone) is what is limiting the extension of the arm (Humerus) at the shoulder and at this point is driving the Humerus (upper arm bone) out of the socket.

The shoulder joint is kinda like a suction cup that keeps the head of the Humerus in place, at the end range of motion as in the picture above, the head of her Humerus is being pulled out of the suction cup because of the horizontal force and the backside pressure the Scapula is putting on it.

Then forcefully you’re reversing the action.

If you watch closely you can actually see her Humerus shift in the joint at the bottom of the movement, that is the point of relaxation that allows for total extension and where the tear occurs.

This forward relaxation and powerful reversal is where the tearing occurs as the top of the Humerus grinds between the Scapula and Clavicle.

And you increase your chances exponentially of getting a get a SLAP tear.

And you go to the Ortho MD,

and you get surgery,

and you get rehab,

and you get sweet doctors bills,

and you lose months of training time and…..

unless you plan on competing in CrossFit you should probably just stick to regular pullups.

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  1. Thank you! I am a former Crossfitter that wised up after 6 months of the program. I hurt myself learning “the kip” one day in class. Instead of pulling my shoulder out I did an arial back splat off the bar. The last thing I remember is the thud of my body hitting the ground. Everyone does the Kipping pull-up at Crossfit. They look like idiots to me now. I got out in time and now work out in a gym learning a strict pull up. Needless to say I’m stronger and happier.

    • Mary,

      I’m not really sure why the kipping pullup is even popular in CrossFit. Even the concept of using the movement in a repeated fashion the way it is with this exercise is illogical as far as I can tell.

      I heard a story that at the first Crossfit games someone showed up and did it this way because all the rules stated was that the chin had to be over the bar for the rep to count. After that to save embarrassment CrossFit HQ basically did the, “that’s a fundamental skill and they employed it” to justify it…..I have no clue if that is true or not.

      Taught for singles as a skill I could understand, I wouldn’t do it, but i can understand it.

      Glad you found a place to train that you’re excited (and injury free) with. Thanks for reading.

  2. So glad you posted this. I was improving pretty fast in CF. But I had trouble maintaining the rhythm in my Kip. I asked one of the assistant trainers what I should do and they said I need to push off more from the bar when I was up top. Which sent my flying around and I felt this pain in my shoulder. Due to my old military ways, I ignored it and kept working thru it up to the point where I couldn’t put my hand behind back and I was in so much pain. Thank God I did not tear (got an MRI) but found an awesome discussion online where many had torn and would discuss their surgery process, etc. All of whom were crossfitters. And no, they all weren’t newbs and one lady progressed very far into entering the CF Games. But I had 2 months of physical therapy, and 2 steroid injections one of which was in the ball & socket and that HURT!!!!! My shoulders got better but have never been the same. I used to be able to do 54 push-ups in 2 minutes but now, I have to back off because after any chest workout, I will feel it in my shoulders. I’m lucky to get 15 in before I feel pain. Sad. Just don’t Kip!

    • devyshka21,

      Agreed, unless you’re going to compete in CF, I just can’t see how the risk outweighs the benefits.

      thanks for reading.

  3. It is absolutely true. I been working out hard for being a good powerlifter myself, so I also use some skills and tips at a CF gym. Honestly I like lots of their own exercises tho, this KIP is absolutely and clearly needless. I had a surgery for SLAP 3 lesion and Bankart lesion that i got when i was in the army. Yes, too much hard pressure and strong impact which are constantly hitting the shoulder labrums aint no good at all. After I had to get through a year of rehab for my right shoulder, any motion that leads people do the irrelevant and unnecessary strains on their shoulders looks so damn bad to me.

    I personally claim that CF is such a good sport tho, it needs to be revised in some fields for extremely serious. This great post of yours is one of the best concern for it. I am glad to see this post is open for everyone to take a look.
    Also, lots of CF trainers are being damn morons to the newbies who just got started to know how to squat and deadlift. Most of them do squats with their folded knees exceed over their feet which can break down their knee joints so badly.

    Anyway, I proclaim once againg that you have made what a wonderfully perfect analysis over here.


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