Are Kipping Pull-ups Cheating?

Simple answer: no.

Are they as effective as strict pull ups? Well, that depends. What are you trying to do? What are you ultimate goals? What are you trying to work on and get better at? I CAN say you shouldn't only do kipping pull ups. I can also say that adding them in like seasoning to your normal routine can be beneficial.

Kipping pull ups have been introduced (re-introduced?) largely through the CrossFit community, and since attaining wide spread use, it has become a point of contention between CrossFit enthusiasts and non-CrossFit followers.

Let's try to look at the issue in a non-judgmental, non-emotional way for once.

Kipping pulls ups are used for strength gains the way that running sprints is used for strength gains. Meaning, it will get you stronger, but it's not an efficient way to go about it. If you want to get stronger faster, you do strict pull ups. Need more? Hold a dumbbell between your feet.

What kipping pull ups can do is help the athlete focus on anaerobic endurance, speed, intensity, and coordination with a movement that is mostly upper body in nature. A strict pull up doesn't require any of these. Most people can't bust out 12 to 15 reps of strict pull ups really fast, and if you are trying to keep your heart rate up, this is what you want.

Caveat - there is a right and wrong way to do a kipping pull up. Done improperly because of poor coaching or a lack of strength can cause the dreaded SLAP tear. I personally wouldn't be comfortable letting someone do a series of kipping pull ups unless they had the strength to do at least one, unassisted strict pull up, chin over bar.

Correct Kipping Pull Up Methodology

I tried to learn to do a correct kip through video and articles. But it never really hit home until I went to a CrossFit level 1 certification.

1) The momentum starts in the shoulders, not in the hips.
This creates a much more stable rocking motion than the free swing that happens otherwise. Your feet/ankles should stay in about the same place as your body rock back and forth of the vertical plane of the pull up bar.

2) Pull down hard on the bar during the up swing, like your doing a lat pull down.
Where in a strict pull up, you're pulling from directly under the bar, in a kipping pull up, you're coming at it from an angle, and this is initiated with a hard pull with the lats.

3) Forcefully drive the hips forward and you pull the chest to the bar,
This was best demonstrated in the level 1 class by having us lie on the ground, kick our feet in the air and land in a bridge on your shoulders. Let your feet swing back to counter your hips coming forward.

4) Push away from the bar to continue the momentum.
Don't let yourself just drop back down. That will put a lot of strain on your shoulders, plus, you'll have to start the rocking again to get back up. Push away from the bar as you let gravity pull you back down, and continue the rocking through the shoulders.

5) Protect your shoulders! Don't go limp!
As you get tired, and as you think "Gee, I've got this down" it can be real tempting to let gravity play a bigger role and let yourself free swing at the bottom of the progression. Again, cue the dreaded SLAP tear. Always keep your shoulders and back engaged. And if you're getting tired, take a break! Getting injured proves nothing.