Why Muscle-Ups and How Do We Get Them?

Whether you think it’s cool, scary, or both, the “Muscle-Up” is here to stay in our CrossFit classes. Let’s talk about why what it is, why we do it, and how you can work on it with some homework!

Breaking Down The Muscle-Up

There are two types of muscle-ups that we do at Vegvisir: the bar muscle-up and the ring muscle-up. They can also be performed strict (without leg movement) or kipping (assisting with the legs with a kip). In any form of the movement, these are the hard and fast guidelines:

  1. Straight arm hang beneath pulling implement (Bar or Ring)
  2. Arms push down on implement until chest is at level of the hands.
  3. Athlete continues to push down on implement while performing worlds biggest sit-up to get shoulders on top of implement.
  4. Arms then extend to hold athlete in locked out position over implement.

So, what do ya need for a muscle-up? A strong chest-to-bar pull-up, sit-up, and full range of motion dip (shoulders touch hands).

Why Do We Do Muscle-Ups?

If we go by what the founder of CrossFit said about this movement, we will be getting into his usual culty mumbo jumbo about the Muscle-Up’s unique ability to elicit blah blah blah (seriously, he prefaces nearly every explanation of stuff in CrossFit with that phrase or a slight offshoot of it). 

In practical terms a muscle-up and be translated to one thing; getting over high objects such as walls, fences, or other large obstructions under your own power. If you’re going on a steep hike, go climbing, or have legal reasons for hoping the fence to get into your backyard or apartment complex, having a muscle-up in your back pocket can make all of those situations easier!

But, if you’re a normal person and don’t get into those instances on the regular, there are other benefits too! It’s biggest factors into being a centerpiece movement is that it teaches us to not only be more coordinated, but it also teaches us to combine movements we already have or are learning to accomplish a new task! Think of it like kinesthetic problem solving. 

If you’ve watched anyone who is close to getting this movement and trying to get the last little details, they usually have all the strength you need! They have multiple pull-ups, tons of dips, and definitely have some strong abs. But, they lack the technique and with muscle-ups, the technique is the hardest thing to grasp! The real adaption for our bodies happens in learning the technique and applying our selves to climb the mountain that is this movement!

How Can I Get A Muscle-Up?

Well, there are three different categories that we can be in on our journey. Some of us need strength in our foundational movements, some of us need to learn the technique, and those who have 1 or 2 need proficiency!

“I’m still working on my pull-up. Can I work on muscle-ups too or do I have to wait?”

Why yes you can. While working on your pull-up and dip strength is going to be the fast track to getting to the muscle-up sooner, you can help prepare yourself for the later parts of the journey by practicing Baby Muscle-Ups!

Strength Building Muscle-Up Routine (Perform 2x Per Week After Class):

3 Sets:

Pull-Up Negatives

10 Bench Dips (Sub for 4-6 Banded Ring Dips if too easy)

5 Baby Muscle-Ups (Add Plates under feet in front of rings to increase difficulty)

Rest 2:00

“I have a couple strict pull-ups and dips, but when I go for a muscle-up, I just bounce off of the bar!”

Then try this routine and focus on trying to get around the bar, not through it. The biggest mistake athletes make when trying to get a muscle-up is viewing it as the world’s biggest pull-up! It isn’t. So, you need to focus on getting on top of the bar or rings, not through it.

Technique Work Muscle-Up Routine (Perform 2x per Week After Class):

4 Sets:

3 Ring Muscle-Up Negatives (w/ False Grip)

Casting Swings

Pop Swings

Rest 2:00

(Give 1 Muscle-Up Attempt Per Week)

“I got my first muscle-up, but boy is it scary to get on top of those rings. I think I’ll stick with bar for now!”

You’ve learned the biggest lie about muscle-ups. It isn’t the first one that is the hardest. It’s the second one! Everyone will go through the rings one day if they want muscle-ups. It’s a scary reality, but, as long as you hold on to the rings you’ll usually be okay. I’ve fallen through 6+ times in my life. Sometimes you are too timid and others you’re just sweaty at the end of the workout and wood+sweat=slippery. If you get stronger at your positioning and get more confident in your movement, you’re gonna be okay way more often than not.

Muscle-Up Proficiency Work (For 1x Per Week After Class that is 2+ Days away from a Muscle-Up MetCon):

5 Minute EMOM:

:20 Max Muscle-Up Transition Swings


5 Minute EMOM

:10-:15 RTO


5 Minute EMOM

:10-:15 Bottom of The Dip Hold

Wherever you are at, if you work on these routines or routines that are similar, you will be well on your way to getting these movements. The key to learning anything is consistency. Eidetic memories are only found in comic books, we all need some level of consistency and repetition to learn things, especially new physical skills! If you take the time to work on these routines, your coordination will improve and, if you’re at the beginning of your fitness journey, help you get those first pull-ups and dips that so many of us want.

Now go out there and get gymnasty! Let us know if these routines help you and we’ll be sure to give you the next steps when you hit that milestone you’re going for!

To talk with a coach today, click the link found HERE to schedule your No Sweat Intro

fill out this form to get started >>

Take the first step towards getting the results that you want!