CrossFit Pull-Up Variations Explained – Strict Pull-Up, Kipping Pull-Up, Butterfly Pull-Up

Many exercises fall into the category of CrossFit; and over the years, fitness experts and coaches have come up with several development and alterations in different workouts to get those more aligned with CrossFit protocols.

One such exercise is what we all are well aware of: pull-ups.

CrossFit pull-ups mainly include three workout variations: strict pull-ups, kipping pull-ups, and butterfly pull-ups.

Strict pull-ups are more conventional and a fundamental workout to build your upper body strength.

Kipping and butterfly pull-ups are modified variations that actively engage your lower body when you pull yourself up.

In this article, we are going to discuss all three variations, so read on.

The Strict Pull-Up

Strict pull-ups are a more conventional pull-up variation that doesn’t require an athlete to engage in a kipping or butterfly movement during the workout. It simply involves grabbing a bar overhead with your palms facing away from you. You will then have to pull yourself up until your chest touches the bar. This workout engages your back muscles, forearms, and biceps. It is one of the great workouts to enhance your upper body strength and improve overall control.

The Strict Pull-Up

How to do a Strict Pull-Up?

I am writing this part of the article with the assumption that you already know how to perform pull-ups. So, I would like to discuss how to do it the right way. Some most important points that you must know regarding this are discussed as under.

  • Begin with a straight arm hang: Starting with a straight arm hang is one of the crucial requirements to perform a perfect strict pull-up. This allows you to train in the full range of motion. This will help you prevent injury in your shoulder and elbow.
  • Perform a scapular pull-up: A scapular pull-up involves your shoulder blades back and down. Make sure that this one remains your initial movement during a pull-up. The purpose of maintaining this initial posture is to help you avoid pulling up with your traps.
  • Use your lats instead of traps: The problem with using traps during a pull-up is largely a heightened risk of an injury down the road. That is because we use our traps throughout our lives in a way that leads to pain, injury, and posture problem. During a pull-up, you get the opportunity to de-train these muscles, which requires proper awareness regarding scaling your pull-ups. So, a better option here is to use your lats and keep using them throughout the rep.
  • Ensure your chin clears the bar: The chin must clear the bar when you have pulled yourself up. And make sure that you do not have to put any strain on your neck while doing so. For this reason, it is downright necessary to train the full range of motion.

Not only do these points help you train well during strict pull-ups but also other pull-up variations. But getting along with these points is more convenient during strict pull-ups because it is a fundamental pull-up variation.

Benefits of Strict Pull-Ups

Incorporating strict pull-ups into your workout routine allows you to enjoy several benefits, some of which are discussed below.

  • It improves your upper body strength: Strict pull-ups engage your lats, delts, pecs, biceps, triceps, and forearms. Training full range of motion will allow you to train all these areas adequately and build optimum upper body strength.
  • A sign that you have good overall health: Your ability to perform strict pull-ups is an indicator that you are an overall healthy individual. This is because a healthy body composition is generally characterized by optimum heart health and lean body mass. With these attributes, you have a good ability to pull yourself up using your arms.
  • Helps you achieve a muscular abdomen: While a strict pull-up is primarily an upper-body workout, it also engages abs, lats, and midline, all of which work together to help you remain in a stabilized position during the workout. This helps you build six-pack abs, one of the significant traits of a muscular profile.

Kipping Pull-Ups

Kipping pull-ups is a more controversial pull-up exercise because many people in the fitness industry deem it a form of cheating. But regardless of what the critics think, it is an undeniable fact that kipping pull-ups are a challenging workout that targets the core and lower body, areas you cannot train with conventional pull-ups.

This workout involves swinging your body and gaining momentum when you pull up. The momentum helps you create a “power swing” that helps you bring your chin over the bar.

The Kipping Pull-up

How to do Kipping Pull-Ups?

  • Get under the bar and grab it with hands shoulder-width apart. Make sure that the distance between your head and the bar is at least 1.5 feet.
  • Initiate the swing by propelling your chest. This will help you transform your body into an arch from a hollow position. Ensure to keep your core tight throughout the move. Your legs should be pressed tightly together, and your knees bent towards the hips.
  • After the initial three to four swings, you will gain enough momentum to perform a “hip hop” move. At this point, you will need to pop your hips open when you are pulling yourself up. You must press your shoulder and elbows pressed against your back at this point.
  • The moment when your chin has reached over the bar, push yourself away from the bar without losing your grip. Get back into the initial, hollow position and immediately propel your chest to perform the next rep.

Benefits of Kipping Pull-Ups

Understandably, kipping pull-ups bring a different set of benefits compared to a conventional pull-up workout. What are those? Let’s have an overview.

  • They help you build endurance: With kipping pull-ups, you get to enhance your endurance. That’s because this workout involves more repetitions in a short time, asking something from your cardiovascular system.
  • You get to perform more reps: Compared to slow and controlled movements during conventional pull-ups, kipping pull-ups allow you to move your body a bit more freely and generate momentum. This brings speed into your moves, allowing you to perform a greater number of reps in a short time.
  • A full-body workout: A study in 2019 involving 11 athletes completing five sets of both standard and kipping pull-up variations found that kipping pull-ups activated the entire bodies of athletes and helped than perform more repetition than with the standard variation. The researchers in this study analyzed athletes’ upper and lower bodies using electromyography.

Butterfly Pull-Ups

Butterfly pull-ups are an advanced pull-up variation involving a full-body movement with adequate body awareness. This pull-up exercise is more popular among gymnasts since it allows them to activate several muscle groups in a short time.

Butterfly pull-ups are primarily aimed at increasing your pull-up strength and helping you prepare for powerlifting and weightlifting exercises. This workout seems similar to kipping pull-ups, but unlike kipping pull-ups, it requires the athlete to repeat the kip swing to create a circular motion by moving up and away from the bar.

The Butterfly Pull-Up

How to perform Butterfly Pull-Ups?

A typical butterfly pull-up workout involves 2-3 sets of 10-20 reps. You can adjust these numbers according to your requirements or your level of strength. Here is how to perform this workout.

  • Grab the pull-up bar by fully extending your arms. Jump to grab the bar if it is out of your hands’ reach. You may also use a flat bench if jumping doesn’t help. Get off the bench when you have held the bar.
  • Your legs should be hanging. Slightly bend your elbows and squeeze your glutes and quads. Make sure that your arms and legs are pressed together. Now, engage your core by pressing down your ribs using your body posture. Move your toes away from the body.
  • Engage your lats by rotating your shoulders. This rotation should be upward and away from the spine. Keep your chin pressed against the chest.
  • With your core engaged and your body in a tense position, push your body away from the bar, creating a hollow position. Keep your legs ahead of your hips.
  • Now, move your body forward using your shoulders. This should bring your back in an arched position and your hips in a hyperextended posture. You will end up bringing your chest ahead of your hips. Continue this cycle to transition between the hollow and arched positions.
  • When you are in an arched position, bring your legs toward the pull-up bar and pull the bar down using your arms. Keep your arms straight during this move.
  • When you reach the top, pull yourself toward and below the bar. Bring yourself back into the arched position by keeping your feet behind.
  • Repeat these steps to perform the desired number of reps.

Benefits of Butterfly Pull-Ups

Butterfly pull-ups are more advanced than kipping pull-ups, offering an extended set of benefits. Some of those benefits are described below.

  • More Efficient Kipping Pull-Ups: Butterfly pull-ups help you perform kipping pull-ups more efficiently. This is because butterfly pull-ups help build greater strength and endurance.
  • Muscle building: When it comes to building muscle with pull-ups, strict pull-ups are still a fundamental variation. However, butterfly pull-ups can help increase the necessary muscle damage and accelerate resultant metabolism, inducing greater muscular hypertrophy.
  • Better competitive fitness and enhanced gymnastic performance: Competitive fitness and gymnastic performance are all about agility, speed, and endurance. You train for all these traits with butterfly pull-ups because they require non-stop movement.

Wrapping up

CrossFit is the ultimate game-changer in the fitness world because it transforms conventional workouts to be more agile and endurance-enhancing. And pull-ups are no exception.

With CrossFit pull-ups, you can enhance your body’s strength and ability to move quickly.

Kipping and butterfly pull-ups are explicitly more explosive in nature and train your entire body. Not only do these workouts enhance your competitive performance, but they also help you to get into the pink of health.