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What good is that kipping motion? (you may be surprised)

Posted by Keith Pettit on

Did you know the same motion used in kipping pull ups and toes to bars is used in almost every skill on high bar done by gymnasts in the Olympics?

Lets start with showing the positions of the kipping motion.  The open or arch phase is done by thinking of taking the bar and actively pushing the bar back as you open in your shoulders, chest and back.  Your body should be tight and have tension throughout.  

Hold this open shape for 10 seconds.

Next we go with the hollow.  Keep your ears covered with your shoulders.  Round in your chest and slightly in the back and hips.   You want to think of pulling down on the bar a little but do not break the shoulder angle. Hold this shape for 10 seconds.

Holds Video

Let’s put these together.  Work on going from the arch to hollow position.  Remember don’t just let

your body fall into the shape, think of pushing/pulling on the bar so you put yourself into the the chest and shoulder and not just the hips.  Think of your body as a whip.  The longer the whip the harder the snap, right?  That means if we can get the entire body involved in the open/close then there will be more power in the kipping motion. Ideally our legs should be straight.  Bending your legs is a sign of being loose - and a loose whip loses power.

 Kipping Motion DrillVideo

We call this kipping action a tap in gymnastics. It is the changing from hollow to arch and back to a hollow again.

Now you can learn any swinging skill you want in gymnastics!  This might sound crazy but its true.  Every swinging skill done in gymnastics uses this same arch/hollow kipping motion.  We may apply a swing to it, vary the timing or exaggerate the shape but the hollow/arch kipping motion forms the basis for every long swinging skill in gymnastics.

Giants to Dismount

Look at a giant on the high bar. 

Giants to dismount Video

The giant is the big swing that goes around the bar. Notice the kipping motion.

As the gymnast (in this case Coach Sean) falls from the handstand he is in the hollow shape.  Before he hits the bottom he goes into the arch/open shape.  Then he kicks back into the hollow shape to go over the top of the bar in a handstand in the hollow/closed shape.

Pretty cool right?

Now lets look at the dismount.  Coach Sean wants to flip away from the bar.  The giant before the dismount he exaggerates the hollow shape.  He then does the open a little sooner than when he does it in the giant.  

He kicks to the hollow and lets go of the bar.  If his kipping motion (or tap) is done at the right time he flies up and away from the bar.  By watching the tap you can tell what skill the gymnast will be doing next.


Suppose the gymnasts wants to go over the bar, flip twice do a full twist and catch it. This skill is called a Kolman.

Notice the arch is a little later (and holds it a little longer) than the dismount so when he lets go he flies up and over the bar instead of away. 

Kolman Video

Now try that - kidding

Also to the below is a whole routine of one of my kids, notice how his tap (kipping motion) changes before each skill to make him release at the correct time.

High bar Routine Video

Every kipping skill you do uses the same motion/shapes - just the timing changes.  This is true for a kipping pull up to a double back over the bar recatch!

If you want to learn how to transfer this into efficient pull ups, toes to bars or bar muscle ups - get my tutorial!


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