Hot Take: Most CrossFitters Should Avoid Butterfly Pull-ups

Hear me out!

After some travel and recovering from a bad back tweak, I had only done strict pull-ups for about 5 weeks. On Tuesday I was able to add the more CrossFitty pull-up back in, doing 75 in an eight minute workout. The workout was a five rounder with 15 pull-ups per round and I was able to split those up in to three sets of five each time. I did every rep with the gymnastics kip instead of the butterfly kip I’d typically use. It got me thinking about pull-ups in CrossFit.

In the early days of CrossFit (before I started) there were strict pull-ups and the kipping pull-up. Then in 2007 came the butterfly.

It was invented as a way for competitors to do pull-ups faster. I’ll say that again. It was invented as a way for competitors to do pull-ups faster.

Sure, it also allows the general CrossFit population to be able to do some pull-up faster as well. In my experience though, it’s a lot more taxing on our breathing and our grip, compared to the gymnastics kipping pull-up. If a workout calls for high rep pull-us and you’re using the butterfly, before you know it, you’re taking a lot longer rests and doing smaller and smaller sets. Competitors don’t run into this problem anywhere close to the degree that us mortals do. They’re able to keep working on very short rests with much larger sets. The butterfly pull-up speed makes a big difference for them. Over the course of most workouts, I’d bet the butterfly pull-up and associated rest between smaller and smaller sets doesn’t give us normal CrossFitters any speed advantage at all; it’s slowing us down in the long run.

The butterfly pull-up also puts more stress on the shoulder because of the violent change in direction at speed. The risk of injury is higher.

Next time you’re doing a workout with a lot of pull-ups, consider sticking to the original kipping pull-up. I know I will. Leave the butterfly for those short workouts where you can maintain sets with little rest.

What do you think?