The kip is responsible for the early retirement of gymnastic dreams through the years. Don’t beat yourself up – it’s a difficult move, and you need it to be great – just practice efficiently and work on strength. The bars will never see you coming.
Talent alone is not enough. I believe that a really good gymnast is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration. ― Vladislav Rastorotsky, URS
There comes a time in every young gymnast’s life when she finds herself faced with the kip. It is the first real obstacle most gymnasts encounter, and even the pros practice it regularly to stay fresh – after all, it’s the foundation of uneven bar routines, and you cannot progress until your kip is strong.
No matter how frustrated you are with your suddenly weak, awkward body (weren’t you just doing handsprings?), remember that the key to mastering the kip is practice. Practice, practice, and practice at home. But the key to effective practice is breaking the entire move down into individual components. If you can master the pieces, it’s much easier to put them all together.
Mastering the Kip
The glide is the very first part of the kip, and without a good one, your kip will fail. But this step requires a bar to practice, so do it at the gym or at a playground. The object is to get the strongest glide you can.
How to practice it
Grab the bar, take a little hop, and push your lower body forward with all your might – picture yourself totally horizontal. Some people find that it helps to lead with the pelvis, while others prefer to think of touching the back wall with their toes. You want your body straight, tight, and hollow, with your arms extended above your head and shoulders next to your ears. Try to glide forward so hard that you think you’re about to lose your grip on the bar. The momentum you generate during the glide powers the rest of your kip, so power and force are key.
Once you’ve mastered the glide, you’re ready to move on to the next step – pulling up. This is the most difficult step to visualize, but you’ll find yourself doing it instinctually when you know you’re attempting a kip. At the very apex of your glide, just before your body starts to swing back, pull up. It will feel like a regular pull-up that you do during a workout, but you’ll be horizontal. This is the part of the move that switches the momentum from forward (for the glide) to up (for the kip).
How to practice it
To practice this at home, lie on your back with a hollow body, reach above your head, and visualize the bar. Perform the movement, and note where your hands end up – you may find that you’re not pulling through enough to get your hips even with the bar.
This is the final step in the kip, the one in which you position your body over the bar. At the top of your pull-up, pitch your weight forward and simultaneously push down – the movement itself is almost exactly like pulling down a pair of tight jeans. You want the bar to go from your hips to mid-thigh, while pulling yourself around and above it at the same time.
How to practice it
Practice this movement at home like you did with the pull-up, only carry the motion all the way through. If you execute the movement correctly, you should end up sitting instead of lying. Be patient – this is the step that hangs most gymnasts up, so keep plugging away until you have it down solid.
No matter how much you practice, your kip will never be as strong as it can unless you’re as strong as you can be. The greater your upper body strength, the better your kip. Start lifting weights – look for a weight coach that works with gymnasts, or find an Olympic weightlifting coach that works with people your age. The Olympic lifts will power up your explosiveness, and you’ll perform better in all the events. Don’t be afraid of bulking up – you won’t. Keep the load heavy and work in low rep ranges, and you’ll just get strong and tight, and turn into a juggernaut on the bars.
How to Do a Kip
Stand straight, with your hands down. Your body should be relaxed. Take a deep breath and get ready for the kip.
Stand on your toes and move your hands up to hold the bar. Now jump towards the bar.
As shown in the image, hold the bar overhead with both the hands. Your legs should be locked with toes pointed. Your posture should be straight. Don’t bend. Push your body forward as much as you can in a glide.
Pull yourself up horizontally to the right side of the bar. Feet should be in a pike position, and you on the right of the bar. The glide starts from the left and ends on the right.
Move yourself forward such that your legs come close to the bar, then the hips, and then the rest of the body. Now take a swing. Go from right to left. Your hands should be straight, firmly holding the bar.
Your legs should go to the other side slowly, followed by the rest of your body. At the end of this move, you will be in a horizontal position, with your legs on the right side and head on the left, while your hands hold the bar.
Then pull your body up to the left side, resting your abdomen on the bar with the arms straight. Wait for a few seconds in a balanced position. The position is as if you are sitting on the bar. Though this move looks simple, it is one of the toughest ones in the kip.
Push yourself down. Make sure that your body does not make any contact with the bar except for the hands (they hold the bar). Now slowly come down.
Leave the bar and come back to the starting position.
- Do not bend your knees while doing a glide.
- Do not get your knees too close to your head.
- Your neck and head should be in a strained position.
- While doing the kip, make sure that your hands are raised high, and are in a stretched position.
- While practicing a kip, always use a landing mat or pits to avoid injuries.
- If you come across any obstacles in the area you’re practicing, remove them.
- Wrist straps, guards, and grips can be used to protect your hands from tearing.
- Spotting belts are helpful for beginners. They help give support when there is a possibility of falling down.
Remember: Gymnastic moves should be practiced under an expert’s supervision.