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Why Jillian Michaels Wants You to Stop Kipping In CrossFit

Have you heard of kipping? Seen someone at your CrossFit box do it? Kipping is essentially bucking or jerking your body from toes to head in an effort to increase momentum. Its roots come from a skill utilized by competitive gymnasts to make a bar routine flow more smoothly—think Simone Biles or Laurie Hernandez on the uneven bars. It was never utilized to build the athleticism of an everyday athlete. So, why has kipping gone "mainstream," showing up in some of your workout classes and on your Instagram feed? 

Kipping pull-ups, kipping toes-to-bar, kipping handstand push-ups, etc. Just. Why? Seriously. I want to understand why everyday people kip in their fitness training as opposed to performing strict versions of these exercises that develop strength through the entire range of motion (concentric, contraction; isometric, static hold; and eccentric, lengthening). What is the point? I've asked people who do it. I've read article after article about it from a variety of experts. So, what is the training logic behind the kip, and should you include it in your fitness routine or totally avoid it? (Related: The Pull-Up Workout That Nearly Killed Me)

Many proponents will tell you that a kipping version of an exercise is very different from the strict version, and so they do both. Sounds okay, right? But, how are they different, and are there ways to reap the "benefits" of kipping in safer ways?

The Argument for and Against Kipping

Proponents argue that kipping allows you to do more reps when utilizing AMRAP (as many reps as possible) training. But is that really the point of exercise? To do more reps? Or is the point to build functional strength? Obviously, I'd say the latter is much more important for your physical activity. When are you going to need to hoist yourself up or over something 50 plus times in a row in everyday life? Exactly. That's not functional movement or functional training. That's repetitive stress, which is actually very bad for the body. 

Functional training is about working your body in a way that better allows you to perform the activities of your daily life injury-free. Everyone can get on board with that, right? And even if you did have to perform any such movement, my first argument is that strict versions of these movements will allow you to build functional strength far better than kipping through them. Performing toes-to-bar, for example, without a swinging momentum will build core strength much greater than kipping or swinging would. And I would say the same thing for essentially every movement that involves kipping verses the strict version of the exercise. (Related: 6 Reasons Your First Pull-Up Hasn't Happened Yet)

Second, some argue that kipping promotes body control because you must use more muscles in a kipping pull up than a strict pull-up, and you must use them synergistically in the proper rhythm in order to perform a kipping exercise. My counter-argument: If you want to utilize multiple muscle groups in one exercise, there are way more effective ways to do so that also require synergy between the upper and lower body. Here are just a few: thrusters, burpees, most landmine exercises, sledgehammer drills, wood choppers, wall balls, clapping push-ups, etc.

Third, because kipping is an explosive movement, it theoretically builds power because it requires speed and strength to perform it. Once again, my counter is the same: There are better and safer ways to do this. In fact, many of the exercises I listed above are explosive, power-building exercises, and there are literally dozens of other examples you can engage in without putting yourself at risk for injury.

The Biggest Reason You Should Say No to Kipping

Injury. Injury. Injury. 

SLAP tear (a tear in the labrum, or protective cartilage around your shoulder joint), other labrum issues, muscle strains, etc. These kinds of injuries are expensive and can take you out of the gym for months. One can argue that with a good base of athleticism and proper form, these injuries can be avoided. But I say the forces on the shoulder and lower spine are extremely high during kipping movements, so the risk is there for even seasoned athletes. This is especially true if you're repeating this pattern over and over as an exercise versus as an intermittent skill that you work up to. (Related: Jillian Michaels Shares What She Thinks About Your Excuse to Not Work Out)

So, if you still aren't sure how I feel about kipping, let me reiterate the main point: There are far safer and more effective ways to reap the supposed benefits of kipping. Why take the risk? (For more safe and effective workouts, download My Fitness by Jillian Michaels in the App Store and on Google Play.)

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