The Muscle-Up

Within the world of crossfit and functional fitness, the muscle-up is considered to be the crown jewel of gymnastics. Pulling your body from a hanging position below the rings or bar, to the top of that apparatus demonstrates a tremendous amount of strength.

For starters, there is a prerequisite amount of strength needed in order to successfully complete a muscle-up. What I generally see is once an athlete can complete 6 strict pull-ups and 6 strict ring dips, they are ready for a muscle-up.

Another note worth considering is that of the novice curse: practicing the movement with a kip before learning the movement strict. This almost always retards progress. I see this with handstand push-ups, pull-ups, and handstand walking. The muscle-up is also no exception.

Simply learn the movement strict first. The hard work will eventually pay off in dramatically larger sets.

Five Progressions

Below are five step-by-step progressions for practicing and learning the muscle-up.

Step 1: Ring Support. The athlete should be able to support their body weight for 20-seconds above the rings.
Step 2: Ring Dip. The athlete should be able to complete 6 strict ring dips on high rings (the legs should be extended and underneath the hips).
Step 3: False Grip. The athlete should be able to hold a 20-second hang from the high-rings while in a false grip.
Step 4: Kneeling Muscle-Up. The athlete can make this more difficult by moving the feet out further in front of their body.
Step 5: Strict Muscle-Up.

Common Faults

Of the many faults seen in the muscle-up, the two most common for athletes with the requisite strength is that of pulling too early and flaring out their elbows.

Pulling too Vertical

The first picture below shows the athlete pulling the rings to her chest. You can see that her chin is almost in contact with the rings.

Fault: The athlete is too vertical in her pull.

In the second picture below, you can see the athlete pulling the rings to her sternum while keeping her head back. This is the correct pull needed for a strict muscle-up.

Correction: The athlete’s body is more horizontal, allowing for a pull to the sternum.

Flaring Out the Elbows

A consequence of keeping the body vertical is the athlete flaring out the elbows. This is usually in attempt to pull the body up and around the rings–but will almost almost result in a failed repetition.

Fault: The elbows flare out to the sides.

The elbows should stay close to the rib cage when the arms begin to bend. The closer they stay to your torso, the stronger your pull will be. This is true for all human movement.

Correction: The elbows stay tucked in close to the body.

Final Note

As the cliché goes: If at first you don’t succeed, try again. Eventually, you will be successful.

Over the years I have seen athletes leave the gym in tears after practicing not getting their muscle-up. Or one day they can do them and then the next, they can’t.

This is why I always recommend strict muscle-ups before kipping. If you can perform a strict muscle-up, kipping will become a breeze.

Stay strict until you are successful. Then practice the kip.



6 Rounds For Time:
5 Ring Muscle-Ups
25 Medicine Ball Cleans

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