3 Tips For Getting Your First Strict Muscle-up

I’m a big fan of coaching our gymnastics class at Crossfit Verve.  One coveted movement is the muscle-up.  It’s just a cool exercise.  When you see someone perform these easily it’s impressive.

We spend a lot of time working toward muscle-up mastery in class.  There are 3 major positions I like to work in order to obtain your first muscle-up or master your current strict muscle-up.

1) Pull-ups – Top End Strength with False Grip

Being able to perform a muscle-up will obviously require the ability to perform a pull-up.  However, just being able to perform a pull-up usually isn’t enough.  Top end strength in the pull-up is also very important.  I see athletes regularly who can perform pull-ups easily but can’t turn over into a muscle-up.  I think a bit reason for this is a lack of top end strength.  Here are a few of my favorite drills to work the top portion of the muscle-up.

Paused Pull-ups:

1 and 1/2 Pull-ups

The other element of mastering pull-ups for a muscle-up is learning and strengthening a false grip.  When first starting it’s hard enough to even hold this grip while hanging.  I like to perform a lot of pull-ups and ring rows with a false grip to help improve this.

2) Deep Dips – Bottom Position Emphasis

Turning over in a muscle-up will require proficiency at the bottom of a dip.  Trouble is, most people don’t train the bottom position of the dip.  They rarely get into a deep position, let alone work there.  I’m a big fan of building comfort in the bottom of a dip (shoutout to Dave Durante) just as you would a squat.  Make those dips deep and don’t be afraid of some pause work at the bottom either.  Just make sure you progress slowly and add assistance as needed.

3) Transition Drills

Now that you can pull-up and dip well, it’s time to master the turn-over.  This portion of the exercise seems like to happens naturally, and in some it does but it’s definitely not easy for most and will require some work.  I like to start with easy turn-over drills to get the movement down.

Once you have the movement down it’s time to start building some strength.  Below are 2 of my favorite drills to start building strength and proficiency in the transition.  Don’t forget your false grip.

I see a lot of athletes that struggle with the transition portion of the muscleup. I find they lack strength at the top of the pull-up, bottom of the dip and transition strength. For these athletes I emphasize deep dips with a stable and comfortable bottom position and pull-ups focusing on top end strength (strict chest to bar, 1 and 1/2 reps and pause reps in the top). To help put it all together I like transition drills like these. Emphasize a strong false grip and keep the rings as close to your chest as possible during the transition. Use your feet to give as much help as needed for technique. I used to miss the top of the pull-up and bottom of the dip during strict muscle ups. Only recently have I been able to perform the drill on the right after a few years of emphasizing it. Thanks to all of my #powermonkeycamp friends who helped me pull it off! @powermonkeyfitness @davedurante @rupert.egan @bimflip @drmelzar @vanvleetd @andybsox @shift_movementscience @colinpgeraghty #coyoteden #twitter @crossfitverve

A video posted by Daniel Pope (@fitnesspainfree) on

Muscle-up Eccentrics (Pause in each position) 3 variations of difficulty

3-position Paused Eccentric Muscleup Drill. People tend to have difficulty during the transition portion of the Muscleup as well as the ring support at the top of the dip. I like this drill because it helps to build athlete comfort and strength in these challenging positions. 1) Bottom Left – Easiest variation, jump and hold each position for 1-2 seconds 2) Top Left – Second easiest, slowly descend and pause into each position utilizing your feet to help as needed 3) Mac daddy hardest variation on the right. Slowly descend and pause into each position without support. Try this out and let me know how it goes. I get some many athletes struggling to get strict strength in those challenging areas of the Muscleup and this drill has really helped! #Twitter #muscleup #rings @powermonkeyfitness @shift_movementscience @davedurante @rupert.egan @colinpgeraghty @vanvleetd @drmelzar @bimflip @modernmanualtherapy @barbellrehab @thebarbellphysio @themovementfix

A video posted by Daniel Pope (@fitnesspainfree) on

I am definitely not an olympic gymnast but I have learned a few things over the years coaching, training and learning (shoutout power monkey camp).  These are generally the biggest issues I see with people not being able to perform strict muscle-ups and these are the movements I use regularly to improve them.  Give them a shot and let me know what you think!

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If you’d like to see how I prescribe movements like these in my training program so you can master your muscle-up then click HERE.

Turn the Muscle-up,

Dan Pope DPT, OCS, CSCS, CF-L1

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