CrossFit Training: Strict vs. Kipping

It is the nature of a CrossFit athlete to do everything as fast as possible to get the fastest time and the RX by their name on the white board.  But this is not always the best way to train.  A good rule of thumb is to do 10% of your workouts all out, as hard as you can, with 90% of the workouts focusing on skill, strength, and technique.  This is not to say that you still can't go fast, it is just focusing more on the movements themselves rather than the score.

I will build on this over the next several weeks, but today I am focusing on strict vs kipping movements.  I understand it is very exciting to be able to get a handstand push-up, pull-up, or muscle up, but you need to make sure you have the strength to prevent injuries as well.  The best and safest way to develop a skill is to build the strength to get a strict one first and then learn how to kip.  The only exception to this is a bar muscle up, which is very difficult (though not impossible) to perform strict.

So, how do you go about doing this?  Several ways.  A great way to start building up strength is to perform negatives, which is the eccentric lowering phase of the movement.  For example, you will jump up to get your chin above the bar for a pull-up and then slowly lower yourself down to the hang position.  The lowering should take at least 5 seconds to get all the way down.  You can also do this with handstand push-ups, ring dips, chest to bar pull ups, and muscle ups.

There are some great ways to participate in a WOD but work on strength at the same time with gymnastics movements:

  • Progression for strict pull-ups: place a barbell on J-hooks, start kneeling under the bar with the tops of your feet on the ground and do a pull up from there.  If that is easy,​ put a box in front of you and place your feet on the box.  You can also start seated with you feet on a scooter, and when  you pull up your feet will slide back towards you.
  • Progression for strict ring dips: Place your feet on a box in front of you.  Make sure to keep your hips directly below or slightly behind your arms and hands.
  • Progression for strict handstand push-ups: Kneel on a box with your hands as close to the box as possible to get your torso upright and do you push-up from that position. If that is too difficult, sit on the floor and do strict push-press with dumbbells.

​I am a CrossFit competitor and coach, and I do these progressions fairly frequently during workouts, especially the pull-ups on J-hook just to work on strength.  If you actually do them correctly, it is very difficult to perform and you will get a great workout.  So don't feel like you are any less of an athlete if you decide to do one of these and can't put the RX by your name on the whiteboard.

Have more questions on different progressions or skill work?  ​

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