“Controlled Cheating” For More Pull Ups?

If you’ve ever visited a CrossFit gym or watched the CrossFit games on ESPN2, you’ve probably seen a kipping pull up. The exercise utilizes a hip drive – kick – arm pull pattern that helps to boost you over the bar.

So is the kipping pull up just cheating? Or does it actually have a purpose?

Hardcore HardStyle/RKC folks would say to NEVER do kipping or cheating pull ups of any kind.  That they’re a bastardization of the exercise for the weak minded (or something like that 😉 ) And to this statement I MOSTLY agree …

I think that for the majority of the time, you should do strict pull ups. If you’re testing for strength, you should do ’em. And that if a true vertical pulling motion is what you’re trying to train, you should do ’em.  (If you look at a kipping pull up, it’s more a combo of a vertical and horizontal pull – watch the video below to see what I mean.)

HOWEVER … pull ups with a “controlled” cheat CAN have a place.  Here’s why – along with a couple of methods to integrate this practice into your routine – according to pull up expert Shawna Kaminski of ChallengeWorkouts.com:

“Many folks only count a pull up when it’s done in the strictest of fashion. There’s nothing wrong with using some cheating methods in training then doing the strictest of form to count your personal best on a pull up ‘test’.

Since the pull-up is one of the ONLY exercises where you need to move your ENTIRE bodyweight each rep, you can’t use traditional ‘progressive resistance’ when training your pull ups. You either can do a pull up or you can’t.

I have a few methods to ‘cheat’ on your pull up that won’t put you at risk for injury (which is the biggest reason you need to train traditional progressive resistance exercises with the strictest of form).

The Band Assisted Pull Up

One method of ‘cheating’ is the band-assisted pull up. Simply loop a large band over the pull up bar, then around the knees to help suspend your body weight. Use the band to help you get up to the bar, then take all your weight on the descent.  It’s actually the eccentric contraction, or the lowering from the bar that causes the greatest strengthening, so the band assist is a brilliant way to help you with eccentric training.

The Kip

Many people wouldn’t consider using power from the lower body to help with the pull up, but by adding a ‘kip’, you can do just that. This is another ‘controlled cheating’ method you can employ to improve your pull up power.

A kip is done by simply driving forward with the knees as you pull your chest directly under the bar. This transfers power to the hips and to the upper body to provide some momentum in the concentric (lifting) phase of the movement. Once up to the bar, make sure to lower the body slowly to work the eccentric contraction.”

Here’s a video example of the “controlled cheat” pull up for you to check out:

In conclusion, the kipping, or “controlled cheat” pull up, while frowned upon by HardStyle/RKC folks, CAN have a place. They’re a great way to progress to doing your first pull up, or to add to your existing routine.  Use the tips in this article to start integrating them into your routine – and watch those pull up numbers go up fast!

Thanks for reading, and talk soon –

Forest Vance, MS, RKC II

PS – Just over a day left to grab Shawna Kaminski’s Ultimate Pull Up Program at your “FVT discount” – check it out here: => Ultimate Pull Ups FVT Discount

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3 Responses to “Controlled Cheating” For More Pull Ups?

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