"It looks like they are having a seizure and they're unable to let go of the pull-up bar".
If you watch some of the most proficient athletes in the world perform butterfly pull-ups, it's far from just thrashing about on the bar. These skilled movers are smooth, controlled and some would even go as far to say graceful.
Butterfly pull-ups are a very dynamic pull-up variation that utilises the entire body to generate power and dynamic efficiency. Butterfly pull-ups require a high level of strength and skill - which in turn, means more drills and LOADS MORE STRICT, WEIGHTED PULL-UP repetitions.
The Butterfly pull-up variation can often be very bad for shoulder health, primarily if you've failed to build robust, stable and highly mobile shoulders by doing the necessary progressions. Repetitively falling down into the bottom of the pull-up and forcing the shoulders into extension (taking the arm behind the body) will cause serious injury.
I'm sure you've heard it before.
You tell someone you do CrossFit and their immediate response is 'oooh, you're going to get injured' And usually, based on the number of shoulder injuries that occur in CrossFit...because let's be frank, THEY DO...your mate will probably be counting down the days till you do your shoulder.
So, I ask.."how is your shoulder mobility again"?
How often do you see an athlete reach the “global extension” position, the bottom of the pull up when the shoulders, spine and hips are all in extension) with their elbows slightly bent and the shoulders are internally rotated? Why does this happen? The athlete's shoulder mobility is limited due to tight lats, pecs and/or biceps stopping the shoulders from moving into extension. The plyometric load (anywhere between 3-6 x bodyweight) is now being placed on the tight muscles and it's not long before an athlete will start feeling elbow or shoulder pain. Left unchecked this can soon lead to a shoulder series injury that will put an athlete out of training for months. OUCH!
If you DON'T want that to be you, read on.
Did you catch the critical point about 3-6 x bodyweight passing through the muscle and joints?
Can you do a 3-6 x bodyweight pull-up?
If the answer is no...you probably can do butterfly pull ups but you're most likely going to injure yourself at some point doing them. The dynamic pull-up movement must be very smooth and controlled so there is no jarring sensation when the athlete hits the bottom of the pull-up. If you can't control this part of the movement, it will lead to shoulder pain and eventual injury.
Do you really need Butterfly pull ups?
Let's get one thing straight, kipping/butterfly pull-ups are NOT for everyone. If you are looking to lose some weight, look good at the beach, hit the gym 3-4 times a week, and predominantly train for quality of life, then: the butterfly pull-up is useless to you. The risk to reward ratio is firmly in the negative.
Alternatively, if you're an athlete who wants to compete in The sport of CrossFit, you will need to learn to master these movements. The risk to reward ratio is still not in your favour, but the high-level sport is, at the end of a day, a sport where athletes put their bodies on the line every time they compete. All athletes should have high levels of strength before performing a very dynamic movement such as butterfly pull-ups.
The shoulder joint is more susceptible to injury when its structures aren’t adequately developed. For this reason, we highly recommend NOT attempting any sort of butterfly (possibly even kipping pull-ups) prior to being able to do 10 full range of motion strict pull-up. Also, be sure to mobilise/stretch as needed for your shoulders.
Getting better at pull-ups, push-ups, muscle-ups, dips, and handstand pushups is about building strength with strict movements and adding increasing volume, it's not about adding momentum (kipping) to be able to achieve the movement. Challenge yourself to go STRICT. Yes, it's harder, but it will get you stronger and reinforce your body 10 fold for when you decide you're ready to conquer dynamic movements.
The most important part of learning advanced movements is to follow a progressive program and not jump straight to the end result. Gradual adaptations will make the body stronger and prepare it for the task ahead.
Warm-ups are essential before performing plyometric exercises as the load being placed on the joints is significant.
A high Body Fat Percentage (BFP) will increase the time it takes to improve your pull-ups, start by taking a look at your nutrition and digestive health.
Do not rush. Only move on once your body has adapted to the current phase. Those who rush towards the finish line often rush towards injury.
Escalating Density Training (EDT) and Every Minute on the Minute EMOM protocols are a great way to build strict strength and improve skill work. Slowly increase the volume of quality repetitions before you add intensity.