A kip is a gymnastics technique or skill that is performed on a gymnastics bar. The kip is most commonly performed when mounting the bar but it is also used as a linking movement between different skills or as part of a routine. A kip will propel a gymnast from a position of hanging by the arms below the bar to a position pushing down on top of the bar. If you stand up with your arms straight up above your head as if holding onto a bar and then push them down in front of you to the sides of your hips, these are the start and finish positions when doing a kip.
To maneuver you from one position to the other you jump on to the bar with your arms fully stretched, swing or glide forwards with your legs straight out in front of you, feet together, toes pointing, then pull your legs up so that your toes are near the bar in a piked position, then just as you start to swing back, push your legs up and pull/push yourself around and up onto the bar. The kip is quite a difficult technique to learn and requires a good deal of practice to master the kipping movement that generates the power and momentum needed to propel yourself up onto the bar.
What gymnastics level is a kip?
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Kips are an essential early level skill and a requirement in competitions at level 4. The kip is a hard gymnastics skill to learn, it requires strong shoulders and arms, a well developed core and a good deal of skill and timing.
Especially so early on in your gymnastics career, the strength necessary to do a kip is often lacking. Further strength training alongside kipping specific drills and exercises is usually necessary in order to perform a kip successfully. With junior gymnasts, achieving their fist kip is a real milestone and a great confidence booster.
What is a Glide Kip?
A glide kip is the most commonly used type of kip, as we have described above, it starts with a glide forwards as you jump onto the bar with your arms fully stretched. Your feet stay out in front of the body from the start of the movement, thus you glide forward rather than swinging.
The glide kip is performed on a low bar, often as an initial mounting maneuver. Due to the height of the low bar, many gymnasts find it is easier to start off the glide with legs in a straddle position, to avoid catching your feet on the ground at the start of the movement.
What is a Long hang Kip?
A long hang kip is a kip performed on the high bar, essentially it is the same as a glide kip except for the initial movement which is more of a swing than a glide. Due to the extra height of the high bar your legs start off the movement from slightly behind the body, allowing for a longer hang and swing on the bar, only bringing the legs forward and up at the last moment prior to the kipping movement.
Kip conditioning at home
A kip is not an easy skill to learn, it requires a lot of practice and persistence to get the feel and timing of the kipping movement, this is the thrusting or jamming up of the legs that you do after bringing your toes near to the bar at the end of the glide or swing, just as your body is starting to swing backwards. This timing is something that you just have to feel by repetition until finally the movement and timing just seem to click one day and the motion starts to feel instinctive.
To make learning the kip even harder you need to have good core and upper body strength to be able to even attempt the kipping movement in the first place. Fortunately strength building for a kip is something you can work on off the bar and the stronger you become, the easier the kip is to perform, although you will still need a lot of regular practice to get the timing to click. To begin getting a feel for the movement there is a good exercise you can practice on the floor using a broom handle or similar lightweight pole to work as the bar.
To perform this exercise you lie flat on the floor, tummy up with your arms extended flat on the floor above your head, holding the broom handle, then you raise your legs up and over so that your toes are near the bar(broom handle) and then push your legs up high as you bring your arms holding the broom handle over your head and up your legs, in one fluid movement as you come up into a sitting position with the pole lying across your hips at the top of your thighs.
To be able to bring your toes up to the bar and then jam them up high while hanging from the bar needs good, solid core strength and to facilitate that you can practice leg raises and candle holds lying on the floor with arms outstretched behind your head, holding onto a table or other heavy piece of furniture. V-ups, whilst straddling the legs and also with piked legs are another good core-strength builder in preparation for a kip.
Core strength alone though, will not get you your first kip, you are going to need good shoulder and arms strength to be able to push yourself up onto the bar after the kipping movement. To build upper body strength along with the core, push-ups and plank holds will help you achieve that upper body strength you need to successfully complete a kip.