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Pull Up Technique



VIP Strength Advisor
Sep 15, 2010
As with all lifts that involve some skill, the technique on a pull-up is important.

Most people know the basics, but the key to mastering pull-ups (or just to stop sucking at them) is to learn how to kip properly.

A kip is when you use some other muscles and momentum to perform the pull-up. I can picture the CrossFit-phobes snorting into their protein shakes when I mention the kip, but first you have to realize that there are two types of kips: conditioning kips and controlled kips.

Conditioning kips are when all you care about is getting the chin up over the bar at all costs — and to accomplish this you use every ounce of lower body momentum at your disposal. That's definitely not what I'm talking about.

A controlled kip is a relatively subtle movement that involves some power generation in the legs and hips, where that power is then transferred to the upper body.

Make no mistake, it definitely makes the exercise easier, but if you can't do any strict pull-ups at all (or hardly any),it's best to use the controlled kipping variety, at least for the time being.

In a few months you'll be able to perform strict, clean pull-ups thanks to the strength built from performing controlled kip pull-ups.

What's A Good Kip?

A good kip is a little hard to explain (see video on right) and when you're first learning the technique it'll feel a bit exaggerated. Once you get more proficient, your kip will become more subtle.

When I'm ready to do pull-ups, I usually bend my knees a bit, cross one leg over the other, and then go.

• The first part of the kip is a slight raise of the legs (hip flexion). The knees should absolutely not go higher than the hips and in many cases they just move up 10-20 degrees; but when you're learning you'll lift the legs up higher than that.

• The movement needs to lead into a near-instant transition into a hip thrust, where you try to use some of your biggest muscles in your body (glutes and upper hams) to do some hip and trunk extension. It's a little like the pull in a hang clean; the hips thrust forward and that propels the upper body upward.

Again, when learning it feels more exaggerated, becoming subtler as experience and power increase.

• The chest should be up as you pull yourself up to the bar. I think of trying to pull my upper chest to the bar — your chest may not literally hit the bar, but thinking "chest up" can help with form.

Often when people think "chin above the bar," they round forward and protract at the end to jut their chin forward, which is not the position we're looking for. You want to keep the chest high and tall, with the shoulders down and back. In looking at the trunk (not the arms),the finish position of a pull-up is actually similar to the finish position of a heavy curl or deadlift.

• When you perform a kip right, the exercise will feel a bit easier, and that's what we're after. Don't worry about "squeezing the lats" or anything; they'll get enough stimulation from the exercise itself. Our goal is performance, not size.

So when you do it right and feel yourself shoot up to the bar, try to remember that and duplicate it every rep.


Sep 20, 2010
good writeup brotha...Nothing builds a better back then pullups...i say this all the time...and i do them all the time...bent over rows,one arm rolls,deadlifts,t-baror any kind lift containing to back doesnt have shit on pullups......dw