Guys, for years of doing CrossFit I have run into issues with hand/skin care. I have had the ability to do lots of pull ups in a workout, string together big sets and fair well in many different styles of pull up workouts. The problem I ran into is that each competition or Open workout I’d do with many reps, I’d tear my hands. Even in my day to day training when volume was high I tended to rip my hands, and then training is not the same for the rest of the week! I have literally found the secret to success however! READ ON.
As a competitive exerciser I went to the “butterfly” pull up, if you guys don’t know what that is, look it up on youtube. Many people use it because it has a faster “cycle rate” than a traditional kipping pull up, so for competition it seems to be advantageous. There a few downsides to the butterfly, the first that it creates more force on your grip often shifting your hand placement on the bar. Over time and many reps your hands begin to build friction, get hot and start to blister or tear completely from the changing of position on the bar. Another downside is that you creating a similar force on the elbow and shoulder—like decelerating a baseball pitch, which is a lot of force—your body weight plus the momentum you are generating takes a lot of effort to slow down in order to redirect for the next rep. Over time and reps this causes the shoulder to internally rotate, and can make for chronic pain in the elbows and shoulders. And the question is, “what for?” Most people make this sacrifice to save a few extra seconds in a workout or simply because it looks cool. I actually encourage to not use the butterfly for most of of your pull ups. If you CAN do it, it doesn’t mean you SHOULD do it. I highly encourage people to be able to do 25+ unbroken kipping pull ups smooth and easy before ever needing or wanting to even practice the butterfly method.
I have not done the butterfly pull up since August 2017 and will not start using it again until I’m ready to “train” competitively. Right now I'm rebuilding my base and simply “working out” with my classes at Live in Victory. I say this because for me and for most “the juice is not worth the squeeze,” when it comes to doing the butterfly pull up. The carry over of the skill is really “0” when it comes to application of other movements. The kip of the Bar muscle up, Ring muscle up, Toe to bar, Knee to Elbow all share the same universal movement pattern of the kipping pull up. Mastering the basic “kip” helps all of those skills improve. The butterfly will result in you simply being better at butterfly pull ups, not getting up and over any kind of obstacle in real life.
My advice to people is to focus on mastering the kip. Simply practice the swing more often alone, without the pull up. Feel what it is like to effectively “glue” your hands to the bar and not allow them to move, “grind” or “rub” on the bar. This will help you do as many pull ups as you need to do in a workout and NOT tear the skin away! Will it still happen? It may, but not if you are mindful of quality movement and hand position on the bar.
Watch the video for the basics of the kip, how to do it, and what you should think about when it comes to “how to grip the bar.”
Tear your hands less, keep your shoulders feeling good and you can train harder more often…..that is where we see the best result, consistency.