Kipping Pullups: Stupidity or Genius?

If there’s one big area of contention with functional fitness, it’s the kipping pullup.

To be up front, we believe kipping pullups have their place… 

But there are always risks involved… and without addressing the proper elements, kipping pullups may: 

  1. Destroy your clients’ shoulders. 
  2. Destroy their long term commitment to getting fit. 
  3. Destroy your reputation as a gym/coach.

Here at Level Method, we spend a lot of time thinking about how to maximize the engagement, results, and longevity of clients at ALL levels in the safest and most effective way. 

It’s one thing to be motivated to do kipping pullups, it’s another to be actually prepared to do them.

But the whole story starts with WHY someone would be motivated in the first place. 

A strict pullup isn’t something everyone can do. It takes work to build, and someone who isn’t able to achieve one usually views it as a badge of honor. 

A truly strict pullup is a time-honored gold standard of physical strength and fitness. 

The movement is simple, but not easy. 

And the vast  majority of people in the world aren’t even remotely close to being able to do one. 

So it means if you can do one, you’re pretty much a badass. 

This concept can be hard for higher level fitness enthusiasts and many coaches to understand because they have personally been capable of strict pull-ups for (generally) a long time. 

To them, strict pullups are no big deal... but to the “regular” person, getting that chin over the bar is a huge gold-standard accomplishment.

And this is where the story starts to take a bad turn. 

The introduction of the kipping pullup in functional fitness was never meant to take the place of a strict pullup. 

Claiming that kipping is “cheating” is fundamentally flawed because they are entirely different movements, with different purposes and applications. 

Somewhere along the way the lines between the two movements got blurry... why?

Getting that chin over the bar = the goal… right? 

The coach thinks… “Sure, give it a whirl, no biggie…” and the client thinks “I’m gonna get my chin over the bar, and that’s all that matters! F Yeah!” 

This is a recipe for a disaster… we need standards that say: first, build the strength do a strict pullup.

To be clear: the first goal is not a kipping pullup. 

The true accomplishment is a strict pullup. 

And then a weighted strict pullup… all before anyone ever attempts to kip. 

Once the right strength is built… a new movement is unlocked… a different movement called the kipping pullup that gives you access to a whole new work-capacity-based world.

But that all should happen through a system of standards which (ideally) is baked into the culture of the gym. 

That way everyone knows what the path is. 

When everyone knows the path, it’s not only motivating to start, but each milestone becomes an accomplishment itself. 

A potential powerful moment. 

In Level Method, we use colors (WHITE, YELLOW, ORANGE, etc), but you could devise your own set of standards. 

The point is, there needs to be a structure in place. 

There needs to be standards, and those standards need to be held. 

For us, those standards are PURPLE II – .15x bodyweight for males (15%), and .11x bodyweight for females (11%). 

Anyone adhering to the Level Method system will be required to meet those standards before attempting kipping pullups. 

No exceptions.