How To Master Butterfly Pull Ups - Swolverine

So you can do a kipping pull up or maybe you’ve come to this article while still struggling with pull ups wondering how in the world to master butterfly pull ups. The good news? You’ve come to the right place. The bad news? You’ve got some practicing to do. Let’s figure out what the secret to mastering butterfly pulls ups once and for all so that you can flitter flutter (and quite frankly flop) your way to a more competitive level. Shall we?

What Are Butterfly Pull Ups

Butterfly pull ups aren’t quite pull ups and they’re not kipping pull ups (contrary to popular belief) either. Crossfitters are great at making traditional movements faster and this is the mentality that the BPU was born out of. You’ve probably seen people flopping their chest to the bar in a continuous motion on Instagram or in the CrossFit box. If you’ve ever read the comments on these videos you’ll read people toting one another ‘ThAt IsN’t A rEaL pUlL uP’. Truth be told, butterfly pull ups aren’t meant to replace the strength building movement of the pull up. This single modality skill itself is designed to reach a competitive movement standard in the sport of CrossFit required to compete at a more intermediate, RX, or elite level.

What’s The Difference Between Kipping Pull Ups and Butterfly Pull Ups

First off, they’re different movements with similar movement foundations and starting points. The difference really comes down to the pausing and lowering from the high bar that you see with kipping pull ups as compared to the continuous, pull through movement, that you see with butterfly pull ups. The foundational movement that we’re referencing for the two comes down to the hollow and arch positions that then create the individual movement’s rhythms.

Butterfly Pull Ups Muscles Worked

With this exercise you’re going to be recruiting the major muscles of the back and shoulders, such as the latissimus dorsi (lats), the trapezius (traps) and rhomboids, as well as the deltoids (delts/shoulders). In the arms you’re going to be building up the biceps brachii (biceps), forearms, grip strength and the core. 

How To Master Butterfly Pull Ups - Swolverine

Butterfly Pull Ups Benefits

Unlike strict pull ups or even kipping pull ups, butterfly pull ups allow an individual or a competitor to complete more reps in a shorter amount of time adding to that rep total faster than the aforementioned movements. Due to the rhythm of the movement and an athlete allowing their body to move through the arch, hollow, pull up to the bar and pull under the bar, an athlete can also complete more repetitions without fatiguing the forearms and grip as quickly. Butterfly pull ups put more strain on the shoulders, upper back, and lats, which may also accelerate the heart rate of the athlete as compared to the slower kipping movement.

Strength Gains

With more muscular recruitment comes greater strength gain opportunities. By taking the arch and hollow movement to the next level with butterfly pull ups, you’ll earn the finesse of the pulling strength not just up to the bar, but through and under the bar to complete this high skill movement. Muscular hypertrophy can occur with kipping and butterfly pull ups, even when people say that ‘strict is the only way to go’. While it isn’t exactly the best muscle building movement, you still can gain strength.

Improved Rep Count

Ready to cut down some serious reps? Then it’s time to master the butterfly pull ups for you! When you do, you’ll be able to rep them out with ease. You’ll not only catch up to your fellow competitors but surpass them, working your way to the next movement in the metcon, or even better yet, the finish line.

Endurance Capacity

More reps means recruiting more blood flow, oxygen, and nutrients, which in turn can increase your endurance capacity and the time that you actually spend on the bar rather than hunkered over on your knees trying to catch your breath. Build a better engine, get better at CrossFit, and improve your endurance capacity with butterfly pull ups.

Increased Calorie Burning

With higher rep movements and more recruitment of the body’s muscles you can not only work towards your competitive goals but burn more calories while you’re at it. Whether you’re looking to lose some weight or just trim off some extra body fat for that shredded look, butterfly pull ups can really take your aesthetic and performance to the next level.

How To Do Butterfly Pull Ups

When done properly butterfly pull ups should feel a bit easier than kipping pull ups and definitely easier than strict pull ups. Since you’re incorporating more muscles and a more intense movement with the body, the fatigue is postponed until later in the rep count. So what’s the secret to mastering these illusive butterfly pull ups, after all?

  • Step 1: Approach the high bar with your arms about shoulder width or slightly wider. Wrap your hands over the bar and make sure you have enough room to swing without hitting your feet on the ground.
  • Step 2: Initiate the swing into the hollow and arch position with your shoulders. You can gather momentum here or go right into the pulling motion.
  • Step 3: From the arch, drive the legs, hips, and core upwards and to the bar, using your hands, forearms, and shoulders to push the bar down and away. Your arms should remain straight here, using the momentum from your lower body.
  • Step 4: As your body’s momentum is driven upwards, pulling with the arms, reaching with the neck, head, and chin, to complete the rep with the chin over the bar. Instead of pausing and pushing the body away from the bar like you would in the kipping pull up, let your body pull forward, under and through the bar, letting your momentum descend in the arch position.
  • Step 5: Just as you began, move from the arch, to the hollow, and repeat.

Butterfly Pull Ups: Takeaway

Look, crossfitters like to do things fast and pull ups are no exception to that. When looking to make a more competitive move with your training and taking your performance to the next level, butterfly pull ups are going to a move you want to master. Difficult, albeit, not impossible. Start with strict, then kipping, and move into taking that arch - hollow foundational movement to the next level with butterflies. And if you feel like you’re just flailing at first? You probably are, but this is a great way to earn your rights to floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee with this movement, if you get what we mean. Happy training!


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