Pull-up: The Gap

Pull-up: The Gap

Pull-up – The gap between the kip swing and the pull up

This is a big one for a lot of our members, where you feel you’re getting the swing but can’t seem to time it right, or get your chin high enough. It can elude you for years and become a real point of frustration.

So what are the important parts of the our kip swing and our kipping pull up:

– Set up on the bar is key → hands just OUTSIDE of the shoulders
– A full grip allows you to engage your lats a lot better
– Initiate the swing with the shoulders → not using a big leg swing
– We alternate between a hollow and tight arch position → this is why we practice these so much!
– Legs stay together, knees stay locked and your toes are pointed
– Holding hollow position we’re driving hips towards the bar while pushing DOWN on the bar with Straight arms
– When you’re at your high point, you pull with your arms, gaining chin over bar
– Rapidly push away from the bar into the hollow

Sounds easy right?…. Ugh.

So let’s start with the bad news and move to the good news.

The bad: Often the gap is strength
– Strength to hold hollow and tight arch
– Strength in the lats to push hard enough into the bar to gain the height needed for the pull up

The good:
– There are some amazing programs to build strength and any coach can point you in the right direction here
– There are great drills to practice your timing
– There are some things in there you can change today that will make things easier.

Let’s go over a few you can change today:

1. Make sure the width of your grip is appropriate. We often stand under the bar, put our hands up, and jump. This will put your hands in line with your shoulders, and make it hard to kip. Your body has to move freely to get into a tight arch, so you don’t want to put your shoulders in the way. It also makes it hard to use your lats, so when you pull you’ll be using your biceps, with your palm turned down, which is a really weak position. SO look up, make sure your hands are outside your shoulders

2. Full grip on the bar is a contentious issue I know, with some people really not liking it. I respect that, but for the record, it is much stronger. Having your thumb around the bar, and your top knuckles over the bar (the biggest ones, closest to your palm), let’s you push down on the bar easier and pull into the bar easier…. Lots easier, and Marcus Philly, who is rather handsome chats about it here:


3. Keeping your knees locked, toes pointed and legs together means you don’t lose any of the energy you’re creating. When we have tension in our body it stores energy that can be used, like a slingshot. When we bend our knees and our legs are all over the show, energy is lost out of the system, and we miss out.

A few strength and position drills to practice:

1. Hollow holds and tight arch. Make sure you scale to what you can DEF hold the ENTIRE time of your workout. I scale my hollow hold, and can get a lot more benefit from doing that scaled position properly. Try Tabatas, try accumulating 2 min of each and always do your prehab!


2. Pulling strength program THE STRICT PULL UP IS A GATEWAY TO A KIPPING PULL UP!!!! If you cannot do a strict pull-up then this is where you should start.

3. Kipping practice – Here are a few great variations to practice as well:

In summary, there is a lot you can do now, and lots you can do after class and at home, to build the strength you’ll need to get your pull ups. So hop to it!

Gina Di Rienzo
Senior Coach – CrossFit Central Wellington