Kip extensions are one of those gymnastics strength training exercises that seem to have gotten lost in obscurity, probably because they’re really difficult and requires a high ceiling or an outdoor pullup bar cause if it’s indoor, your feet will probably hit the ceiling. This is a dynamic, straight-arm exercise where you basically perform a toes-to-bar hanging leg raise and pull your hips up into a bar inverted hang. In the video below, I share with you the progressions on how to achieve them and the rest of the blog post is dedicated to intricacies not mentioned in the video.
Watch this video for the progressions:
Why is it called a kip extension?
A gymnastics “kip” is a dynamic hip-thrust. It’s a SKILL used often to help generate momentum to complete a move, such as a glide kip.
Here is a glide kip in action:
And this is the actual gymnastics “kip” segment in a glide kip (toes to bar + hip thrust):
The kip-extensions I present to you are the “strict” strength-training-version of this skill that doesn’t utilize momentum at all and thus, will make you UBER STRONG at the motion. (Note: Kipping in cross-fit is a completely different version of the gymnastics kip.)
Personally, I found the exercise nearly impossible at first, which is what intrigued me to work on it. As mentioned in the video, you need toes-to-bar hanging leg lifts and to be able to hold the inverted hang on the bar. The combination of these two exercises are what make up this exercise.
Toes to Bar + Bar Inverted Hang = Kip Extension
Toes to Bar Hanging Leg Raise (8 reps)
If you cannot do toes-to-bar leg lifts/raises, then you need to work on that. Work on tucked hanging leg raises and then work on straight leg negatives (tuck up, straighten legs and bring them down slowly, repeat) until you can do it with straight legs the whole time. If you cannot get your toes to the bar because your flexibility is an issue, improve your hamstring flexibility using my program.
Bar Inverted Hang (20secs)
How to strengthen the inverted hang: As stated in the video, if you don’t have access to a low bar, you have to do a pull-over to get to the top of the bar, then bring your head down and slowly get into the inverted hang. Point your feet, lock your knees, squeeze your butt and don’t hinge/pike at the hips at all. Your thighs could be touching the bar just barely. If you have access to a low bar, just jump up to go to the top of the bar, then go down into inverted hang.
Note: This does not work on the rings. The inverted hang on the rings is one of the easiest things ever, but on a bar, it’s very hard. The Bar inverted hang will help strengthen your front lever and it’s a fun challenge simply holding it statically for time.
Negative Kip Extensions
Once you have a solid inverted hang for 20secs and you can easily do toes-to-bars leg lifts, then you can simply do the negative kip extensions. Basically go into your inverted hang, and slowly lower your hips until your toes get to the bar. Then drop the legs and do a pull over (or jump over) to get back to the top of the bar, roll down into the inverted hang and do another negative as slow as possible. Make it a goal to do 5 sets of 3-5 reps of these negatives and you should be able to do the final version.
This is quite a beast of an exercise when you can finally do it. Simply doing 5 reps per set is a great goal. It will work your core in a fantastic way and strengthen your lats. I find that bringing the head back a little during the pull helps you complete it. Squeezing the inner thighs together helps keep your legs together as well. You may be able to perform this exercise with a “partial-ROM progression” as well, meaning, you bring your hips down maybe until your mid-shin or ankle hits the bar (instead of toes) and then pull back up. Eventually you can increase the range with how low you bring the feet and hips. If you are looking for more of a challenge, wear heavy shoes or wear ankle weights.
Is this the equivalent of a bodyweight deadlift, but upside down?
Imagine the pull-up-bar is a barbell, so the starting position is you bent-over, holding onto the barbell and you pull it up and straighten your body. Sure looks like a deadlift, don’t it?
It has always been said that there is nothing in the bodyweight-training world that mimics the deadlift. And unfortunately, while this exercise looks the same, it doesn’t replicate the force vectors of a barbell deadlift in the same manner. They do have similarities however: They both work your lats, core, lower back and glutes. But the deadlift utilizes your legs (namely the hamstrings and quadriceps) far more than kip extensions. And overall, even though they workout similar muscles, they don’t workout the muscles in the same ratio. The Kip extensions work your posterior chain with emphasis on the upper back and glutes and abs. But the deadlift works your posterior chain with more emphasis on the spinal erectors, lower back, glutes and legs, so they use similar muscles and they are both compound exercises, but the ratio of the muscles they are working are very different.
But… it’s still a fantastic exercise in my book! Now… speaking of kips… would you like a tutorial on how to perform Glide Kips? Skill-wise, those were a very difficult exercise to master and so I could divulge tons of tips to help you get there. If you have any questions or comments about kip extensions or anything related, please leave a comment and let me know what you think!