It’s a Cruel Summer [but it’s for your own good]

03 Jul

The subject of kipping pull-ups verus ‘stricts’ comes up a lot at the edges of the CrossFit community. Inside the CrossFit world they are seen as an essential/cool skill to increase cycle time and thus power output i.e. if I can do 20 (kipping) pull-ups in the same time that you can do 10 (stricts) then I am doing more work in less time.

And isn’t that the point of CrossFit? Increased work capacity?


I have always preferred the description of CrossFit as preparing you to face the unknown and unknowable: real world, unpredictable, non-barbell shaped problems.This is where the argument for kipping pull-ups starts to break down.

You see, kipping does very little to increase vertical pulling strength. In fact, in a non-trivial number of cases in our gym alone, we have seen clients actually get weaker having learned to kip. Surely we can’t be satisfied with this?

In the real world, stuck down at the bottom of a ditch or hanging from a window ledge, what actual use is the kipping pull-up? Short of swinging from tree branches it is next to useless in most real world climbing situations.

So Andrew and I, and the rest of the CrossFit London Coaching Academy, pondered this issue on Saturday. We genuinely feel that we are doing you, our clients, a disservice by not preparing you to face the unknown and unknowable.

Do we think strict pull-ups are an essential component in your armoury in achieving this aim?

You bet.

And so we are issuing the following mandate, effective immediately:

Kipping pull-ups are banned during WODs for the next three months


We may still cover the skill from time to time, but if the WOD calls for pull-ups* everyone is going to do them strict, even if it means using bands. If you don’t have a strict pull-up, you soon will!

It’s a Cruel Summer…but it’s for your own good!


* Before you ask: Yes, this does include Angie.

39 thoughts on “It’s a Cruel Summer [but it’s for your own good]

  1. This also goes for muscle ups.

    BTW, there will still be kipping practice as a skill…its something every crossfitter needs to do, but, in our view, you need stricts too.

  2. This is what happens when Phil and Andrew get left on their own at a bbq to discuss things.

  3. I think it’s a great idea – obviously just need to be a bit careful with the programming

  4. 2 things – a) my bbq cannot be blamed b) how is it in the 80s girls were able to be popstars wearing such baggy clothing and showing so little skin? amazing.

  5. Phil has been gunning for this for ages. Looking on the bright side, no more ripped calluses! Yes!

  6. My hands are happy… my arms not so much!

    Man, you just learn how to flail like a monkey and they take it away…

  7. Given time/number or rounds on alot of wods now goes out the window could we use these months to train towards a benchmark month ie in Oct we will do a month of the benchmark wods to see if we’ve giotten better?

  8. I agree with Cian. No more ripped calluses for a while at least. Plus I was always getting torn skin on my palms as well which takes ages to heal!
    I’d also really like to be able to do 10 strict pull ups in a row before Christmas. I do hope this 3 months helps towards this. However hard I try my best so far has been 8 and often I can’t do more than 6 or 7. Depends on the day and probably those damned biorhythms!

  9. I would like to re-ignite this debate a little bit if at all possible. In fact, I’d like to widen the debate to include all body weight gymnastic movements – like pull-ups, ring-dips, etc.
    Personally, I think there is a bit of a double standard developing between these body-weight movements and other core components of Crossfit. Take barbell work, for example.
    When classes are asked to undergo a WOD containing barbell work, plenty of coaching time is devoted to practicing the moves and slowly building up to an appropriate/Rx’d weight.
    When WOD’s contain bodyweight work, this is often not the case, and this is exacerbated now because of the ban on kipping to help get through the work. In fact, it is common for a WOD to be preceded by a ‘warm-up’ containing more the same body weight movement. In my case, this means that I am warming up for a 95 kg movement with (well) more 95 kg movements. That is not something which anyone would be asked to do with a barbell movement!
    I know there are bands etc to help scale the work-outs, but I think the optimal development of these (strict) body weight movements is poorly understood. It certainly is by me. Is it best to grind them out? How about scaling – what is the optimal scaling strategy? What about kipping – is this not an important development tool to help combat muscle exhaustion? How would you best introduce these scaling features into a WOD to get maximal benefit? Is there an optimal blend between strict form and kipping methods, and if so how would this best be implemented? . Maybe I have just missed classes where the development of these movements has been discussed – I know there has been a lot of development work in the past, but I can’t reconcile this work with the sudden ban on kipping and also a trend towards high volume body weight work-outs (see below).
    There seems to be an increasing number of high rep body weight work-outs coming into the programming. I personally find these highly frustrating because a lot of time is spent waiting for muscles to recover rather than doing work. I thought a central tenet of Crossfit was functional movements at high intensity – have we not veered too much from this central tenet at Crossfit London? Why are these hard and heavy movements not predicated by a scaled version to prepare?
    I don’t want to be taken the wrong way here, I love Crossfit London, but I think it is important to ask highly qualified people (like yourselves) these questions. I would love for it to be debated by all users at the gym and hence have chosen to create this post. Surely a better balance can be struck between development work of strict movements (and strength) and also incorporating these movements into WODs? If I am alone in wondering this, feel free to ignore me! I’ll just keep trying to grind out more strict pull-ups and will keep smiling!

  10. i would say that since the ban came in, no one has, or should have, set high rep pull ups.

    Guidance should be given, in every session, about what the workout is supposed to achieve and the subs that should be used.

    ill do a bit about how to improve pull ups and post it up.

  11. I can see where Phil is coming from on some of his points and agree with him on some of them. I do get frustrated during a wod waiting for my arms to recover when stricts are in the wod and standing under a bar wondering what I’ll do after training as I watch the clock tick down and wait for my arms to recover.
    In saying that however I have noticed an improvement and found that my stamina and strength in this movement is coming along nicely and that I feel my strict press is now better. I have also found that in general my other movements and shoulder flexibility have improved as kipping really tore at my shoulders (though this could also be that its now the rugby off season).
    Personally I would hope to be able not to have to kip again for workouts (save for something with massive no’s of pullups) and I think the only way to get there is via grind of a process over a period of time.
    In my view workouts that had large numbers of kips should have those kips replaced not with stricts but with ring dips/ handstand pushups and the wods like Andrews 4*4 Thrusters/stricts should be to the norm where there is pullups involved. I also think that coaches should know what they are programming ie if it is a metcon and the intention is to keep a high inensty and they see prople standing under bars wondering what to cook for dinner then the coach should be telling you that you have to use a band, the arms are shot and that you now need to scale to keep the inensity up and that as you develop and become better you can come off the band (just like we all did when we started).
    The kipping ban is a good idea and I think we should not gullitine it in Sept but keep it as the Rx for movements with pullups in our box. Imagine being a visiting crossfitter, seeing Fran and rubbing your hands, then you are told the Rx is stricts. Unless you are ultra hard core you will get pawned, and you will get pawned by everyone in our box because we train harder and have gotten ourselves stronger by slogging through the process until 21 stricts unbroken is not a dream, then another 15 then 9 with thrusters inbetween.
    Every now and then maybe when there is a Murph or the like then maybe allow kipping, though would nt it be brilliant to have 100 strict pullups in your back pocket.

  12. Colm: You think workouts that have large number of kips should have them replaced with a completely different movement!? That doesn’t really make sense…

    I agree with your point that it is frustrating to be standing there staring at a bar as you have reached muscle failure and cannot do any more stricts, but that has been the point of the programming last month in keeping the pull ups at a small number and I think all the coaches have done a great job of that so far.

    I disagree completely with extending the kipping ban indefinitely…I think the basic idea behind it is a good one but I actually think 3 months is quite a long time. Yeah of course it would be great to have 100 strict pull ups in your pocket but that is a completely unrealistic idea and even working up to 21 stricts would take an extremely long time which would be to the detriment of other skills. (Plus in Fran for instance you really need 45 stricts, not just 21 and those 45 will have to be done when you are already fatigued from Thrusters…)

    I don’t see why it should be one or the other (after the period of this kipping ban)…both should be used to improve both aspects and for variety which is the key tenet of Crossfit. Stricts and weighted make you stronger and kipping allows you to be more efficient and do more work over less time…they both have equally good purposes.

  13. I’ve always thought that the obsession with power and “alleged” efficiency could become the “VO2 Max” of crossfit. In short a theoretical extraction

    The thing about the kip is that it allows people who can only do 5 proper strict pull ups to claim to do 20. the trick is to do “something with your hips” .Great, a hip exercise. Very good. But we have loads of hip exercises….deadlift, cleans, squats push presses, push jerks, sumo deadlift high pulls, rows etc.

    The pull up is the only exercise we can set to develop arm strength and endurance. For the record, various programmes claim to deliver 20 pull ups in 6 weeks: also for the record, in Wednesdays wod, many of our “athletes” delivered a Fran work load in 11 and 12 minutes. ( 4 thrusters and 4 pull ups amrap 12 minuted)

    The kip is interesting, but climbers, mixed martial artists, scaffolders plasterers labourers, hod carriers, soldiers firemen, people stuck in holes, people who need to get over stuff , and for that matter people who want to go to outside gyms and be taken seriously, people who want to qualify for the gladiator TV programme, people who want to pass strict pull up tests – all need strict pull up strength

    i suspect with the slightest bit of application we can start churning out 6 to 8 minute strict Fran times.

    As a warning, when the ban ends, all my wods will be strict. people may kip, but i think 2 kips to 1 strict is a proper currency. so Fran = 21, 15. 9 strict pull ups, or 42, 30 , 18 kips.

    The kip is worth learning ( if you can ignore the torn hands and justify the time off training as a result), strict pull ups , remain, as they always have been, the true, undisputed test of real work capacity. If like Simon I long for kipping pull ups, it’s because once you get them, they are easy peezey

  14. Hey guys – loving this debate here!

    I just wanted to mention to all the people complaining of muscle fatigue and sitting around doing nothing that the bands are there for a reason (although I understand if your ego may mean you are blind to them!)
    If you don’t want to warm up with body weight ahead of a bodyweight wod – use a band.
    If your arms are just giving way in a WOD because you can’t do 5 more strict pull ups without assistance – use a band!…. you can crank out the last 5 reps and know you pushed your muscles just that little bit more.
    I am sure once you start doing WODs RX its hard to go back to occasionally scaling them – and the choice is yours. But for those of us who use bands all the time (and would love to not, trust me) we know that the support you need on any given day is a spectrum so you might be switching between bands quite often, but the nice thing about the bands is that they let you keep working through muscle fatigue so you can use less support next time.

  15. You might want to read the article more carefully…we are talking consecutive strict pull ups and the article clearly states she has 36 consecutive…yeah that’s impressive obviously but a little different to what we are talking about.

    She’s obviously worked very hard at it and I wonder if it’s been to the detriment of other athletic skills…

  16. I think the ban was long overdue (for me certainly as I was a bad one for Kipping) and will get everyone strong asap. Very well thought out rep ranges too I feel!

    Would politely disagree with Brie on band use though. If you get fatigued doing stricts and have to switch to doubles or even singles with some resting that’s fine. It’s a strength stimulus. Which is the whole point. That’s good. Going down to a band will make you good at doing band pull ups.

  17. si – guilty of passing on an article i read ages ago without reading it again to see how applicable it was! I also think she isn’t one to aspire to (just posted it as an example of what can be done if you focus on one skill!) especially as I looked up a couple vids of her and her legs are tiny! not sure she’s doing as many squats as pull ups…(less weight to move…)

  18. @ Brie 36 consecutive stricts………. FYI that smokes everyone in our box I think.

  19. Gosh just read it- 36 consecutive stricts is monstrous. Respect. Don’t see how the size of her legs is relevant at all- you cant infer anything from that- some people genetically just dont get big legs from strength work (I’m one of these people unfortunately 🙁 )

    She’s a beast

  20. Well you can’t really say she’s a beast without knowing how proficient she is in other exercises/domains. Sure she’s got really good pull up numbers, but she’s probably focussed so much on them that it’s come to the detriment of other skills and lifts.

  21. I’ve actually made a mistake I was thinking of sloths. Sloths are arboreal or tree dwelling and hence good at hanging from things. Wombats live in burrows in the ground and mainly eat grass. Sorry.

  22. well lets all just agree that in terms of strict consecutive pull ups only, this lady smokes us all with the caveat that she may not be awesome at absolutely everything else.

  23. I like workouts with low numbers of consecutive stricts. That’s fine, even If overall it is High volume. Same with ring dips. I am just uncertain about high numbers of CONSECUTIVE stricts/ring dips etc. Particularly confused about optimal scaling techniques. For these work-outs is a band or Kipping better? Etc etc.

  24. getting confused here. So, there are no more wombats to worry about ( grass eating f@&kers) good.

    My policy is that, to build up to decent numbers, the in initial reps should be kept low. The body begins to get the message that it needs to string them together.That said, if we threw a 20 pull up element at you, You could have a choice…could 10, 5, 5 be possible. a band is an option, but i would not use it to bounce through 20. we will be discussing a structured pull up thing during september in this weekends coaching academy.

  25. Look at the girls pics, I showed the guys in the office and we all agreed she has good pullups

  26. Oh, just wanted to pick up on Andrew’s point about some people needing strict stregth in their everyday lives. Their lives would be much easier if they just kipped a little 🙂

    I kipped my a$$ off this weekend to repeatedly get onto a boat from the water in Ibiza. we were loving it….. although I would have loved it less if it had been strict cos it’s basically a muscle up and that is well hard!

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