How to Improve Your Muscle-Ups

I just need to lose 5 more lbs and I’ll be better at muscle-ups” – We hear this commonly and could not disagree more.

You don’t necessarily need to get LIGHTER, but you DO need to build and gain more upper body muscle and strength so you’re STRONGER relative to your bodyweight. Know why people hate gymnastics movements and skills? Anyone can pick up a barbell and muscle their way through it. But gymnastics requires building a foundation of earning and owning movement. Practice truly does make perfect.

A muscle-up is a skill that was popularized by CrossFit, but is also commonly seen in men’s gymnastics routines. Muscle-ups can be done on both a pull-up bar or set of rings. They can be done strict (with no momentum), or kipping (using swinging and momentum). Pre-requisites for this movement include having strong pull-ups and strong dips.

Want Better Muscle-ups?

    • Have a solid strict pull-up and dip game. You should be able to bang out 8-10 strict pull-ups and 10-15 dips on rings with ease before worrying about working on muscle-ups.
    • Already have muscle-ups? Make sure to do them regularly, even if it’s for 5-10 minutes once or twice a week.
    • Working towards your first muscle-up? Make sure to do skill work and progression-work 2-3 times a week.
    • Strict before kipping. If you cannot do muscle-ups strict, you shouldn’t be trying to kip them. It’s important to have the proper strength and understanding of the movement so you don’t risk injury and hurting yourself.
    • Keep feet and knees together. Lack of tension = lack of power. Try sticking a t-shirt or knee sleeve between the feet and make sure to video yourself so you can analyze your movement patterns and see where any form or technique breakdowns may be happening.
    • Rather than pulling the rings to CHEST (thus catching super low and requiring a massive dip), pull rings down and around to the HIP so you can catch high and make for a cleaner and safer dip.
    • Swing size should be individual dependent. More mobile or bendy human likely equals a bigger arc, but a bigger swing is NOT better and actually may be more inefficient if you have to bend your legs or break shapes to get there. Tight = powerful, in whatever size shape that means for YOU.
    • Move the rings with you when kipping. Rings shouldn’t stay in place the whole time. During your swing in the arch/superman position, the rings will come out in front with you. If you have the shoulder mobility to do so, you want to turn the wrists out externally so palms face out. When you come to hollow position, the rings will move back towards center.
    • Practice really does make perfect. You should regularly be practicing strict muscle-ups, kipping muscle-ups, as well as practicing your pull-ups and dips.
    • Don’t forget to have fun with it!