A kip is an important skill in gymnastics. Not only do you need it for the level 4 gymnastics routine, but many gymnasts also use a kip as their mount at more advanced optional levels. A kip is a hard skill to learn because it requires a lot of upper-body strength, and the motion is unlike previous skills a gymnast has learned.
As a result, it’s important to understand the muscles you need for a kip, the exercises you can do to strengthen those muscles, as well as the drills you can do in order to learn a kip.
But first, here are the steps of a kip.
How to do a Kip Step by Step
The glide is the first part of the kip when you grab the bar, and extend your legs in a pike or straddle position. During the glide you want your hips to completely open.
The pike-up is when you lift your toes to the bar after you have fully extended your legs and hips in the glide. This part of the kip requires strong core muscles.
3. Pull-Up Your Pants
The “pull-up your pants” part of the kip is similar in motion to pulling up your pants when you get dressed. You are pulling the bar up your body, as you are swinging backward, in order to finish on top of the bar in a front support.
Muscles you need for a Kip
- Arms and Shoulders– You need strong arms and shoulders to do a kip because your arms support your body weight during the glide and are what power the “pull up your pants” part of the skill.
- Core– Your core muscles bring your legs up to the bar during the pike-up part of the kip, and tighten to help you pull hard during the “pull-up your pants” step.
Exercises you can do at home:
- Pull-Ups- Pull-ups are a great exercise for increasing your arm strength, which you need for a kip. In order to do a pull-up, start by facing your pull-up bar and grab the bar with your palms touching the bar and your fingers pointing away from you. Your hands should be a little farther than shoulder-width apart. Start in a complete dead hang, then squeeze your shoulder muscles and pull-up until your chin is above the bar. That is one repetition. Lower slowly and repeat. A kip also requires a similar motion as a pull-up in the second half of the skill.
- Chin-Ups- A chin-up is similar to a pull-up, but it works different muscles. You can do it the same way as a pull-up, however grab the bar with your fingers pointing towards you.
- Push-Ups- Push-ups are also great for increasing your arm strength. Get into a straight-body plank position with your shoulders over your wrists. While squeezing your core and butt, bend your arms. You want to focus on your body position and only go as far down as you can while still maintaining control of your movement. Raise your body again by straightening your arms to complete the repetition.
- Planks- Plank exercises work both your arms and core muscles. You can do a plank exercise from either your wrists or your elbows. When you are in the plank position you want to be squeezing your legs, butt and core. Your shoulders should be over your elbows, and your body should be in a straight line from your head to your feet. As you are squeezing all your muscles and maintaining a straight-body position, make sure to breathe!
- V-Ups- V-ups are a great exercise to improve your core strength, and they also mimic the motion in the pike-up part of the kip when your legs come to the bar. Start lying flat on the floor with your arms over your head and your legs straight and squeezed together. Using your core, pull your legs up at the same time as you pull your upper-body off the floor, making sure to not arch your back. You want your hands to touch your feet. Lower both your upper-body and your legs back to the floor to complete the repetition.
- Kettlebell Deadlift– A kettlebell deadlift is a hip pulling exercise. In order to do a kip, a gymnast needs strong hip muscles. Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart. Place a kettlebell between your legs, in line with your ankles. With a straight back, looking in front of you, bend from the hips, and reach down to pick up the kettlebell in between your legs. Your shins should be vertical and your lower back should be flat. Then pushing through your legs, return to a standing position.
Kip Exercises You Can Do at Home:
- Hollow Holds on the Floor: A hollow hold on the floor is a great exercise to practice the squeezing of the core you need for the glide part of the kip. Start by lying flat on your back with your arms straight over your head. Lift both your arms and your feet off the floor at the same time to form a hollow position. Your back should be pressing into the ground. Hold for a couple seconds and return to lying flat on the floor.
- Tuck Hold on Pull-Up Bar: In order to do a kip you need to have very strong core muscles. A tuck hold is a beginner exercise to help strengthen your core muscles, using a similar motion to what you will be doing in a kip. Hang on your pull-up bar, and pull your knees up in a tuck position while squeezing your core. Hold as long as you can, and then return to a hanging position.
- “L” Hold on Pull-Up Bar: The “L” hold on a pull-up bar is similar to a tuck hold, but more advanced. This time lift your legs straight out in front of you to form an “L” with your body. Concentrate on squeezing your legs together and keeping them straight. Hold it as long as you can and then return to a hanging position.
- Leg Lifts on Pull-Up Bar: Doing leg lifts is the same motion you will be doing in the pike-up portion of the kip. Start in a hang from the pull-up bar and then lift your legs up to touch your toes on the bar, or get them close. Lower your legs and return to a hanging position to complete the repetition.
Kip drills you should be able to do at the gym:
- Glide– You should be able to do a glide focusing on your body position and extending your toes at the end of the glide.
- Glide with Sliders- Another great drill to do to learn a kip is a glide with sliders.
- Rope Kips– A rope kip is a drill that some gyms practice where a bungee-cord-type rope is put on the bars and the gymnast can perform the kip with the assistance of the rope. This is helpful for learning the motion of a kip.
- Band Pulls– In order to practice the arm strength and movement you need for a kip, you can do band pulls with a Theraband. Tie the middle of the resistance band onto something that won’t move, like a bar or stall bars. Sit with your back to where you have tied the band. Hold onto each end of the band with one of your hands. Then keeping your core squeezed, pull the band ends out in front of you.
Tools for Learning a Kip
Pull-Up Bar: A pull-up bar is great for doing strength and conditioning exercises at home.
Kettlebells: Kettlebells can be used as resistance when doing strength and conditioning exercises.
Kip Trainer: The kip trainer helps gymnasts learn the “pull-up your pants” step in a kip.
Sliders: Sliders can be used to do the glides with sliders kip drill.
Therabands: Therabands are useful for providing resistance, and can be used to do band pulls which mimic the kip pulling motion.
Strengthening the muscles you need for a kip is the most important part of learning how to do a kip. So start doing your home exercises to get stronger. Then, progress by learning and practicing the kip drills you can do at home, along with the drills you should master at the gym. Eventually, with enough practice and strength you will get your kip and can move on to another gymnastics skill!