How to Master the Muscle-Up


If you’re into calisthenics, you undoubtedly know what a muscle-up is. Maybe you have seen someone in your gym or local park do some. It looks like it’s extremely difficult. But maybe you’ve tried them already. Getting to know how to perform it is a great calisthenics goal. So let’s find out more about the muscle-up and how to master it. 

What Is a Muscle-Up 

A muscle-up can be described as an advanced version of a pull-up combined with a dip. You pull your entire upper body above the bar in an explosive movement. It is usually performed on a high bar or on rings. You start with extended arms hanging on the bar or rings. In an explosive movement you pull-up your upper body over the bar and make a dip movement until your arms are extended again. Only this time you are above the bar. 

World Record Consecutive Mucle-Ups

The world record for consecutive muscle-ups on a bar is 26 by Maksim Trukhonovets in 2018. Can you beat that? There are variations to the muscle-up like a kipping muscle up, 1 arm muscle up and grip variations. These require different techniques. We will zoom in on the normal and kipping muscle-up.

Technique for a Muscle-Up

First, we will get into the standard technique. After that, we will break it down and give you tips on how to master it. 

You start by hanging on a bar with your arms extended. Use a normal hand grip position for a pull-up or make sure your thumb is on the upper side of the bar. Start with a high pull-up, preferably until your belly button hits the bar. Rotate your wrists to a dip position (fingers on the bottom side) and lean forward with your chest. Now that you are above the bar press yourself as high as you can (straight bar dip). That’s it. You did a muscle-up. Congratulations! 

It’s In The Details

It may sound very easy but most people struggle with the technique, especially in the beginning. It all starts with the positioning of your hands. The muscle-up can be performed with a normal grip. But you have to make sure your thumb is on the same end as your other fingers. You can take it one step further with a false grip. A false grip means your wrists are bended over the bar. That makes the movement easier since many can’t rotate their hands while doing the pull-up.

You have to be able to make a high pull-up. You may not be used to that range of motion (ROM), making the movement too hard. A regular pull-up can give problems as well. Going straight up to the bar makes it difficult to get to the height of your belly button since the movement is blocked by the chest. If you do a straight arm pull-up (arms stay extended) it gets easier to pull-up to your belly button. After that, you just need to pull yourself over the bar when you’re high enough and make the dip to finish the muscle-up. But please realise it takes time to master this. Keep trying and you will learn how to do it.

muscle-up on rings
You can use a bar or rings

Technique for a Kipping Muscle-Up 

You can also perform a kipping muscle-up. In a kipping musle-up you make more use of momentum and your legs to perform it. It’s mostly done in cross fit and costs little strength. Some do not consider this a real muscle-up because you use little strength.  

Hang on the bar and first arche your back to gain momentum. When coming back, make yourself small with a rounded back and kip up your legs. In this momentum pull yourself up with straight arms and throw yourself onto the bar and finish with a dip. The biggest difference to the regular technique is the momentum and use of the legs.  

4 Steps To Master It  

First, make sure your wrists, elbows and shoulders have a full ROM and feel flexible. Especially your wrists need to make quick position changes. Without the right wrist position you can’t get high enough to do a muscle-up, not matter how strong you are. The false grip mentioned above is the easiest grip to master. 

Second, the muscle-up is a combined exercise. So training different aspects of it can help you master it. Make sure you to include these exercises in your training: 

  • – pull-up 
  • – straight pull down (mostly in gyms) / straight arm pull-up (on a bar) 
  • – straight bar dip 
  • – high (explosive) pull-up / archer pull-up 
  • – negative muscle-up 
  • – jumping muscle-up on a low bar 

Third, use tools like resistance bands or a calisthenics buddy to practice the movements. They give you a speed boost should you lack a bit of strength. Using your legs to swing and gain momentum can you help master it. Training negative muscle-ups gives more feedback to your movement patterns to overcome the struggling part of the movement. 

Fourth, keep praciting. The only way to master this movement is by trying it again and again. (Perfect) Practice makes perfect!

keep practicing the muscle-up
Practice makes perfect

Personal Experience 

I benefitted the most from other people explaining the false grip technique to me and resistance bands. I trained heavily on straight arm and explosive pull-ups but couldn’t get over the bar point. After I did some negative muscle-ups and assisted muscle-ups, my body got used to the technique and I can perform 4 or 5 muscle-ups in a single set now. It took me around two months to master it. But endurance makes you a winner.

If you have question or want help with your muscle-up progression feel free to ask us. We are here to help.

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