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Pull-Up May – Week Two: Straight Arm Kipping

Katie Mac Pull-Up
Pull-Up May – Week Two: The Hollow Position Continued
Written by Coach Nichole DeHart

Welcome to week two of Pull-Up May! Last week we discussed the importance of identifying the “hollow” position and how important maintaining that position is when doing kipping pull-ups. This week we are going to build on the hollow position, but this time over on the pull-up bar. This is where the fun starts because you can now work on the hollow body position while moving through drills for beginning your kip. The drills that we will cover this week will include some work for shoulder strength and more lat engagement.

Drill #1 – The Scap Pull-Up

This movement is simple, but can make or break a pull-up. Establishing the position to pull your scapulae back and down will not only put your shoulder in a better position, but it will also cut down on the range of motion of your pull-up by elevating your chin and clavicle closer to the bar. You will notice a significant improvement in your pull-up speed if you can maintain this position throughout.

Here is how we suggest getting started:

  • Hang from the bar with hands underneath or just outside of your shoulders.
  • Establish your hollow body position while hanging from the bar.
  • Pull your scapulae down and back – which will result in a slight elevation of your clavicle and chin.
  • Hold this hollow body position with your scapulae down and back for 10 seconds. This is the position we will strive to maintain throughout your pull-ups.

NunoScapPullOneNunoScapPullUpTwo

Drill #2 – Pinkie/Thumb Drill

The second drill we will practice here is to begin to create some momentum while in our hanging position by simply internally and externally rotating at the shoulder. That can be a bit difficult for folks to remember though, so we’ll simply call it the Pinkie/Thumb Drill.

Here is how we coach the Pinkie/Thumb Drill:

  • Establish the scap pull-up position – hollow body, scapulae down and back.
  • Start your swing back by pressing your pinkies into the pull-up bar (external rotation) while maintaining your good hollow body position.
  • Move your chin forward by pressing the knuckle of your index finger into the pull-up bar (internal rotation). Your index finger is right next to your thumb, so for convenience we call this phase “thumbs.”

(You want to stay elevated throughout both the “pinkies” and “thumbs” phases of this movement.)

Simply externally and internally rotating your shoulders while hanging from the pull-up bar should help you develop a small, gentle swing while on the bar.

Drill # 3 – Bow/Hollow Drill

This final drill will look very similar to the second drill, except now you will begin to generate more power by adding in range of motion through midline flexion and extension. We will call this the Bow/Hollow Drill because you will alternate from the hollow position (global flexion) to the bow position (global extension). The bow position might be more commonly known as the Superman position.

To perform the Bow/Hollow Drill on the pull-up bar, you will do as follows:

  • Establish your scap pull up and begin the pinkie/thumb drill
  • As you press pinkies into the bar, contract your abdominals to establish a perfect hollow body position.
  • As you press “thumbs” (knuckles of index fingers) into the bar, contract your glutes and quickly transition into the bow position. It might help to think of pushing your chest forward as you perform this bow position. Your midline will be tight, and your feet will be only slightly behind your hips.
  • Repeat and steadily gain power when transitioning between the bow and hollow positions.

SuperMan

Drill # 4 – Straight-Arm Pry Down

The final step in this phase of our pull-up progression is to begin to elevate the hips even further up toward the bar. We do this by “prying down” on the bar with straight arms. Here is our suggested way to practice:

  • Pull your scapulae back and down, internally and externally rotate the shoulder with the Pinkie/Thumb drill and increase your movement by adding in the Bow/Hollow drill on the pull-up bar.
  • Repeat the Bow/Hollow drill for three reps.
  • On the third rep, with your body in the hollow position, contract your abdominals and pry the bar to your hips, while maintaining straight arms.
  • Depending on your level of strength, you will be aiming to create a pause or noticeable slowing at the top of the kipping arc with your hips as high as possible – while also keeping your arms straight. (*Note – You also need to maintain the hollow position at the top of this kipping arc.)

This is an important drill to work on because this drill puts you in a prime position to access your hips for the final kip to the bar. Both of these drills require a significant amount of strength and body awareness. If you do these drills properly, you may even find that your lats, subscap and abdominals will be sore the next day!

Make a plan to practice these two drills every time you come into the gym. Ask a coach to watch your positioning to make sure you are greasing the groove properly! Next week we will discuss more kipping mechanics and how to properly apply the kip to your pull-up.