What’s the Difference Between Kipping and Butterfly Pull-ups?
Written by Kirsten Ahrendt

I have a lot of athletes ask to learn “how to butterfly” their pull-ups. I find it helpful if people understand the basic positions that they’re moving through dynamically.

First Off…They’re Built the Same!

A big issue I see when people go to butterfly, is that they view it as an entirely different movement from regular kipping pull-ups. In reality, these two kipping styles are built on the same two foundational positions – hollow and arch. It’s the movement rhythm that changes when executing the two styles.

Kipping Pull up Rhythm:
Arch -> Hollow -> Pull to bar (in hollow) -> Push away from bar (in hollow) ->Arch

Butterfly Kipping Pull up Rhythm:
Arch -> Hollow -> Pull to bar (in hollow) -> Pull under bar (in arch)

You can see that the crux of the movement is what happens at the top of the pull-up. In our traditional kipping style, we push away slightly from the top of the pull-up to send us back into our hollow portion of the kip to swing back through into the arch. This allows us to keep a smooth metronome-esque rhythm. However, in the butterfly style, instead of pushing away from the top of the pull up we “fall through or pull under” the bar while quickly transitioning to the arch position by sending our feet behind us – creating a more “cyclical” rhythm.

Why Butterfly?

Butterfly style kipping is a great skill to have – especially for those who are competitive CrossFitters and chasing speed and quick turnover in a workout. But remember it’s a tool in your tool box, and sometimes you need to adjust what tool you use. Here’s some things to consider:

Butterfly kip:

– faster rep turnover
– less fatigue on the grip (due to less time on the bar)
– may increase heart rate more than traditional kip style (due to faster turnover)
– may increase shoulder fatigue and shoulder strain

In Conclusion…

When learning butterfly style, remember – butterfly kip and traditional kip are closely related. You should have strong virtuosity in your traditional kipping style pull-ups before graduating to the butterfly style – not only from a longevity and safety of the shoulder standpoint, but once you understand that the positions are the same, you should be able to transition between pull up styles seamlessly. If you are ever in a workout and your butterfly rhythm “goes”, you need to be able to transition back into your traditional kipping. Don’t be a one-trick pony.

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