Learning Kips

Glide Kip
Glide Kip

A glide kip animation (with front hip circle, cast)

Subject: kips!

My coach is really hard on us if we don’t have our kip and I can’t get my kip yet. What are some things I can do to help me get my kip?

Kips are Complicated and Often Hard to Learn

Kips are really one of the hardest skills to learn in gymnastics. It is not that they are the hardest skill ever. It is that it is a skill you must learn very early in your gymnastics career and it is a fairly complicated skill.

Get Strong First

As with all gymnastics, but especially with bars and kips, if you are not very strong (not just strong), then you should get to work building your upper body strength, especially your shoulder strength and ab (stomach muscle) strength. The stronger you are, upper body wise, the easier it will be to learn a kip. Strength can make up for a lot of mistakes and there are lots of mistakes you can make in this skill.

Get the Kip Feeling

Gymnasts may want to know the feeling of the skill first. You can do a reasonable imitation of a kip on the floor. Start lying on your back with your arms straight over your head. This is the extended glide position. Bring your toes to your hands (the bar). Jam into a high shoulder stand position and then lean forward and bring your hands to your hips as your legs counter balance you and make you sit up. This will give you somewhat of an idea of the action.

Break It Down and learn Each Part of the Kip Separately

Next, break the kip down and really master all of the parts of the skill before you waste much time trying to do the whole skill together. We mean work on glides, jump to a glide and series of glides separately. Work on leg lifts bringing your toes to the bar separately. From a hanging position with your toes at the bar, extend up so the bar is at your hip (Do sets of these). Work on building your shoulder strength for the pulling action. Use a kip machine. Work on the finish of the skill by doing sets of jumps to the bar (with straight arms and finishing forward over the bar).

Start Adding One New Kip Part at a Time

When you are starting to get a mastery of all of these separate elements, you can start putting them together adding one part at a time and mastering the combination of skills. Keep practicing them separately until you learn the kip though also.

Learn Glide Kips First

We recommend learning a glide kip thoroughly and well before trying to learn a long hang kip.

Get a Good Glide Kip Swing

You need good swing to best do a kip, so your jump to a glide must be smooth and powerful. When it is, you can add working on glide toes to the bar. At this point you don’t even want to be trying to do the kip, just the glide and toes to the bar part. Your toes should be at the bar early (before you start swinging back) and they should get close to the bar (say two to three inches from the bar) and stop there. Watch your toes throughout the kip to keep your head from going back and to help keep your body hollow.


When you finish the kip, the bar is going to be at your hips, not at your feet. So the next thing to add is what we call the “jam.” This is the “pulling up the pants” action which is the phrase that many coaches use to describe this part of the skill. At this point, you should be going glide, toes to the bar, jam up the leg. Again, at this point don’t even try to finish the kip. Just make sure you are jamming all the way up the leg and try to hold there.

The Kip Action

We are finally at the real kip action and the hardest part to learn. Maintaining the good glide, kip, jam action, you need to pull through the shoulders to get up high enough to finish up on the bar.

Finish Forward Over the Bar

Once you are high enough, you will need to roll your hands on top of the bar and finish leaning forward just like you do when you jump up on the bar.

One Part at a Time

Don’t try to get up on the bar. Just concentrate on doing each part of the skill correctly and you will just find yourself up on the bar one of these times having made the kip.

Do Other Drills and Continue to Increase your Strength

There are also lots of drills and gymnastics strength training exercises you can do to help while you are learning your kip. Using a kip machine helps you develop the swinging action of the kip and teaches you how to finish over the bar.

Stronger Means Learning Kips Sooner

Pulling dumbbells or power (or Bungee) cords in the kip action of a slant board, bench, wedge mat or roll-fold mat can build your kip strength. Leg lifts with ankle weights can build your stomach muscle strength.

The Traditional Stem Rise Kip Learning Technique

Double leg and then single leg stem rises on parallel bars can help you get the idea of the kip action. With the bars set like unevens, a double leg stem rise is a jump back and up to the higher bar from a squat position on the low bar. A single leg stem rise is the same jump up to the higher bar, but one leg also does the jam action. This is a really old method of helping to learn kips.

Good luck learning kips and in your gymnastics career and if there is anything else we can do for you, please let us know.

You will want to read the follow-up question and answer with More about Kips

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