The Kipping Muscle Up versus the Strict Muscle Up: Which is better? Well, they’re different. Not better, not worse, just different. I honestly don’t care which one you choose to perform, but I do have a strong opinion on which one you should focus on learning first. But no matter which one you choose as your favorite, the video tutorial in this article will help you with the most difficult part of a Muscle Up, which is the Transition. Before we get to that however, let’s talk a little more about the Kipping versus Strict Muscle Up.
I did say that I have a strong opinion on which one to learn first and I’ve formed that Muscle-Up opinion after many years of personal experience. And with that experience hopefully comes the opportunity to change or evolve the outlook. In my own personal journey, I learned a Kipping Muscle-Up before a Strict Muscle-Up, just like I learned an Arch-Back Handstand before I learned a Flat-Back Handstand. In both cases, it took much longer to learn the other version. But I’m not bashing the kip – you can even find an entire video tutorial series I did on the Kipping Muscle-Up and its regressions.
But here’s my advice:
Learn a Strict Muscle-Up first! Then you can kip as much as you’d like. You want to build stability and structural integrity first, and only then attempt to generate a bunch of power and speed through the movement. If you work better with analogies: You can’t fire a canon from a canoe. (The canoe on water equals instability; the canon equals power. See how that doesn’t work?)
Why do most people learn a Kipping Muscle-Up first?
Because it’s way easier than a Strict Muscle-Up. Hold on, before you get riled up, I’m not saying it’s not challenging and I’m certainly not saying that it’s not beneficial. But in a Kipping Muscle-Up, you’re essentially generating momentum and then carrying the momentum through the hardest part of the Muscle-Up, which is the transition. That’s a lot easier than making it through the transition using pure strength.
Breaking Down the Muscle-Up
To better understand, let’s take a closer look at what makes up a MU. It can be broken down into three main parts:
- The Pull Up
- The Transition
- The Press (Dip)
Most decently experienced fitness enthusiasts can perform a Pull-Up, and most likely even a Dip (although that is much harder on rings). But the Transition is what can stop even the most experienced exerciser right in their tracks.
Why is the transition so hard?
Leverage! The transition is the exact point where the pull of the Pull-Up begins to turn into the push of the Dip. That space between those two movements puts you at a pretty serious mechanical disadvantage – aka crappy leverage.
It all has to do with the relationship between the elbow and the wrist. Once the elbow travels anywhere above the wrist, the muscles that extend the elbow and the muscles of the shoulder joint/girdle are at a prime leverage point to push you the rest of the way out of the dip. However, when the elbow is below the wrist (as in the transition) you’re at a poor leverage point for those same muscles.
For example, think about doing a Cable Tricep Push-Down where the resistance is your entire body weight. Now think about doing it while starting with your elbow at the most flexed it could possibly be. And now think about trying to do it with your feet floating off of the ground. Yup, that’s the transition. It’s the kip that allows you to skip right over all of that hard work and land right into or above the advantaged position.
That’s exactly why a Kipping Muscle-Up can usually be achieved by someone who doesn’t necessarily have the strength, but can work out the mechanics of a ballistic full body extension, followed by a powerful flexion. If they can time that correctly with a quick pull from the arms then they just might find themselves over the transition, which will then just require a press out of the dip.
So a Kipping Muscle-Up does require some technique, but good technique is only as solid as its foundations.
Conquer the Chaos
This reminds me of one of my favorite sayings which is, “You have to suffer through the structure in order to conquer the chaos.” A Kipping Muscle-Up is pure chaos at its finest. And if you haven’t diligently worked through every single inch and angle of a Muscle-Up at slow speeds, then you may not have the structural integrity that will support that much ballistic movement. It may not be today, next week or next month but eventually something in that complex spine or shoulder girdle may give.
Does that mean I have to stop doing Muscle-Ups if I only know how to kip? No, it means take a little break and try to understand that you may need to briefly regress in order to progress. After all, bodyweight training is a form of Self Mastery practice. You have literally the rest of your time in your body to explore and refine. What’s the rush?
When to Kip
As I said at the beginning, I’m not a kipping hater. There are plenty of situations where a Kipping Muscle-Up may be exactly the movement you want. Kipping is particularly useful when you are going for a ballistic movement. For practices like street calisthenics, a kip is a valuable tool.
Mastering the Transition
Yes, the transition in a Muscle-Up is hard. But it’s not impossible, especially if you break it up into segments. In the video below, I cover the False Grip Pull-Up to Transition. This exercise is one that we use in the Bodyweight Athlete program and is essential for building the foundation for a Strict Muscle Up. There’s even a quick assessment that you can perform to see if you’re ready to try this variation.
We’ll be putting out another video for the exercise sequence that will help you get through the transition, but in the meantime, take the assessment and start training the Pull-Up to Transition.
And remember: Slow is smooth, smooth is fast!