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Technique Tuesday: Butterfly Pull-up Progressions “Float like a Butterfly Sting like a Bee”


Technique Tuesday: Butterfly Pull-up Progressions “Float like a Butterfly Sting like a Bee”

This week on Technique Tuesday we’re continuing on what would be Part 3 of Butterfly Pull-ups. For those of you who have been following along, I have essentially strung you along with “how to’s” without really ironing out “how to!” Well ladies and gentlemen, today is the DAY!

Let me first start this blog post of with a little disclaimer for those of you who are just joining us….. Please check out Technique Tuesday Part 1 and then Technique Tuesday Part 2. Once you have read those, you need to be honest with yourself and ask “Have you mastered everything previously discussed?”

Now that we have that out of the way lets discuss the Butterfly Pull-up!

Like the kipping pull-up, the butterfly pull-up momentum originates through our shoulders.  Starting with circular scap pull-ups helps develop a good understanding of strength through the entire motion and truly understand the movement through our shoulders.  As Jay mentioned in yesterday’s post, our shoulder is essentially a ball sitting on a plate.  Developing strength and control through range of motion is key for injury prevention.  Keeping that in mind the circular scap pull-ups do just that.

Circular Scap Pull-up

  • Start in a full relaxed hang with a tight straight body
  • Arms locked out
  • Move through shoulder blades creating a circular motion
    • Initiate movement by rotating armpits in.

Once control as been developed through full range of motion, understanding your body position at different points of the pull-up is crucial.  Although both utilize the arch and hollow, the do so differently.  In the kipping pull-up, the top is a hollow position and at the bottom an arch… the opposite is true for butterfly (to an extent). At the top and on your way down, your body is in an arch position, at the bottom and on the way up you are in a hollow position.  In order help make this a little clearer, you can do the following on a box, which is demonstrated by the video below. This is a great tool purely to help those understand body positioning on the bar (It has been my personal experience that this drill does not provide much more benefit other than body awareness).



Once we are aware of the full range of motion as it pertains to the shoulder and an understanding of the overall movement, we look to combine the two with what was coined as a strict butterfly pull-up.

Strict Butterfly Pull-Up is something I took from the Power Monkey Fitness Team.  This is great drill that not only works on strength but also control and timing.

  • Start with a strict hollow position pull-up w/ a pause at the top
  • After the quick pause, begin to lower yourself slowly and controlled.
  • Once your head passes below the bar quickly push yourself into your arch position
  • Cycle back into your hollow position
  • Perform a strict hollow position pull-up

Again, this is a great drill to show if you have proper strength and positioning to perform a butterfly pull-up.  (For you athletes that are looking to become more efficient, this drill is great at correcting an aggressive pull/arch into the bar).

From here we will begin to progress to half pull-ups.

  1. Start with Kip Swings
  2. As we move into the hollow position of our kip swing we begin a straight arm lever pull. Think of this as actively pulling downward on the bar. MAKE SURE ARMS ARE STAYING STRAIGHT AND HIPS HAVE NOT OPENED YET!!! At the top, if you have generated enough momentum and haven’t opened your hips, you will be able to let go of the bar at the top of your straight arm lever pull.
  3. After your straight arm lever pull you will pull into the bar similar to that of a ring row.
  4. As your body starts to come toward the bar begin to arch. Stay in this position as you pass the bar and move toward the bottom of your pull-up. (This will make a lot more sense now if you did the strict butterfly pull-up before hand.)

Remember these are “half pull-ups” so I am not concerned with your chin going over the bar just yet!

Once the athlete has progressed through these three stages and has shown proficiency through them all, butterfly pull-ups become only a matter of getting your chin over the bar!

Before I release you out into the world (having a proud father moment) lets think about what exactly your feet should be doing. This is not the Olympics so no one is getting judged on looks, so you might ask “why should we be concerned with what our feet look like?” Well I am not a gymnast nor do I pretend to be (although I do wish I was one) so this answer would be better coming from Olympian Dave Durante….

“Feet together creates the best tension in the muscles that flex your hip. So when your feet get behind you , if they are together, you are loading the muscles properly to snap back in the other direction. When your legs come apart, and the hip extends and externally rotates, your flexors are no longer being loaded to their full potential. At this point you are using momentum, on top of poor positioning – as a compensation strategy. This means your arms need to do more work.”

When you are in a poor position, your shoulder and elbows take the load in order to help.  Because of this, the loss of position has a tendency to cause elbow, shoulder injuries/pain. So please keep your feet together!

As the final “how-to” post, I leave you with these final comments

  1. Utilize variations that allow for FLAWLESS EXECUTION. This list is not an end all be all but rather a starting point.  You may find others out there that work better for you. Use them, especially if it puts your body in the correct positions.
  2. Progress Slowly. Focus on proper technique.  For 99% of the population, this is not “I am going to work on this for a week and master it.”
  3. When you finally get your butterfly pull-up start with low rep counts.  You are not working on muscle endurance or work capacity just yet. Training proper positions correctly will lead to a higher aptitude of work capacity in the long run.

I thank you for reading this 3 part series and hope that you found it beneficial! As always don’t be afraid to take pictures and videos and tag us as you work through these progressions and get your first butterfly pull-ups!

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