Butterfly Pull-Ups: Effective CrossFit Endurance Exercise

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It is generally accepted that in CrossFit, three types of pull-ups are permissible to strengthen the muscles of the back: classic, kipping, butterfly. In today’s article, we’ll take a closer look at Butterfly Pull-Ups.

What are Butterfly Pull-Ups?

Butterfly Pull-Ups is a more advanced version of Kipping Pull-Ups. Professional CrossFit athletes use it to do the most reps in a short amount of time. This allows them to show good results in competitions. A special feature of the Butterfly style is non-stop repetitions. There is no need to hover at the top point. After lifting, lowering follows immediately. The body moves continuously along the trajectory of the ellipse at high speed, which can significantly save time.

This exercise is acceptable in the following embodiments:

Movement Relative to The Bar Grip Width & Target Muscles Grip Type
To the chin Wide grip – latissimus dorsi Straight grip
To the chest Narrow grip – biceps Reverse grip

Any width of grip is allowed. At the same time, it is forbidden to take with a reverse grip. Gym chalk can be used, but wrist straps are prohibited.

Differences from Other Pull-Up Variations

Athletes who don’t do CrossFit are often grinning and skeptical about Butterfly Pull-Ups. It is important to understand here that each representative of a particular sport uses pull-ups for the purpose that the main task of this sport dictates to him. For example, bodybuilders use pull-ups to workload and build back muscles. In CrossFit, it is important to get an intense load on the entire body.

Butterfly vs Classic Pull-Ups

In Classic Pull-Ups, the muscles of the back and arms work. The rest of the body is not involved in any way. This exercise is performed only for a thorough workload of individual groups of back muscles, depending on the type and width of the grip. In Butterfly Pull-Ups, the whole body is involved. By applying an impulse and further rocking the body, inertia is created. This allows the athlete to put intense stress on different muscle groups for a long time. It is worth noting that it is rather ridiculous to compare these exercises with each other, since they have completely different execution techniques, and also suggest different results.

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Butterfly vs Kipping Pull-Ups

Kipping and Butterfly are similar variations of the same exercise. However, they also differ. Butterfly Pull-Ups is used primarily by CrossFit athletes in competition. This exercise, unlike Kipping Pull-Ups, due to its unusual technique, allows you to perform a large number of repetitions in a shorter period. The difference lies in the continuous movement of the body. In Kipping Pull-Ups, there is a slight delay at the moment of bringing it to the bar of the chin or chest. In this variation of the exercise, the athlete slows down and gets a second of rest in the top and bottom positions. Due to the lack of such “rest” in Butterfly Pull-Ups, the speed of the exercise increases.

crossfit butterfly pull ups

What Muscle Do Butterfly Pull-Ups Work?

Correct execution of Butterfly Pull-Ups is achieved with a strong push with the hips up. An impulse is created. This minimizes the load on the upper body. This is why this variation of pull-ups is not suitable for strengthening the shoulder girdle. However, it has been used successfully to perform large repetitions in a short amount of time. For example, at CrossFit competitions.

The main muscle that is involved in Butterfly Pull-Ups:

  • Latissimus dorsi muscle.

Additional muscles:

  • Posterior deltoid muscle;
  • Biceps;
  • Rhomboid muscle;
  • Teres major muscle.

Also, the vastus lateralis muscles work well, located on the outer lateral surface of the thigh, covering it from the hip joint to the knee joint. During the swing, a movement is made similar to that of pushing out by the hips in a horizontal hang.

Butterfly Pull-Ups build strength endurance in an athlete, but are completely unsuitable for strength development. Therefore, you must have a fairly strong shoulder girdle before learning this exercise. This can be achieved with Classic Pull-Ups.

butterfly pull ups crossfit

Preparation and Study of Technique

An important point before learning Butterfly Pull-Ups is strengthening the shoulder girdle and back muscles. This exercise is considered quite traumatic. Therefore, without special training, you should not include it in your CrossFit WOD. In order to avoid injury during workout, it is necessary to have a flexible shoulder joint, strong ligaments and developed muscles.

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Important points before starting learning:

  • Learning the Butterfly Pull-Ups technique will be more effective after mastering the Kipping Pull-Ups.
  • It is better to start learning when the athlete can complete at least 5-10 reps of Classic Pull-Ups in several sets. Moreover, each pull-up must be performed correctly and fully: hang position, chin over the bar, pause at the top, controlled lowering.
  • When learning the Butterfly Pull-Ups technique, you should initially “try on” two main body positions in space: the boat position lying on your back (the neck and head are off the floor, the arms are raised at an angle of about 45°, the legs are also above the floor at an angle of 40-45°) and the boat position on the stomach. Initially, you can fix these positions on the floor, and then project them in the hanging on the bar. In this case, you need to achieve the ability to stop at any time without unnecessary swinging.
  • Don’t chase high performance right away. You need to concentrate on each repetition. The descents should be slow and controlled. This will help you feel and master the technique better.
  • It is best to mix approaches. Do Classic Pull-Ups first, then Butterfly Pull-Ups. Next, alternate them. This kind of workout will allow you to strengthen your back muscles through strict pull-ups and increase endurance.
  • When the movements become familiar and confident, then you can begin to build up the pace.
  • The high intensity and quality of the exercise depends on the careful study of each item.
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how to do butterfly pull ups

How To Do Butterfly Pull-Ups?

  1. Grasp the bar with a straight grip at a distance slightly wider than the width of the shoulders. Important! During the exercise, the legs should be stretched out and connected together. The body is stretched at the same time. This will provide the maximum range of motion.
  2. Performing a pull-up: in the upper position, the chin is above the bar, and in the lower position-full straightening in the elbow joints.
  3. Round your chest slightly and push your legs back.
  4. Perform a powerful forward and upward movement with your legs and pelvis. At the same time, the torso and shoulders go back and return to the bar in an arc.
  5. Swipe your chest under the bar and get ready for the next pull-up without pausing.
  6. Lower yourself without hovering in the upper position.


The negative impact on the shoulder joint in Butterfly Pull-Ups is significantly more dangerous than in other variations. This exercise is only suitable for strong athletes with advanced shoulder joint mobility. It is because of the increased injury risk that many professional athletes practice only Kipping Pull-Ups.

The athlete inevitably lifts the chin up too often when moving towards the bar while doing Butterfly Pull-Ups. This poses the risk that one or more repetitions may not be counted in a competition.

Butterfly Pull-Ups is one of the hottest variations in CrossFit competition. This method increases the speed of the exercise by 0.5 times compared to Classic Pull-Ups or Kipping Pull-Ups. A correctly performed exercise is highly technical and involves the complex development of special skills.

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