We have all been told when beginning CrossFit that before attempting a kipping pull-up we should be able to do 5 to 7 strict first. The principle lying behind that concept is simple: to be able to swing under the bar, we need strong shoulders. Have we ever wondered if that concept was applicable to other movements in CrossFit? After all, isn’t a push jerk a kipping version of the strict push press? Other fitness disciplines look at CrossFit and claim that kipping is “cheating”. If they were, then gymnasts and Olympic weightlifters would be cheating too. Kipping is not a simple way out, it requires precision and extreme focus on form. The difference resides perhaps in the simple fact that before getting to kipping, gymnasts work many years their hollow in multiple configuration, and weightlifters repeat the movement pattern a million times before loading the bar. In any type of fitness activity, why is it paramount to master strict movements? Isolation The body is a kinetic chain involving joints, muscles, and nerves dependent on one another to create movement. Therefore, when activating or isolating a muscle, other surrounding muscles are at work too. Different between kipping and strict If we take a movement such as toes to bar, the strict kind teaches us which muscle group is mainly required to execute the movement. During a strict TTB, we mainly feel our lats, core and hip flexors working. As soon as we start kipping we create momentum and become weightless during a fraction of a second. At the right time, we can use our motionless body to bring our legs up without using less lats, less core, less hips. Pre-requisite strength With pre-requisite strength, we keep using the same primary muscles as in a strict version, but because we feel weightless, not as much power is needed to move our bodies. Repeating the strict movement numerous times allows the body to “remember” which muscles to put at work, whereas if we hadn’t it will try to solicit any other muscles, tendons, or ligaments. The body is an extremely adaptable machine and if instructed, will use anything to accomplish a task. Stabilisation First, we move, then we stabilise. Muscles which keep our bodies steady and balanced are called stabiliser muscles and work through isometric muscle contractions. They are pillars, without them, we wouldn’t be able to hold a squat or a press. Stabilisers restrict the movement of certain joints, their role is to prevent dysfunctional movements and create unnecessary adaptations. Only when working on strict movements can we specifically target those muscles. Pure strength Focusing on strict movements increases muscular strength and mass. Muscles grow when they are stimulated and constantly loaded. If our objective is to add more reps to our sets of kipping pull-ups or cleans, we should prioritise strength. It makes sense to look at front squats, strict presses or pull-ups as a foundation to evaluate how many kipping reps we can perform. Implementing compound movements associated with isolated, unilateral exercises in our training increases our chances to improve the total number of reps and loads. Injury prevention Strict seems to be the master solution to any niggle or pain especially around the shoulder area. Why is that? Certain types of injuries are inevitable but others are foreseeable. Most injuries are caused by a lack of range of motion under load. By reinforcing connective tissues (ligaments, tendons…) and progressively adding load while working on mobility we minimise injuries. If we can appreciate strength as a form of prehab we won’t ever feel reluctant working on strict movements anymore!