Friday, February 15, 2013

Movement Clean Up: Butterfly Pull-Ups

Butterfly Pull Ups.

Because of my hip injury from sitting and not being able to squat, I decided to work on cleaning up a couple movements.  One of them was the butterfly pull-up.  I've had butterfly pull-ups for awhile.   I can reliably crank out reps and I can sustain a good number per set.  So why bother cleaning them up especially since there are so many other things to work on?

Truth is, they were terrible, inefficient, and sometimes, harmful to my body.  When I got tired, I relied on sinking into my shoulders (hence making them inactive) to get the bigger kip.  During the kip, my legs would reach ass-height... not to mention how wide they were.  I followed the recipe when learning the butterfly kip.  I was literally moving in those "circles" people talk about when teaching the butterfly kip.  You can probably take a photo of me with the giant ass kip and send it to and it would be deemed as "beautiful," but it was far from that.

I decided to step back and work on my butterfly kip technique.  First, for my shoulders.  I've been lucky I haven't gotten injured from butterfly pull-ups yet for occasional inactive shoulders.  Second, for efficiency in all my other pull-up bar movements.  Third, grip strength, need I say more?  Last but not least, I just to work on pull-ups overall.  Seriously, I do five and my lats are sore for the next week, haha.  Factoring in my size, I should be bomb at these but that's not the case. 

Butterfly Kip Clean Up
Initially, I did 5 sets of 10, every day, after the work out.  I found that if I did more than 50 (like 200) I wasn't able to do pull-ups for the next week, haha.  Anything less than 50 was not ingraining enough.  The total time frame was about 6 weeks, 2 weeks at each progression.  Also note that you can apply the same drills to kipping pull-ups too.  I'm no pro at this, but here are the drills I'm doing to learn how to use my hips efficiently and stay tight in the butterfly pullup:
  1. Pull-ups with Tied Legs.  Using a band tie your ankles together tight.  Jump on to a bar and bust out a set of 10.  Repeat 5 times, every time you hit the gym.  If your knees/thighs begin to flail, use another band to tie those together too.  Do this for ~2 weeks.
  2. Pull-ups while Holding an Object.  Put a lacrosse ball, t-shirt, roll of tape, lifting strap, whatever between your feet.  Now do pull ups.  The goal is to not drop the object while doing pull-ups.  This drill is tough.  I could barely do two the first time I tried it.  Aim for a set of 10 or more, totaling to 50.  Do this for another ~2-3 weeks.  If this is just not working out for you, go back to step 1 and alternate.
  3. Pull-ups.  Go into these thinking you're going to stay tight and drive with your hips.  Have some one watch and critique.
  4. Hangs. This is supplementary and is for stressing active shoulders.  It is very simple.  Hang from a pull-up bar with active shoulders.  If anything I learned from PT is that the shoulders are extremely responsive to physical therapy.  4x30s, ramping up to 4x60s.  If these get too easy, "walk" across the pull-up bar in active shoulders.  It is also great for grip strength.  This can be done with the other drills.   
While doing the drills above, especially #1 with the band, really work on using your hips, instead of your legs to drive you up.  Think about doing a shorter, quicker, and more violent hip opening and closing.  You'd be surprise how much easier it is to achieve this when your legs are tied!
    My Results:
    Before: Look how out of control my butterfly pull-ups were.  Inefficient reps. 

     2. Before: Inefficient butterfly pull-ups

    In Progress: This is right after the band and object drills.  Not quite where I want them to be yet, but they are A LOT better than that in the video above.  Still a lot room to improve on getting more out of the kip.

    3. Beginning to look better.

    These techniques are working for me.  It is still a working progress but my butterfly pull-ups are now:
    • Safer on the shoulders.  Keeping them active.
    • More efficient.  Less energy expensive.
    • Sustainable.  I can do larger sets in workouts, even after a bunch of other movements.  
    • Straight up easier to do.
    • I am in a better position to learning butterfly chest-to-bar pull-ups.  I strongly feel like the learning curve is not as steep for these anymore as I can already string a few, and before these drills I could rarely do 1. 
    All of these results also translated to my regular kipping chest-to-bar pull-ups, toes to bar, and other pull-up bar movements.  Yea yea.  I should probably post a more recent video.  I'll work on that.

    Related Posts: My First Kipping Bar Muscle Up!