The Butterfly Pull-up For Beginners
The Butterfly Pull-up is an advanced pull-up variation used by athletes participating in the sport of CrossFit. This movement requires significant strength, mobility, and coordination to perform. CrossFit athletes perform the butterfly pull-up because it allows them to perform more pull-ups in less time, which creates a large benefit in competition. But many athletes fall into the trap of jumping into butterfly pull-ups too quickly without spending the time developing the pre-requisites for this skill.
The video below does a great job showing the strength, mobility, and coordination required to perform butterfly pull-ups with proper form.
The first step in developing the butterfly pull-up is having the right baseline levels of strength.
Athletes should be able to perform at least five unassisted, behind-the-neck strict pull-ups with a complete range of motion before they attempt butterfly pull-ups. This strict strength is necessary to control the rapid descent that you’ll see in the butterfly pullup. Athletes that don’t develop appropriate levels of strict strength increase their risk of injury and often develop shoulder pain when performing BPUs.
Athletes should also be able to complete at least 20 kipping pull-ups with good form before attempting butterfly pull-ups.
Finally, before they begin working on full butterfly pull-ups, athletes need to be able to perform steady & controlled strict butterfly circles as shown in the below video. This builds upper body strength, body control, and body awareness for the BPU.
Shoulder Mobility Needs of the Butterfly Pull-up
While strength, is the most important component to safely performing butterfly pull-ups, mobility is also important. We’ll test your shoulder mobility with the back-to-wall shoulder flexion test.
Sit with your back flat on a wall and legs crossed in front of your body. Hold a PVC pipe with a shoulder-width grip and palms facing down. Lift your arms up with elbows staying completely straight. Can you touch your arms to the wall? Repeat with your palms facing up. If you can’t touch with both versions of this test, addressing shoulder mobility will be important for developing butterfly pull-up technique.
If you fail this shoulder mobility test, then we suggest running through out Overhead Mobility Overhaul program prior to working on BPUs. This plan will help you gain the appropriate amount of shoulder mobility to hit proper positions as your develop your gymnastics strength.
For more help improving your mobility, check out our FREE Ultimate Mobility Checklist!
The Best Drills to Learn Butterfly Pull-up Technique
One of our favorite drills for beginners learning butterfly pull-ups is the Box Butterfly Pull-Up Drill. This drill lets athletes slow down and unload the BPU so that they can focus on hitting proper positions. Pay attention to the hollow position and arch positions that Pamela discusses in this video. As the technique improves, they can use less leg assistance and increase speed.
The Partner Assisted Butterfly Pull-Up Drill is another fantastic exercise. The partner assist helps athletes feel the pop they must generate to properly BPU.
The Small Circles drill shown in our tests above is another great movement to practice when learning butterfly pull-ups.
Need more help? Our Butterfly Pull-up Training Program is 5 weeks of accessory workouts to help you build the strength and control to finally master butterfly pull-ups. Join Performance Plus to get started on this plan today!