Whether you are someone who’s just starting to get involved with Crossfit training, or you’re simply looking to boost your overall upper body and core muscle strength, one movement that you must be certain you have in your repertoire of exercises is the muscle up.

This is a slightly more advanced move, so you should have a base level of training behind you before beginning, but once you do, it’s an excellent exercise to progress to.

Let’s go over the main things that you should know to successfully add these to your program.

What Is A Muscle Up

A muscle up is a very commonly used exercise in the Crossfit workouts and will build fantastic upper body strength. It’s similar to a pull-up in that you are going to lift yourself from below up into an upright position hanging off the ground.

The difference, however, is that with the pull-up, the chest only comes to the bar, but with the muscle-up, the chest will come over the bar (or rings, depending on what you’re using).

Muscle Up Bar Tutorial Video



Key Points About Good Form

As you go about performing your muscle ups, there are three key things that you want to remember.

First, is that you should be using a false grip. This means the rings should come straight across the wrist so the ring is more diagonal against the hand, rather than horizontally across the palm.

The second point to remember is that you must focus on keeping your elbows in the whole time through the exercise as best as possible.

Then, once your elbows are in, think of pulling directly into the sternum. This is going to help out because it’ll create a very nice space for your shoulders to move into. For many people, they get up and find that their shoulders are blocked and they can’t move through the full range of motion.

By keeping your form in check, you’ll easily overcome this problem. Remember, the muscle up is a very different action than the pull-up, so don’t try and mimic what you’d do during a pull-up or you will be unsuccessful.

Lauren Fisher muscle up

How To Advance Your Muscle Ups

Once you’ve mastered the basic muscle up and feel like that’s no longer posing a challenge to you, it’ll be time for you to look for a way to add more intensity.

The plyo muscle-up is one such way. You’ll need to be using a bar for this move, but what you’ll do is muscle up to the top of the bar and keep the momentum going while you try and get some hang time off the bar entirely.

Land back with the hands on the bar and let the body swing downward again.

Note this one is harder on the shoulders, wrists, and elbows, so those who suffer from pain in those joints may want to take caution with regards to this variety.

The next way that you can advance the muscle up is to reverse your grip. Just like with a pull-up you can use different grips for more variety, the same goes for the muscle up.

Using a reverse grip with the hands facing toward you is going to be far harder than doing it with the standard position and the hands facing away, so consider transitioning to this form when you’re ready.

Doing either of these muscle up variations will help you continually keep improving your strength as you build your arsenal of exercises.

Muscle Progression Video



Implementing These Into Your Workout Sessions

Since muscle ups are a total upper body movement pattern and will call the core into play to some degree as well, I’d recommend placing them early on in the session when you’re still feeling quite fresh.

You should be sure to do a proper warm-up beforehand at all times as if you attempt these cold, you are very likely to pull or sprain a muscle.

Doing do a high volume of upper body strength work however before you’ve done your work with muscle ups.

If you haven’t quite achieved a complete muscle up, start by working on your pull-up form and then transition to doing the muscle-up when you’re ready.

Muscle Ups Using Rings Versus Muscle Ups Using Bars

One question you may find yourself asking is what the difference is between bar muscle up and ring muscle ups.

If you’ve been watching some Crossfit videos, there is a good chance that you’ve seen both being performed.

Which is best?

There’s really no answer to this question.  The bar muscle up is sometimes a little easier for a beginner to learn on as using the rings takes some skill in and of itself.

In addition to that, because the rings will not stay stationary as you do the muscle up, you’ll find you get more core activation taking place as your core muscles contract to keep your balanced.

That said, many people do find that the bar tends to lock them into a certain range of motion more, while with the rings, they can let their own body movement patterns dictate the nature of the muscle up.

crossfit muscle up

For those who have very long or short arms, this can make using the rings slightly more advantageous.

The final thing to note is that you won’t be able to use the false grip if doing muscle ups on the bar, so this can also make it more challenging for some individuals. It really all will come down to a personal preference and what you struggle with most while trying to get the muscle up done.

Some people find stabilization the hardest element, therefore bars are better, while others find that if they can’t use a false grip, they can’t perform the movement – it’s that simple.

For them, rings are going to be the superior choice.

So there you have the main points to know about the muscle up. It is one of the best exercises you could add to your upper body routine, so make sure you aren’t overlooking it.

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