The muscle up is probably the sexiest move in CrossFit, which is why it’s probably also seen as somewhat of a Holy Grail of movements. It was a movement that used to be seen very rarely and only in the most difficult of WODs. However, with the progression of CrossFit we now see muscle ups far more often. So much so that we saw them at the start of an open WOD last year, when usually they were seen at the end as a separator movement.
With this being the case the muscle up is now becoming a movement that must be in your wheel house if you want to take part in CrossFit competitions (both casually and seriously).
On an athletic standpoint, it is a movement that requires and develops incredible levels of strength and coordination, so is well worth the effort in learning in order to become well rounded and fitter individuals.
Taking the above into account, I thought I would detail out 5 steps to getting your muscle ups dialled in. These steps will benefit you even if you already have muscle ups, as you can never be too strong or too good at the basics, and re visiting these often will only improve your efficiency and ability in this movement.
1. Know your strength (or lack of it)
How many chest to bar pull-ups can you do? Can you do a strict chest to bar pull-up/chin-
up? Are you comfortable doing ring dips and skin the cats? If the answer to any of these questions is no, then this is where you need to start.
Doing both kipping and strict muscle ups require the strength and flexibility to perform extremely deep pull ups and extremely deep dips, so if you’re lacking here then spend time developing it. This needn’t take long not be over complicated. Doing a short EMOM of strict pull ups and dips (or any push/pull progression of your choice) will help you improve your strength and can easily fit around class time.
2. Learn the progressions (especially the ones right for you)
What part of the muscle up do you struggle on? Pulling to your chest? The transition? Or catching the rings in the right position? Can you do kipping but not strict? Or vice versa?
There are numerous progressions out there for the muscle up and they develop different aspects of the movement (usually). The toenail muscle up drill is my favourite for strict development as it forces you into a false grip and teaches you the tension needed in each position by doing the movement backwards. There are several with a green band that help develop the appropriate kip swing for navigating your bodyweight over the rings properly etc.
You’re no good using a progression you’ve nailed. Identify the part of the movement you struggle with most and use the most appropriate progression for it (if in doubt ask a coach!)
3. Proper purposeful practise makes perfect
You read that right. Once you’ve identified an area of strength/progression you need to work on. Make sure you do it properly and with purpose. If you’re continually missing steps or cutting corners then the improvement won’t happen as the muscles have not learned the proper pattern. If you’re unsure, again, ask a coach!
This is why I rarely recommend the jumping muscle up as a progression or modification, it is far too easy to rely too much on the jump and to pull directly in to the armpits, as opposed to pulling down toward the bottom of the chest and letting the rings slide into the armpits as a consequence of the body’s movement.
4. Focus on the process rather than the end result
Too often I see athletes attempt muscle ups and rush by pulling the rings into the armpits as they know the conclusion of the movement is a ring dip. However to get in this position you need to pull low enough to then manipulate your bodyweight around the rings from being in a position underneath them.
If you focus and trust in the process of the movement by learning the progressions and then following them, you will achieve the end result. This could be as simple as focusing on the first part of the movement and executing that with perfect precision, as opposed to thinking about managing the dip before you’ve even got there.
5. Practise, practise, practise. Or as Rihanna would say: work work work work work
At the end of the day there’s no magic pill that will bring you a muscle up. If you have followed the steps above, you know the area that needs work and how to work on it, the last piece of the puzzle is to put the time in in order to make a change.
As I wrote above, gymnastics work doesn’t need to take a lot of time or effort, 10 minutes before class 2/3 times a week will quickly see you make improvements in strength and positional work if you’re consistent and trust in the process.
I’ve seen you all be so successful with the magic of EMOM on our dynamic Friday’s with your Olympic lifting work development so in the next programming wave we will utilise more of this method in terms of skill development as well. More to come of that soon!
Now get working on those muscle ups!
Workout of the Day:
A) Strength: Back Squat
In 25 minutes establish a 2RM
B) Strength Assistance
6 minute alternating EMOM:
Odd – 5/5 Bulgarian Split Squats
Even – 10 Banded Good Mornings
10 Burpee box jump (24/20)
10 Toes to Bar
4 Rounds For Time:
25 Hollow Rocks
1:00 Left Side Plank
25 Hollow Rocks
1:00 Right Side Plank