Your first muscle up


Getting your first muscle up is, for most people, a great experience, and a big achievement. By some it is considered as the ultimate test of upper body strength, however, there is more to it than just pure strength. In short words, muscle up is shifting your body from pull up position to dip with one controlled movement. It`s pretty much a combination of higher pull-ups and lower dips, but much more intense. By following these 6 steps below you can achieve your first muscle up in relatively short time.

1.Pull-ups, pull ups, pull ups...

If you are struggling to execute at least 5 high pull-ups (I mean bar up to your shoulders line) you will find it hard to progress to muscle ups. I strongly suggest to learn at least 5 clean pull-ups first before practicing muscle ups, otherwise, you could develop pain in your wrists and shoulders which can slow your progress towards muscle ups all together. The key is to build your way up to it and slowly introduce more sets so that you can have more control over your progress. Start from one set of 5 pull-ups and work your way up to 5 sets of 5 or more, having in mind to always pull yourself up as high as possible without putting too much stress on your wrists and shoulders. You can then progress to 1/3 technique which means 1 second up and 3 seconds down which is almost like negatives but in this case, you change it around after few sets to 3 seconds up and 1 second down. It`s not a good idea to use rubber bands as you`ll find yourself stuck at the same progression stage forever. You can, however, use rubber bands, if you are beginner finding it hard to get your first pull up but at this point, it`s too early to even consider executing muscle ups.

So go and practice and yes! It`s intense and yes! it takes a bit of time but after you master this, everything else will become much easier.

2.Don`t forget dips.

Without mastering triceps dips you will have a hard time on the top once you pull yourself up. As with pull ups you need to develop enough strength to be able to lift yourself up. It works your triceps, chest, and shoulders which are the main muscles you need to execute muscle up. You can follow the same routine as pull-ups which are 1x5, 5x5, 1/3, 3/1. If you feel you can control each rep without letting your body drop, you can start challenging yourself on the straight bar. It`s slightly different as with parallel bars you keep your body between bars as you dip, but when on the straight bar, your body needs to move around the bar. You will need to lean over the bar as you lower yourself down with your legs reaching out in front in order to keep balance. Make sure to activate your abdominal during execution of this movement.

3.Learning the momentum with Knee rises.

Without good core strength, in the beginning, your muscle up will look ugly and shaky so please pay extra attention to your abs. Knee raises are great to learn how to use momentum to lift yourself up. With time and practice you may start using your legs less, but believe me, you need that momentum at the beginning so don`t skip this section. The idea is to lift your bent legs as quickly as possible but to control them once they are past your waistline by engaging your abs without letting your thighs touching your chest. During a muscle up you use that momentum and you can easily feel how your energy shifts from your legs to your abs to your back and arms slightly lifting you up. As you get stronger you can start working towards strict muscle ups which should be performed as vertical as possible without using the momentum of your legs at all.

4. Start with the false grip.

When doing a muscle up the most effective grip is false grip which involves putting your thumbs over the bar. This allows you to make the transition smoother from pull up to dip position. False grip helps you to rotate your wrist smoother on the bar during the transition. Start practicing your pull-ups and dips using false grip so you can get used to it. It will feel a bit uncomfortable at first but it`s also important to practice neutral grip as well as the false grip so you won`t get stuck with either of them.   

5. Scapular Pull Ups.

This exercise will help you develop strength in your trapezius and latissimus dorsi. You need to try to lift yourself from the bar as high as possible without using your arms but only by depressing your shoulder girdle and engaging your abdominals. With strength developed by practicing pull-ups and dips you will naturally be tempted to bend your arms but just try not to let it happen. You may also bend your legs behind you or keep them in front of you which is harder but will help you develop skills to execute front level.

This exercise will improve your beginning phase and therefore helps to perform muscle ups much smoother and easier.

6.Putting it all together.

Now it`s time to take all that you have learned and try get your first muscle up. In the beginning, you can try to jump on the bar and learn the transition first but if you followed all the steps so far you should get it without using this technique.

Grab bar using the false grip, then using scapular pull-ups and normal pull ups try to lift yourself up and at the same time raise your knees above your waist by quickly engaging your abs. When you pass the point where the bar is in line with your chest, try to push your upper body forward and at the same time lift your elbows and rotate your wrists. It`s all about timing. You are on top now, so use your strength learned with straight bar dips and you got it.

Your first muscle up!!! Well Done!!!