CrossFit kipping pull up – What do I need to consider?

The crossFit kipping pull up / butterfly pull up increases the amount of pull-ups we can do in a certain time frame. It is therefore very common in CrossFit and it is a common gymnastics movement that people aim to perform.

There should be a couple of considerations when doing this gymnastic movement:

  1. What do I need to consider before I start to learn this movement?
  2. I get painful shoulders when I perform these, why?

We will begin to explain the answers to the considerations above.

  1. What do I need to consider before I start to learn this movement?

We need to take into consideration certain factors, which will directly influence the quality of the movement and the chances of injury. All of the below can be managed by your coach and sports therapist/physical therapist. Your coach can manage your training volume through their programme design and amend your technique. Your therapist can manage your movement and restrictions.

  • Shoulder overhead range of motion. As you reload the kip from the hollow body into the superman position, our shoulder will go into passive flexion as the momentum of the body transfers through. Adequate range is needed here to allow the full movement. This can be tested in many ways. Are you able to keep your ribs down as your raise your arms up past your ears and not extend through the lumbar spine? Can you stand flat against the wall, raise your arms and touch the wall with your hands together? Improvements here can be achieved in many ways and is important because a lack of range here can cause injury.
  • Thoracic spine extension. Can we get into the correct superman position? We like to see an accumulation of extension segmentally through the thoracic when in the superman position and not relying on the extension through the lower back. This can lead to overload injuries to the lumbar spine and shoulder. If we can’t get adequate movement from certain joints, the body will find it from somewhere else and this is not always ideal. Stiffness is very common here with our western lifestyles.
  • Genetics – This is not something that we can influence.
  • Acromion shape. This is something you cannot influence. If you have an acromion that is shaped more as a hook, then this can cause compression of the rotator cuff or biceps tendon and therefore increase your chances of tendon related pain when loading the shoulder.
  • Spikes in training volume – Sticking to a programme is important. If we practice new skills for hours at a time and in succession then we have created a large spike in volume. We know that large spikes in volume make us more susceptible to injury. Follow a structured programme that is well designed and taken skill practice into consideration.
  • Hip extension. Getting into an ideal superman position will require your hip to go through a good range of extension. Stiffness in this position will normally lead to excessive extension through the lumbar spine and thus increase chances of lower back injury.

These would be the most common movements we would look for when assessing the individual. Homework should then be given to try and work on improving any deficits or restrictions in the above.

  1. I get painful shoulders when I perform these, why? 
  2. This can be a result of deficits in the above. Some people are more susceptible to shoulder injuries than others. However, what if you pass the movement screens above? Perhaps when you get to the bar, you just can’t control the movement.

We need to get you into better positions and for you to learn these positions. Once this has been achieved, getting stronger in the new positions is vital to ensure a reduced chance of injury. When even harder movements are introduced, this new movement pattern needs to be so ingrained and positionally strong, that it shouldn’t put you at a heightened risk of injury.

The kipping/butterfly pull up uses the lower extremity to provide the power needed to send the body upwards and the chin over the bar.

Watch here.

The descent however requires much more upper body strength and control. A lack of control here can dump you at the bottom. If we drop into these positions with no control, then we expose our tissues to excessive forces and therefore injury.

Along with some accessory work, performing the kipping/butterfly with less range of motion but more control should be helpful. For example, instead of completing the full movement and slamming down into the bottom position, perform small kips, and then bigger kips. Only progressing when the movement and control is perfect.

In summary, prior to performing this skill, get your movement checked out. Figure out if you have any movement restrictions and then get the homework to work on them. Load slowly through a structured programme once you move when and efficiently. Have patience.

For any help, get in touch with us.





Lift Off CrossFit is based in Bishops Stortford, Herts. Our experienced team of coaches have made Lift Off the regions premier CrossFit box.

We welcome all levels of experience and pride ourselves on treating all members as equals.



If you are interested in coming down to meet us, please get in touch. We would love to hear from you!

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 Unit 1, Twyford Business Centre
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