Discover more from So What?
Marjorie Taylor Greene's "pull-ups": An investigation
On Sunday, Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene posted this on her Twitter feed:
It’s not the first time she’s sent out video of her workouts via social media. There was also this one, which she posted in April 2021:
Both times, the thing that gives me pause, the thing that I can’t get beyond is the swaying, pull-up-y thing she is doing. It’s unlike any pull-up I have either a) done or b) seen done. (Sidebar: I have probably done a total of 50 pull-ups total in my life. So, not an expert.)
Which got me interested. What, exactly, is MTG doing? And is there any actual physical benefit to it?
(Before you tell me that it must be a slow news day or smirk and say “don’t you have anything better to write about,” I will simply say I started this Substack so I COULD look into weird stuff like this when the mood struck me. So there. Prebuttal!)
So What? is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.=
Here’s what I know: Greene is a major devotee of CrossFit, a workout regimen that has grown in popularity — especially in the United States — in the last 2 decades.
What, exactly, is CrossFit? Here’s how NBC described it in 2019:
CrossFit is a strength and conditioning workout that is made up of functional movement performed at a high intensity level.
These movements are actions that you perform in your day-to-day life, like squatting, pulling, pushing etc. Many workouts feature variations of squats, push-ups, and weight lifting that last for predetermined amounts of time to help build muscles. This varies from a traditional workout that may tell you how many reps to do over any period of time.
Greene once owned her own CrossFit gym. According to her official Congressional bio: “Marjorie successfully started, grew, and sold a thriving CrossFit gym here in Georgia which has become one of the top CrossFit gyms in the country.”
Of CrossFit and its role in her life, Greene wrote on Facebook in 2020:
I've always loved fitness, sports, and competing. That's why years ago I fell in love with CrossFit.
I've spent years training and competing in the sport of CrossFit. I qualified and competed in world wide competitions that bring the best in the sport!
From Wodapalooza in Miami to Granite Games in Minnesota to annually earning my ranking in the MQ of the CrossFit Games, I've loved pushing myself to find my limits. I even finished 47th in the world in 2015!
In fact, Greene even has a profile on the CrossFit Games website — detailing her rankings within the CrossFit community as well as some of her personal bests. (Back squat: 285 pounds. Deadlift: 300 pounds.)
Now, to the pull-ups themselves. A quick search on the CrossFit website reveals that what Greene is doing is formally known as “kipping.” Here’s how they describe it:
This “cheat” derives from a powerful and athletic reversal of hip direction — like that of the clean and the snatch — and expands the primary movers from just the back and arms down through the torso and hip to include the power zone. Far from being a cheat, kipping is a gateway skill with functional utility on the rings, parallel bars, high bar, and floor (the quickest way to get to your feet). Where most athletic communities avoid the kip, we go to great lengths to teach and learn it.
As you might guess from the defensiveness of the CrossFit explanation of kipping — it’s not cheating!!! — there is, um, a healthy debate in the physical fitness community about the potential benefits and dangers derived from the exercise.
(Worth noting: Kipping is exclusively a CrossFit thing. There are no other workout regimens where it is recommended or even suggested.)
In an incredibly in-depth 2019 piece on the potential and peril of kipping as exercise, Men’s Health magazine wrote this:
The kipping pullup, even according to CrossFit, is meant to be learned after you've mastered the strict pullup. It's not a progression. If you reverse the order, yes, fitness baby gets their first pullup more quickly, and everyone in your CrossFit box drops muscle-arm emojis on your Instagram.
But start this way and you also don't actually have the requisite back and lat strength to pull yourself up. You have a percentage of that back strength, which, coupled with momentum, gets you to the top of your pullup.
The issue with that arises when you try to lower yourself. The controlled convulsion of the kip pullup is fine with a proper strength base, because it insures that, when you lower from the bar you can be in control of your shoulder blades. Without that, there's greater chance your lower lats, lower traps, and rotator cuff muscles can't maintain control. And if you can't maintain full control in any exercise, whether a pullup or a biceps curl or a bench press, you're inviting injuries.
Like I said, it’s an in-depth article.
Having read a slew of physical fitness sites, the general consensus is that kipping and the traditional pull-up are vastly different exercises aimed at variant goals. The pull-up is for strength; kipping is more momentum and core-based.
As in every exercise, the key is to do the motion in a controlled way — so as to avoid injury. Since I am no kipping expert, I am in no position to assess MTG’s form as to how well she is following kipping protocols.
Here’s what I do know: Exercise or not, it just looks plain funny.