#PTonICE Daily Show – Friday, March 29th, 2024 – The state of kipping in 2024

In today’s episode of the PT on ICE Daily Show, Fitness Athlete Division Leader Alan Fredendall discusses the concept of kipping in 2024. After 128 years of kipping movements in Olympic gymnastics, we still have high levels of contention over the use of kipping in recreational fitness despite poor evidence to support or refute the safety or efficacy of these movements. What evidence do we have, and what can we do in the gym and the clinic regarding kipping?

Take a listen to the episode or check out the show notes at www.ptonice.com/blog

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Good morning, PT on ICE Daily Show. Happy Friday morning. Hope your day is off to a great start. Welcome to the PT on ICE Daily Show. My name is Alan. Happy to be your host here today on Fitness Athlete Friday. Currently have the pleasure of serving as our Chief Operating Officer here at ICE and a faculty member here in our Fitness Athlete Division. It is Friday. It is Fitness Athlete Friday. We would argue it’s the best darn day of the week. We talk all things Friday related to that person who is recreationally active. The CrossFitter, the Boot Camper, the Olympic Weightlifter, the Powerlifter, the endurance athlete, running, rowing, biking, swimming, whatever, that person that’s getting after it on a daily basis, how to address that person’s needs and concerns and be up to date on the research in this space.

So today we’re going to talk about kipping, a sometimes usually, it’s fair to say, usually contentious topic. related specifically to the CrossFit space, but now as more and more functional fitness gyms open that are doing CrossFit style exercise, we see that even folks who would not say or know that they’re even doing CrossFit style exercise are doing kipping movements. So I want to have a discussion. on where we’re at in both the public facing, the clinician facing aspects of kipping, what kipping is, and really, what is our goal, especially when we have our clinician hat on? What is our goal when we’re looking at kipping and considering Is Kipping safe? Is Kipping dangerous? Is Kipping right for this athlete? So let’s start and talk about Kipping. So if you don’t know what it is, or if maybe you have athletes or patients who don’t know what it is, the public facing side of searching for things related to Kipping can be really gnarly, right? If you just type Kipping into Google, you get a real bunch of crazy stuff. What do you get? You get endless videos on kipping pull-ups specifically, but also a bunch of articles on why kipping is dangerous, why it’s cheating. My favorite Google search is the top two results are in direct contention with each other, right? The top result for kipping is an article from Men’s Health. Why swinging around at CrossFit isn’t for everyone right so a little bit a little bit of a mean article a little bit condescending of an article But then the next article is from our very own Zach long the barbell physio the truth about kipping pull-ups right a lot of research on kipping a lot of practical information on kipping and a lot of the stuff that we’re going to talk about today that is public facing, but in a very educational manner. So you see a lot of stuff. It can be very confusing for our patients and athletes because they’re being given this message of, Hey, if I’m already doing this, here is really an endless wealth of human knowledge on how to get better at these, how to improve my performance. But also I’m seeing articles from people who tell me that this is dangerous. that this is cheating. This is actually reducing the effect of exercise on my body. It could be making me weaker. All of these different essentially thought viruses are going around simultaneously.

So stepping back away from what’s public facing, the social media content, the blog articles, what else is available on Kipping? Not a lot. If we’re being really honest and we go way back in history to the start of modern gymnastics, we know that it started in 1896, so 128 years ago. Across that 128 years, we have watched the sport of gymnastics develop We see gymnasts use kipping on their hands, on the mat, up on the bars and rings, doing things like muscle ups and handstands, and using a lot of kipping to do so. But across that 128 years, we really still only have one research article that is relatively recent in that big span of time. that even discusses anything related to kipping. It’s an article that we share in our Fitness Athlete Level 1 course by DiNuzio and colleagues. It’s a randomized controlled trial back from 2019 in the Journal of Sports and Biomechanics. and it’s titled The Kinematic Differences Between Strict and Kipping Pull-Ups. So a very basic article looking at subjects who performed a set of five strict and then five kipping pull-ups and just looking at what are the differences in the muscular activation patterns between folks performing the five strict pull-ups and between folks performing the five kipping pull-ups. And what we already know to be true was found in the research that we see a little bit less activation of shoulder muscles and bicep muscles and a little bit more activation of quads and of core muscles when we look at the difference between when somebody begins to kip their pull-ups or when somebody does strict pull-ups. And that’s it. That’s it. That’s all the research we have, right? When you kip, you offload your shoulders and your arms a little bit, and the force is taken up a little bit more by your lower extremities and your core. And that’s all the research we have on kipping. We have no research that it’s dangerous. We also have no research that it’s safe. We really have almost no research in this space, and we need to be cognizant of that. We have absolutely no research related to injury. of how many strict pull-ups can we do before we should kip. What level of strict pull-ups makes our shoulders safer from kipping pull-ups? What is the limit of kipping pull-ups volume-wise that we’d want to see somebody perform? Some sort of structured progression towards performing kipping pull-ups. We have absolutely no research on that. We need to be aware of that. And we also need to realize that’s probably unlikely to ever happen. If you think about the recruitment for a study that would evaluate some of those concepts, it would look totally insane and be unethical, right? Let’s take different groups of people, let’s randomize them, and let’s see, based on strict pull-up capacity, who does a certain amount or a progressive amount of kipping pull-ups, and then let’s see how long it takes for someone to develop an injury, if ever, and then crunch that data and come up with some sort of Conclusion that we’d all love to hear, or at least be interested in seeing, of how many strict pull-ups is enough, how many strict handstand push-ups is enough, before we begin to create and allow, quote-unquote allow, kipping in our athletes. So we need to know the public facing space is out of control with this, can be very confusing to our patients and athletes, but the clinician facing, the research side, there is almost no information and there’s probably not likely going to ever be something change here in a really substantial manner.

So what do we do in the absence of research? Step back and better understand what kipping is. Kipping is just momentum creation and transfer. If you have taken fitness athlete level one in the past couple years, you know that we talk about this in week four when we talk about metabolic conditioning. We talk about why are we doing kipping? Why are we doing things the way we’re doing them in the functional fitness gym, in the CrossFit gym? Well, we’re primarily doing them to get our heart rate up, right? We’re primarily exercising for power output. to create a cardiovascular response. That’s why we’re primarily going to CrossFit. Yes, we lift some heavy weights every now and again. And yes, we do some lower intensity, maybe zone two, zone three, steady state cardio from time to time. But primarily, we take a couple exercises, we smash them together in an AMRAP or rounds for time or an EMOM. and we’re doing them in a manner that facilitates our heart rate getting up ideally into zone four and maybe if we’re not careful, maybe sometimes a little bit of zone five. So when we talk about kipping, we’re just doing it for momentum transfer. It’s allowing us to do more work in the same or less amount of time. so that we can keep that heart rate elevated. You all can imagine that it would take a very long time to do a workout with 100 pull-ups if you did them all as strict pull-ups. We just had a great workout last weekend at Extremity Management up in Victor, New York. We had some pull-ups, or should I say pool-ups, as Lindsey Huey would pronounce it, programmed in the workout, and the folks that kip their pull-ups or butterfly their pull-ups got a lot more work done in that workout than the folks who just did strict pull-ups. So kipping is just momentum creation and transfer. I think it’s important to understand we so intensely and closely begin to associate kipping just with gymnastics, specifically vertical pulling gymnastics, pull ups, and toes to bar and muscle ups and that sort of thing, that we forget that as humans, we kip almost everything in our life, right? I am standing still right now, if I begin to walk, I’m going to begin to use global flexion to global extension patterns, to propel myself forward. If I want to transition from a walk into a run, that is going to become even more intense. I’m going to begin to use more of my core, more of my shoulders, more of my glutes to produce a flexion to extension, back to flexion moment that generates momentum. If you don’t think humans should kip, I want you to jump into a pool and not use your shoulders, core, or hips to swim. What you’ll find is that kipping is very functional to daily life. If we begin to disassociate kipping from being up on the pull-up bar, on the pull-up bar, we recognize that we kip almost everything, right? It’s a very functional thing. We kip to go from walking, from standing to walking and from walking to running. We kip when we stand up from a couch. We kip when we’re swimming in the pool, or the pool, I should say. And we need to understand as well, some part of this, of why we don’t just do strict gymnastics, why we don’t just do strict weightlifting, is that it really limits our top end performance, right? Imagine if you watch the Olympics, and gymnastics was strict work only, right? Only the very strongest people would be able to do that stuff, and they wouldn’t be able to do a lot of it, right? We would watch somebody come out on the floor, we would cheer for them, This is this is Steve from Belarus. Hey, Steve. And he does like maybe three strict muscle ups, right? He’s not swinging around on the bars anymore. We don’t really care about his landing, because he can’t generate momentum to swing around to land. Imagine if Olympic weightlifting did not allow momentum and people just performed a deadlift to a strict high pull to a strict press, it would limit top end performance, we would not see people clean and jerking 500 pounds, we would not see people snatching 300, 400 pounds. So that momentum generation is a very functional part of being a human being and of performing these functional movements. And we can’t take that away from people. Because even if for nothing else, it would become really boring, right? So not only is it functional, at some level, it’s kind of fun to do. And it’s fun to move along that progression from Okay, I can do some strict pull ups. Okay, I can do some kipping pull ups. Cool. Now I’m working on muscle ups, so on and so forth.

So what is the goal? If we put our clinician hat back on and we think, what is the goal with our athletes? Really the kind of the question we’re answering in our mind, and when we ask questions like, how many strict pull-ups is enough? What we’re really asking is, what level of strength in the shoulder begins to be protective of injury? And the answer we don’t wanna hear is that it depends. And what does it depend on? It depends on that athlete’s history, right? Somebody who has been performing a lot of strength training for a very long time that comes into a CrossFit gym or a gym where they might be doing kipping movements, that person has a lot less concern for the momentum on the shoulder or the momentum on any other joint in the body, right? We could say the same thing about runners, right? That person comes in with a higher what we call training age and therefore less worry about the capacity of that person’s body as we begin to produce and create momentum with it. So the answer is, it depends. We can’t say one strict pull up is enough. Five is the minimum. 13. Is five safer than one? Is 13 safer than five? It depends on that athlete. It depends on their training age. If they have never done any sort of vertical pulling, exercise, then we’re just a little bit more concerned, right? We want to see that person begin to develop that strength. We’d love to see that person get one strict pull-up. We’d like to see them continue working on it. The answer, at least in our gym and the way that we coach, is that you should always be working on your strict gymnastics. You should always be doing strict pull-ups. You should always be doing strict handstand push-ups. We had a workout just last week with a bunch of strict pull-ups, and I coached it, and I was very, very adamant. Do not kip these. Do not use a band to kip these. I want a strict pulling stimulus today. If you can’t do strict pull-ups, here are the scales that are going to help you get a strict pull-up. We’re not going to bypass the strict training stimulus just to be able to go faster. If you can’t go faster with strict work, we need to scale and work on that strict work. The other thing is, anecdotally, if you work with these athletes in a gym or you work with them on the patient side as a clinician, having a super high strict pull-up capacity does not guarantee high quality kipping pull-ups. That person who comes in who’s been doing lat pull-downs and strict pull-ups for 30 years They can do a ton of pull-ups, but their kip probably needs a lot of work. What we see is opponents of kipping don’t kip, and so they don’t interact with individuals who do kip. And so we begin to develop this false belief that being able to do 10-strick pull-ups guarantees large, high-quality sets of kipping or butterfly pull-ups, which is completely unfounded. We all know that athlete who can jump up on the bar and do 10 or 15 or 20 strict pull-ups in a set, and then we ask them to, hey, try kipping those, and you’re like, oh, God, what’s happening, right? You are just swinging around on the bar. So just having the strength doesn’t necessarily guarantee the technique that’s going to lead to efficiency in that movement. So the truest answer is we always have to be working on both. When it’s time to do strict work, strict pull-ups, strict handstands, whatever, we need to be doing those strict or finding a scale that allows us to progress to strict, and when it’s time to allow momentum, kipping pull-ups, kipping, handstand push-ups, toes-to-bar, whatever, we need to find maybe also scales there, even if the person has the strength to do them in an ugly fashion, that allows the development of the technique, so the person that can do 10-strip pull-ups is somebody that goes on to be able to perform very large sets of high-quality kipping or butterfly pull-ups or toes-to-bar or muscle-ups or whatever. So once someone has demonstrated that they really have that functional shoulder strength, we need to recognize that they’re naturally going to increase the volume of vertical pulling, and it’s slowly going to ideally increase over time. And at that point, we’re really dealing with an issue of volume management, we’re no longer dealing with an issue of foundational shoulder strength, that person has the capacity to do strict work. Now we just need to carefully watch that person’s volume, making sure that when they begin to develop kipping pull ups, they can do sets of five, they don’t decide to help themselves to a workout where maybe they’re doing 150 pull ups in a workout or 200 pull ups in a way that Volume is now the concern for the shoulder and not necessarily the foundational strength.

So where’s kipping at in 2024? The same place that has been for 128 years. There is a lot of public facing information out there that is confusing to our athletes and patients of how to get better. how to work on these for performance, how these can improve your performance in the gym, but also an equal amount of information on why these are dangerous or deadly or detrimental to your fitness progress. So understand the concerns that your athletes and patients are going to have when it comes to the KIP. Know that on the clinician facing side there is almost no research for or against kipping. We have just one article that looks at muscular activation patterns between strict pull-ups and kipping pull-ups and shows that when we kip we reduce the demand on the shoulder a little bit and increase the demand on the lower extremities in the core. Understand really fundamentally what we’re looking at with kipping. We’re just looking at momentum transfer and that we do this in a wide variety of movement patterns away from the gymnastics bar in the gym. Yes, we can kip pull-ups and toes to bar muscle-ups and handstand push-ups, but we also kip when we stand up. We kip when we transition from walking to running and jumping in the pool and swimming and so on and so forth. What is our goal? Our goal is always the pursuit of as much vertical pulling strength as we can get. So when things like strict pull-ups show up, things like strict handstand push-ups show up for vertical pressing, we need to make sure that we’re working on strict work and not bypassing the foundational strict work with kipping just because we can’t do the strict work. What’s the answer to how many strict pull-ups is enough? Two answers. Strict work does not guarantee performance, efficiency, safety with kipping, but also you can never be strong enough. So always continue to work on strict pull-ups, even once you develop kipping pull-ups. And even once you believe that your kipping pull-ups or butterfly pull-ups or toes-to-bar or whatever are in high capacity and high quality, you’re still working on that fundamental strengthening of the shoulder because we know Strengthening is protective of injury. And understand that once someone develops the strength work and begins to kip, we’re not really dealing with a volume management issue. We’re dealing with maybe the future potential development of a tendinopathy, not necessarily a lack of functional shoulder strength once that person can do a couple of strict pull-ups. So I hope this was helpful. I know it’s a very contentious area across the functional fitness space. Happy to take any questions, comments or concerns you all have thrown here on Instagram courses coming your way from the fitness athlete division. Our next level one online course starts April 29. Our level two online course starts September 2. and then we have a couple of live courses coming your way before summer kicks off. Mitch will be down in Oklahoma City on April 13th and 14th. Joe will be up in Proctor, Minnesota on May 18th and 19th. That same weekend, Mitch will be out in Bozeman, Montana. The weekend of June 8th and 9th, Zach Long will be down in Raleigh, North Carolina. And then the weekend of June 21st through the 23rd is a really special weekend. It’s our Fitness Athlete Live Summit here in Fenton, Michigan. We’ll have all of our lead instructors and teaching assistants here. So Zach will be here, Mitch, myself, Joe, we’ll have Kelly, we’ll have Guillermo. We’ll have all the fitness athlete crew here for a special offering of Fitness Athlete Live at CrossFit Fenton. So I hope this episode was helpful for you all. I hope you have a fantastic Friday. Have a wonderful Easter weekend if you’re celebrating Easter. We’ll see you all next time. Bye everybody.

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