Bar muscle ups look impossible, but with some decent instruction and practice, you’ll master them in no time. Ready to do your first muscle up? Let’s get to it.
What is a muscle up?
If you’ve spent any time around CrossFit boxes (or Instagram accounts), you might have seen people pull themselves up and over the bars of a rig – or even a pair of gymnastics rings. That tricky looking movement is called a muscle up.
Muscle ups start from a hang position. From there, you pull yourself up, press to extended arms, and finish in a supported position with your arms extended downwards (the bar or gymnastics rings at your hip level).
It’s an advanced calisthenics movement, but everybody starts somewhere. Let’s learn how to muscle up.
What are the benefits of muscle ups?
Why should you learn muscle ups and incorporate them into your functional fitness training? A muscle up is a pull, push, and core exercise and challenges almost every muscle in your body. Plus, it’s a great skill to learn.
Increase your grip strength – a skill that transfers to plenty of other exercises and pieces of equipment.
Build arm muscle – this exercise challenges your biceps and triceps evenly with functional strength.
Challenge your core – muscle ups target your core and abs in a similar way to a pull up, toes-to-bar, or plank.
Get glutes – believe it or not, muscle ups also target your hips and glutes as you propel yourself up and over the bar.
Better back – unsurprisingly, muscle ups target all of the muscles of your back, especially your lats and rhomboids.
How to do a muscle up
You can do muscle ups on parallel bars org gymnastics rings, but in this article we’ll focus on bar muscles ups.
Muscle ups combine the movements of a pull up, a dip, and a dynamic kip, so make sure you can do these first. A good target to aim for is 10 kipping pull ups and 10 dips before you take on the muscle up (it’s definitely not a beginner exercise).
Master your first muscle up
Stage 1: start in a free hang, and swing forward and then back into a hollow rock position
Stage 2: from this kipping position, pull the bar towards your chest, engaging your lats and keeping your body tight
Stage 3: engage your hips and drive them towards the bar
Stage 4: crunch your body over the bar (like a fast sit up) to bring your upper body over the bar
Stage 5: lock out your arms so your upper body is above the bar from your hip area
Need to scale muscle ups?
Don’t worry – most people do at first. You can scale muscle ups by jumping the first stage from a stack of plates or a low box. Or use a bar to support your feet for band-assisted muscle ups. It really depends on where your weakest point of the movement is. If your weakest point is confidence (it can feel scary at the top of a muscle up!) then our best advice is to have a spotter and just get on with it – you’ll soon get used to it.
How often to practice muscle ups
If you want to master muscle ups, you should build accessory work and the individual parts of the movement (kipping pull ups, dips, chest to bar, inverted rows) frequently. Practice actual muscle ups 2-3 times a week either as a dedicated skills session or at the end of your WOD. Like any new skill, they take time to master, but once you’ve done them you won’t lose the ability.