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Butterfly Chest-to-Bar Pull-Ups: A Simple How To Guide
Written by Nichole DeHart

We get many requests from people asking how to either improve their butterfly chest-to-bar pull-ups or, simply, how to get even one butterfly chest-to-bar pull-up. This is a great movement to master because it will not only speed up your pull-ups but, when done properly and efficiently, it will actually be a period of rest during a workout (for real, ask any high level competitive athlete and most of them will say their pull-ups are a rest for them).

So, how can you become a butterfly chest-to-bar pull-up master Jedi? Continue reading to start your journey. As Yoda would say ‘do or do not, there is no try.’ (I have been on a Star Wars kick so I apologize for any over the top references, I just can’t help it!)

Prepare Your Shoulders

The first thing one will need to prepare for butterfly chest-to-bar pull-ups are the shoulders. Tight shoulders are kind of like the Death Star; it looms over many movements and restricts you from realizing your full potential. We must abolish the Death Star and eradicate your tight, restricted shoulders so you can move freely in a butterfly pull-up! Here are three of my favorite shoulder openers to be done on a regular basis:

  1. Partner Shoulder Opener
  2. T-Spine Pulses
  3. Banded Pec Stretch

Mastering the Regular Butterfly Pull-Up

Next, you need to read some of our past posts about mastering the butterfly pull-up. You need to be proficient with the rhythm of the butterfly pull-up before we can work on chest-to-bar butterfly pull-ups. Like Luke in his process of becoming a master Jedi, he needed to take the proper steps in learning so he could use his power for good and not succumb to the dark side. Same thing here; you need to take the proper steps to learning the rhythm of the regular butterfly pull-up and not jump ahead before you are ready. This will only reinforce bad, crappy butterfly chest-to-bar pull-ups where you get one good rep for every three that you try.

Once you have mastered the butterfly pull-up, then you can move on to this final process, young Jedi.

Strict Chest-to-Bar Pull-Ups

Right now, go hop on a pull-up bar (unless you are at the office then you get a pass until you are at the gym later today). Can you do three strict supinated grip chest-to-bar pull-ups? If so, rock on. If not, you need to add this to your daily warm-up regimen until you can get three unbroken and unassisted strict supinated grip chest-to-bar pull-ups:

Three sets of:
Strict Supinated Grip Chest to Bar Pull Ups x 1.1.1 (use assistance if needed)
Rest 2 minutes

And

Three sets of:
Elevated Ring Rows x 8-10 reps @ 2111
Rest 2 minutes

The reason we require this is to ensure that your shoulders have the strength to even do this movement. We always want to see the strict version of a movement before we add kipping.

Okay, now that we have all that out of the way, lets proceed.

Now for the Aggressive Hip Drive…

The butterfly chest-to-bar pull-up has similar components to a regular butterfly pull-up except you need to be even more aggressive with your hip drive. Chest-to-bars should not tire out your shoulders as much as they should tire out your core from going into global extension right into a tight, compact position where a massive hip drive is expressed and then back to the global extension. It similar to a GHD sit up except we’re on a pull-up bar.

Here are some tips that can help you improve or get your butterfly chest-to-bar pull-ups down pat:

  1. Wrap your thumbs around the pull-up bar. This movement requires more pull and a bigger range of motion then regular pull-ups so I want you to be secure on the pull-up bar.
  2. Get higher in your pull-up. There needs to be more momentum for a chest-to-bar pull-up than a regular pull-up. They require more power from your hips so that you can get higher. Watch this video for drills to help this: Two Foot Box Drill for Chest-to-bar Pull-Ups

Once you have mastered the butterfly pull-up two foot box drill, you can advance to the next drill. You need to set the box up high to ensure you are able to get your chest to the bar. This drill will help you get a feeling for the extension needed in your chest to reach the bar, as well as the extreme circular motion needed in your shoulders. Note how the athlete is getting a big, horizontal pull towards the bar in order to have their chest reach it versus the more vertical pull we see in a kipping pull-up. There is also a heavy emphasis on moving in a circular motion, not a vertical one. Watch this video for drills to help this: One Foot Box Drill

This drill combines the pull with the needed hip drive in the chest-to-bar pull-up. Note how the leg is straight as the athlete extends and drives her hips towards the bar. The leg then ‘re-loads’ underneath the bar as she drops down for her next repetition. The more aggressive you can be with the leg kick (which creates a big hip drive), the better and higher you’ll get on your pull-up.

Take a look at the two photos below that show the points of performance needed when executing a chest-to-bar butterfly pull-up.

Screen Shot 2016-02-17 at 10.32.09 AM

Look up while doing your pull-ups. This will help you lead your chest to the pull-up bar.

Screen Shot 2016-02-17 at 10.32.42 AM

Avoid crashing your chest into the bar. When this happens, you put yourself out of rhythm (plus, it hurts, especially if you are a woman). Try to simply graze your chest along the pull-up bar as this will help you maintain a good rhythm.

These are just a few tips and drills to help you become a master Jedi at butterfly chest-to-bar pull-ups. If you have other tips or suggestions, please post them to the comments below!

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