Angles are weak. Arches are strong. It’s simple physics. Anytime we create an angle, we have a weak point as load is applied unequally along it. Alternatively, in an arch, load is equally distributed along it’s entire length and there are no weak points. This same thing can be applied to our positioning in our kips.
In my skills & drills class a couple weeks ago we spent time talking about the nuances of the kip; how it works, why we use it and how to maximize its effectiveness. One simple illustration I thought of was a PVC pipe that we use in the gym. If we stand that PVC vertically on the floor and push down on the top of it, it creates an arch. With my hand pressing down on the top of it, this arched position has potential energy. There is energy stored in that shape. If I quickly removed my hand, the PVC would spring off in a random direction because it released the stored energy. This “stored energy” is a good thing in our kip. We want to be like the arched PVC with “stored” energy and then apply it in a controlled manner to the bar or rings we are trying to move through space around.
However, a catastrophe is not far off in that stored energy state. What would happen if I keep pressing down harder and harder on that PVC? It’s going to build up more and more stored energy as it continues to arch until it eventually snaps. Once it snaps, it has created a “bend”. In the instant it snaps all the stored potential energy bleeds out at the point of that “bend”.
When we kip, we want to create an arch along the entire length of our body. We want to create a state of “stored energy”. In the exact same manner that the PVC stores energy while arched, so does our body. Also just as the PVC, if we bend, we break. Anytime we have an “angle” in our positioning, we are bleeding energy from that point. This applies to both the hollow (toes and hands off the ground while laying on our back) and the arch (“Superman” or back extension position) positions. In both the fore swing and back swing, if we bend then we have broke. Think about always creating arches. Very simply put, we kip to create momentum to assist us. We can not create momentum without moving with power. If while kipping we have created an “angle” at our hip and an angle at our knees, we are bleeding energy from each of those points. The PVC has broke at not one, but two spots. We need to keep our body arched like the PVC with stored energy. This needs to be applied to our kip, where we are generating power, and then into our recovery from that rep so that we can “link” into the next. No bends! Arches!
Some simple cues that will help keep you arched and not bending are:
core needs to stay engaged. If the core relaxes, we are likely going to break at the hip.
flex your quads. Try to bend your knees with flexed quadriceps; it won’t happen.
point your toes. This keeps the legs long and controlled
Think about that PVC and apply the points above the next time we are trying to generate power for a kip. Whether it be for a toes to bar, pull up, muscle up, whatever. You want as much power working for you to generate as much momentum as possible.