Of the many issues cooking on the Workout of the Day blog and CrossFit forums, few have generated as much heat as the butterfly kipping pull-up (BFK). The debates over this movement have been warming ever since a video of a 2:19 "Fran" performance by Brett Marshall (aka "AFT") was posted on CrossFit.com in the spring of 2007. More recently, I remember a comment at a CrossFit event that pejoratively classified AFT's pull-ups as "snake pull-ups." Early criticism focused on the use of the split bars that permitted those "snake pull-ups." However, when AFT put up a second-place performance at the 2007 CrossFit Games, it was clear that his pioneering movement was not an impediment to his fitness.
In the CrossFit Journal, Issue 70 Tony Budding's delightful, hard-hitting analysis in "Capacity Standards and Sport" puts the question into perspective: "Proper movement technique is nothing other than the most efficient, effective, and safe means for increasing power and work capacity." So, what of the argument that BFKs are fast but don't increase fitness? In my book, that would be a valid criticism if proven, and a good reason not to do only BFKs. (If we follow CrossFit's prescription for variation, that should never be a problem anyway.) However, my sense is that the real driver for all the vented frustration over BFKs arises primarily from a completely different issue--namely that CrossFit, and specifically the sport of fitness as contested at the CrossFit Games, is not fair. (See, for example, the continuing heated discussions of the BFK--and of fairness, technique, measurement, and competition--in the main page comments on June 26 of this year, spurred by the imminence of the 2008 Games and the posting of a new 2:02 record "Fran" performance.)
Paul "Apolloswabbie" Eich is a CrossFit Level-2 certified instructor. He is in his nineteenth year of service as a Naval officer and has logged over 3,000 hours in U.S. Navy aircraft. Paul trains in his garage gym and at CrossFit Memphis.