The kipping pull up is extremely controversial and it’s very understandable why. When executed well it’s an impressive athletic movement which requires power, coordination, and timing. When executed poorly it looks, well a little spastic.
Much like the olympic lifts it’s a very precise movement that requires you to achieve specific body positions in the proper order and at the right speed and time. Just like a clean or snatch, they can be performed well and be a beautiful display of athleticism or executed poorly and look like an accident waiting to happen.
In these highly technical high speed movements, the better the technique or “more efficient” the movement the easier they are to execute and the more work can be achieved ((force x distance)/time).
And they’re easier than a “real” pull up, right?
No, it’s more powerful. Just like a push press relates to a shoulder press, it’s not easier, it just involves more of the body and more powerful parts of the body. Instead of strictly relying on your upper body, you can engage the big engines of the body; the hips and core.
It’s not uncommon for people to achieve a kipping pull up before a strict pull up, or for people to be very proficient at strict pull ups and not be able to do a kipping pull up. It’s not “easier” it’s just different. Both the strict and kipping pull up are great movements to have in any strength training program.
So which should I learn first?
Learning strict pull ups first is going to make learning a kipping pull up easier, and reduce your potential for injury, but in the overall scheme of things, it doesn’t make a huge difference. Training for one should improve and complement training for the other if done properly. There are certain levels of strength and body control required to effectively achieve either. Effectively as in not flopping around like a fish.
Back to our push press example, you don’t need to be able to shoulder press a weight before being able to push press it, but you should be familiar with and have some capacity in the shoulder press before push pressing.
Why do we love kipping pull ups so much?
For the same reason we love the olympic lifts. While the strict pull up is great for developing bicep, shoulder, back and grip strength, it’s usefulness mostly stops there.
The kipping pull up on the other hand not only develops upper body strength, but it develops core strength, coordination, power, accuracy, and agility. It also allows you to increase your intensity level in a workout which helps improve endurance.
The benefits don’t stop there. Learning to effectively kip opens the door to more advanced gymnastics movements like Toes to Bar, Muscle Ups, and Handstand Push Ups.
And the winner is?
Strict pull ups are superior in developing upper body strength, kipping pull ups are superior in developing athleticism. Both are good and both should be practiced regularly.