8 Best Bar Muscle-Up Workouts to Build Arm and Core Strength

Bar muscle-up workouts are a great way to test your skills, increase your strength and improve your mental grit.

This gymnastics exercise requires you to go from hanging off a bar to pulling yourself up until your upper body is over the bar and your arms are locked out on top.

Bar muscle-ups are an exercise many athletes are intimidated by, but breaking up the movement into effective progressions should help you master them like the best athletes.

Work on your strength and technique in the lead up to your bar muscle-up attempt. Developed arms and shoulders will not only help you with strength but will also protect your rotator cuff muscles and back.

Read more: Why Do I Suck at Pull-Ups? And How to Get Better at Them

Bar Muscle-Ups Technique

Bar muscle-ups are a high skill bodyweight movement which requires technique, speed and strength.

The key with bar muscle-ups is to bring your hips to the bar, keep your arms relatively straight and do a quick sit up over the bar as you transition.

Maintaining a strong core throughout is also important, because if you lose your midline stability you’ll lose your momentum.

Movement breakdown:

  1. Hollow body position: jump up to the bar and establish a solid hollow body position while hanging. Keep your shoulders active and feet together.
  2. Arch body position: move into an arch body position by swinging forwards and bringing your chest in front of the bar, your back should be slightly arched. Stay tight throughout your core and try too keep your feet together.
  3. Lever back: from the arch, scoop your legs forward and lever yourself back. Imagine trying to lay horizontally while pulling the bar down, all along keeping your arms relatively straight.
  4. Hips up: this is the crux of the muscle-up. As your legs lift into the air, aggressively thrust your hips towards the bar. The more aggressive you are here, the more momentum you will have to get over the bar. This is done while simultaneously pulling the bar towards your hips with your arms relatively extended.
  5. Fast sit up: loosening your grip a little as to allow your hands to slide around the bar, engage your core and pivot over the top of the bar in a sit-up-like motion. This has to be done fast, using the momentum of the hip thrust.
  6. Lock out your arms at the top: you’ve made it up! Now lock out your arms at the top and train your descends so you become more efficient at bar muscle-ups and are able to string them together successfully.

The best athletes can string up to 60 unbroken bar muscle-ups.

Before transitioning into bar muscle-ups, you should be proficient in:

  • Pull-ups
  • Chest to bar
  • Dips

Most importantly, you should feel perfectly comfortable performing strict pull ups.

Bar muscle-up strength requirements

In order to solidly hit the positions needed and be safe performing bar muscle-ups, the following strength baselines are suggested:

  1. 2-minute dead hang: this will test your grip strength, any athlete looking to perform bar muscle-ups should not fall off the bar.
  2. 5 strict pull-ups: muscle-ups require a lot of pulling strength, five strict pull-ups are a good base.
  3. 5 strict dips: the higher you catch the muscle-up, the less you’ll require the dip strength to lock your arms on top, but the strength required to perform strict dips will certainly help.


1. 160202

For time:

  • 9 Bar Muscle-Ups
  • 21 Push Jerks, 115 lb.
  • 7 Bar Muscle-Ups
  • 15 Push Jerks, 115 lb.
  • 5 Bar Muscle-Ups
  • 9 Push Jerks, 115 lb.

This workout should be a sprint, elite athletes will finish around the three-minute mark. If you struggle with bar muscle-ups consider scaling with pull-ups and ring dips.

Well performed bar muscle-ups are a great upper body exercise and show of arm strength. When getting your first muscle-up or becoming more efficient performing them, there’s a handful of technical points to remember, but beyond that it’s all about building strength specifically for the movement.

2. Unbroken Bar Muscle-Ups

For time:

  • 30 Bar Muscle-Ups for Time + Max Unbroken

Perform 30 muscle-ups for time, going unbroken to start with and reaching your highest number, then finish the remaining muscle-ups for time.

This is a tiering test that will definitely build arm strength. The best athletes will be able to complete this unbroken but the vast majority won’t get to 30. Still, remember this bar muscle up workout is meant to be performed fast (before the three-minute mark after the max set) and test you under fatigue, so don’t take too long breaks.

If 30 is too challenging of a number, scale down to a rep range suitable for your current skills.

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