Butterfly pull-ups — sure, they make you look really cool and fit, but there are many other benefits of being able to perform them well with the correct technique. They can help you conserve energy, save time, and perform more repetitions, as well as increase performance at a competitive level. Below you will find a complete breakdown of this movement that should help you knock out bigger sets of butterfly pull-ups with ease.

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A Complete Breakdown of Butterfly Pull-ups

The Hollow and the Arch

First, let’s go over the setup. Chalk up those hands (of course), and jump up to the bar with your grip a little past shoulder width. Activate your shoulders and engage your lats to ensure a proper movement pattern and the use of the correct muscle groups. Don’t make the mistake of sinking into your shoulders. Not only is this an unsafe position to be in, but you also can’t properly perform pull-ups like this.

Just like the kip, the two body positions you will focus on are the hollow and the arch. A tight core is necessary to make sure that the transition from hollow to arch is seamless.

The Arch Position

Start the movement by initiating the arch position — legs together and straight, feet behind you. While it’s understandable to think that the movement will be easier with a huge arch — legs flinging recklessly behind you — a tighter, more controlled and precise movement will more strongly propel you through your pull-ups.

Keep your shoulders active and engaged just like you would in a kipping pull-up.

The Hollow Position

From the arch position, think of “scooping” your feet down and kicking them forward aggressively as you pull down on the bar. Keep your core tight so that your hips stay elevated. The harder you kick forward, the more power you will have.

As your legs and shoulders lift and you feel that moment of weightlessness, you complete your pull-down on the bar. Your chin is above the bar at this point. Start to pull through the bar (not into the bar like you would a kipping pull-up). As you pull through the bar, keep your core tight and pull your feet back to reestablish your arch position.

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In a nutshell:

  1. Initiate the arch position.
  2. Kick feet forward into the hollow position.
  3. Pull down on the bar.
  4. At the top, when you feel weightless, pull through the bar to complete the rep.
  5. Return to the arch position.

The Kipping Pull-Up Versus the Butterfly Pull-Up

The main difference between a kipping pull-up and a butterfly pull-up is the movement used to get back to the arch position. Instead of pushing away from the bar (as you would in a kipping pull-up), in a butterfly pull-up, you are moving forward and through the bar to keep that circular motion going.

Another difference is the position of your hips. When performing butterfly pull-ups, you want to elevate your hips slightly more than you would during a kipping pull-up. This elevation creates the weightlessness feeling at the top of the movement, a.k.a. the moment you know to pull through and start pushing your feet back. Opening hips will allow you to produce more power.

The Broken Body Position

One of the most common errors of butterfly pull-ups is a broken body position. We won’t all look like a Games athlete when performing this movement, but it’s important to really focus on tight legs straight and together, a tight core, and activated and engaged shoulders. Losing activation in your shoulders can cause them to drop too low at the bottom of the movement. Not only will this break your momentum, but it’s also not good for the health of your shoulders. Keep them activated to allow for a smooth transition.

Butterfly pull-ups are a very complex and technical movement. With that being said, they take time to perfect and get the rhythm down. Keep trying. This movement is similar to double-unders. It takes a lot of practice and a lot of reps for your body to feel comfortable moving how you want it to. Your first few workouts with butterfly pull-ups may come with a lot “no reps” (not getting your chin over the bar), but as long as you’re getting the movement in, you’re making progress and training your body.

In no time, you will be knocking out butterfly pull-ups and even butterfly chest-to-bars with ease.

For more help, check out this video.