Butterfly Pull-Ups vs Regular Pull-Ups – Which One Should You Be Doing?

In this article we will discuss two pull-up variations (the butterfly pull-up vs the regular pull-up) to determine which one is best for overall strength, muscle development, and gymnastic and functional fitness performance. In the below sections we will briefly discuss each exercise and offer a complete breakdown of training variables coaches and athletes should consider when determine which movement is best for their goals.

Butterfly Pull-Ups

In the below video the butterfly pull-up is demonstrated. Note, that lifters should be able to perform standard kipping pull-ups and regular strict pull-ups before performing this exercise for high amounts of repetitions (volume).

Regular Pull-Ups

In the below video the regular strict pull-up is demonstrated. This can be done in a wide variety of grip widths and can be done with additional weight to increase strength and muscle hypertrophy.

Butterfly Pull-Ups vs Regular Pull-Ups

In the below section we discuss five training variables coaches and athletes should consider when determining which movement (regular or butterfly pull-up) is best for their program.

Strength and Muscle Hypertrophy

The regular pull-up offers the most direct way to increase strength and muscle development in the back. White butterfly pull-ups can induce some muscular damage due to the eccentric phases and overall training volumes, the regular pull-up forces a lifter to build concentric strength, increases time under tension, and ensures force development throughout the entire range of motion (rather than relying on momentum). To best build a stronger, more muscular back, lifters should focus on regular pull-ups (and add weight once they can perform 10 or more strict repetitions), mixing in butterfly pull-ups if their goals also coincide with any of the sections below.

Gymnastic Skills

Both pull-up variations are necessary for overall development for gymnastics, as they both rescue strength, muscle control, body awareness, mobility, and general athleticism. Movements like kipping on rings, muscle-ups, and bodyweight calisthenics make both the regular and butterfly pull-ups valuable movements to be developed for all gymnastics and bodyweight training athletes.

CrossFit® WODs and Performance

Both movements are necessary for overall performance in competitive fitness workouts and training. The regular pull-up can increase muscle size, strength, and movement abilities necessary for more advanced gymnastic movements, deadlifts, and pulling exercises. The butterfly pull-up is an exercise often found in most competitive workouts which enables a lifter to be more energy and time efficient with their pull-ups in order to increase exercise outputs and performance.

Injury Risks

In an earlier article we discussed the injury risks of kipping pull-ups vs strict, regular pull-ups. The conclusion was that when done in a proper manner (thoughtful progressions, programming, and monitoring volume), the kipping pull-up can be a safe movement for most lifters who have no predispositions to shoulder injuries. Like most ballistic exercises, the kipping pull-up, including the butterfly pull-up, does offer some increased risk of injury due to the higher amounts of force being absorbed (due to increased speeds) on the muscle and connective tissues. The ability to perform more total repetitions due to the usage of moment may also contribute to more muscle damage and overuse injuries if not properly programmed and monitored.

Degree of Difficulty

Butterfly pull-ups require a great amount of timing, body control, and skipping skill when compared to regular pull-ups. When looking at which variation beginners should master first, undoublety it is the regular pull-up as it lays the foundation of strength, joint mechanics, and body awareness for needed for more advanced variations of pull-ups. In the progressions of pull-ups, the butterfly pull-up is near the end, which suggests a lifter must be able to perform strict pull-ups, kipping pull-ups, and chest to bar pull-ups prior to mastering the butterfly pull-ups variation.

Build a Better Pull-Up

Take a look below at some of these exercise guides and articles and learn how to build a stronger back, improve pull-up performance, and more.

Featured Image: @whitneykono on Instagram

Mike Dewar

Mike Dewar

Mike holds a Master's in Exercise Physiology and a Bachelor's in Exercise Science. Currently, Mike has been with BarBend since 2016, where he covers Olympic weightlifting, sports performance training, and functional fitness. He's a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and is the Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach at New York University, in which he works primarily with baseball, softball, track and field, cross country. Mike is also the Founder of J2FIT, a strength and conditioning brand in New York City that offers personal training, online programs for sports performance, and has an established USAW Olympic Weightlifting club.

In his first two years writing with BarBend, Mike has published over 500+ articles related to strength and conditioning, Olympic weightlifting, strength development, and fitness. Mike’s passion for fitness, strength training, and athletics was inspired by his athletic career in both football and baseball, in which he developed a deep respect for the barbell, speed training, and the acquisition on muscle.

Mike has extensive education and real-world experience in the realms of strength development, advanced sports conditioning, Olympic weightlifting, and human movement. He has a deep passion for Olympic weightlifting as well as functional fitness, old-school bodybuilding, and strength sports.

Outside of the gym, Mike is an avid outdoorsman and traveller, who takes annual hunting and fishing trips to Canada and other parts of the Midwest, and has made it a personal goal of his to travel to one new country, every year (he has made it to 10 in the past 3 years). Lastly, Mike runs Rugged Self, which is dedicated to enjoying the finer things in life; like a nice glass of whiskey (and a medium to full-bodied cigar) after a hard day of squatting with great conversations with his close friends and family.

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