A Muscle-ups is a combination of an explosive pull-up and a dip. But in reality it’s much more than that. Muscle-ups work your entire upper body. There’s both a push and pull motion which allows this party trick-worthy exercise to hit your shoulders, biceps, triceps, chest and back. At the same time it requires a focus on a strong core. There’s a lot of show, but plenty go as well.
It’s one of those movements that somewhat stimulates our innate senses of strength and power, “For example if you’re in a life or death situation and were hanging off a cliff, with a muscle-up you have the ability to pull yourself to safety.”
What some would consider the danger of muscle-ups is the increased pressure on your shoulders and wrists. Most of us lack the shoulder mobility to safely pull and push away from the bar so that can be a limiting factor, especially if we were to throw in a kipping motion.
There’s also a timing element that involves more skill than brute strength. Getting your chest above the bar and transitioning from the pull-up to the dip portion will take some practice (don’t worry we’ve included progressions to build strength below).
Then there’s your grip. You’ll want to get your wrist almost on top of the bar in what’s called a false grip. Using a false grip will allow you to more easily transition your hands from below the bar during the pull-up phase, to on top of the bar, for the dip portion. The knuckle of your little finger should be wrapped over the bar also. Place your hands just outside shoulder-width. That will help engage your lats and allow for more strength to pull.
Now, there are a handful of muscle-up variations. You can perform them on gymnastic rings or on a straight pull-up bar. You can do them with or without kipping, if you’ve already mastered the kipping motion most synonymous with CrossFit. But you’re more likely to come around a straight bar than rings and if you can master muscle-ups without kipping, then adding the kip will only help you string together more reps faster.
So for today, here’s step-by-step guide to master bar muscle-ups, sans kip or “strict.”
- Start with arms fully extended at the bottom.
- Keep your legs straight and locked out.
- Begin the pull-up portion with a slightly leaned back posture.
- As you pass midway through your arms’ range of motion (at or before 90 degrees), think “finish explosively.”
- As you pull your chest to the bar, roll your wrists over the top (knuckles forward).
- Once you feel your wrists roll and your chest passes the bar, press up on the bar like you would on a dip.
- Bring your hips to the bar and lock out your elbows.
There is a method for building up to your first bar muscle-up.
These are normal pull-ups but the concentric (upward) portion is quicker and more aggressive. you should work to get your chest above the bar or pull as high as you can.
If you’re strong enough to do five bodyweight pull-ups, consider adding some weight. Use a weight belt to strap on a weighted plate. Use your legs to stabilise it and perform a regular pull-up. Make sure to keep your core tight as you pull upward.
Tempo + Pause Pull-ups
You want to explore in the concentric motion and pause at the top of the pull-up. Hold at the top for 3-5 seconds and then slowly lower yourself down. It should take another 3-5 seconds to reach the bottom. this trains the back to handle high stimulus while working to produce and maintain the power output.