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Crossfit Beginners: How to get your First Bar Muscle Up!

The bar Muscle Up is actually harder than doing a strict Muscle Up on the rings. The bar is a non-moving object, which can make it especially difficult for the athlete to get into the position to press out. Unlike the rings, which can move out of the athlete’s way, the bar requires the athlete move around it.

Before you try to attempt this, you should be proficient with:

  • kipping pull-ups,
  • kipping chest-to-bar pull-ups and
  • dips but overall:
  • And especially with strict pull-ups.

If you don’t have a strict pull up yet, then a Bar Muscle Up will be more than difficult to accomplish. Development of the latissimus dorsi, trapezius (upper and lower), supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis are important, not just for strength, but also for protection of the rotator cuff muscles and the back. Working on the above exercises will help to strength these muscles and they are particularly important in allowing you to successfully Bar Muscle Up.

hydration for crossfit athlete doing bar muscle upSource: RX'd Photography
Keep trying, you will make it!


Practice to attempt to grip the bar with the thumbs under the bar and progress to end the movement with a False Grip.

A bar muscle-up is a complicated enough skill without adding the additional task of rotating your hands around the bar as you transition from pull-up to dip.  Using a false grip eliminates the need.  It also feels stronger at the top of the pull-up when using a false grip.


You want your thumb above the bar, and the bar resting on your palm, not in your knuckles.  In doing so your wrist will be bent forward a good bit. To get the benefits of the false grip, it is unnecessary to go to that extreme, at least when working on an explosive muscle-up (the easiest variation).  You really just want to be sure your palm is on top of the bar (or close enough that it will naturally rise during the transition).


Practice doing Pull-Ups with an exaggerated range of motion. Instead of stopping when the bar is below your chin, pull that sucker all the way down past your chest. Get as far over the bar as you can

Not only is the strict pull up important to the bar muscle up, but so is core strength. The most important core movements that help with the actual bar muscle up movement are:

  • Hollow Body into a Hollow Rocker
  • Arches into Archer Rocks
  • Hollow to Gymnastics Tuck
  • Parallel L-Sit

The momentum you can generate from your hips can make or break your Bar Muscle Up. Maintaining a strong core throughout is key, because if you lose your midline, you’ll lose your momentum. So, practice your kipping.

“Execute your explosive Pull-Up, slightly releasing your grip on the way up to transition you hand position to go on the bar and then, as you get to the highest upward trajectory point you can possibly achieve, flip your elbows forward and push down with your arms, pressing your body up onto and over the bar”

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Muscle Up!



Start with your arms around shoulder width apart and try and keep a slight bend in your arm, since doing a muscle-up from dead hang is hard work!


This is the part where you explode into the pull-up, and is the most complex part of the muscle-up to master. To do the pull-up you want to bring your knees up to your stomach, and then instantly pull-up and kick out at the same time to get the upwards momentum. By bringing your knees up to your stomach, you are moving them to the place they want to be at the end of the pull-up movement, therefore the pull-up is only focusing on getting your upper body above the bar. The kick part should also help the explosive part of your pull-up, just remember to keep your feet together.


The final part is the equivalent of the push part of a dip. When you feel your weight is over the bar, lean your weight on the bar and bring your elbows up and behind you, then push up until you have straight arms.


To turn one Muscle Up into multiple Muscle Ups you’ll want to make sure you drop down off the bar in a smooth way, the reverse of how you pulled yourself up. If you just drop down you will lose any momentum, so try and drop off slightly behind the bar so that you return back into the initial swing, ready to then pop back up into your next rep.


bar muscle up female crossfitterSource: RX'd Photography
Bar Muscle Ups are a tough exercise to crack!

These common problems might be holding you back:

Pulling ‘into’ the bar?

You probably try to pull-up too early. Wait a little longer after you have reached the peak of the swing before pulling, that way your momentum is heading only slightly backwards rather than forwards.

Swinging over the bar wildly?

The best form possible is with minimal swing, however in the beginning most people feel they need more swing to help them over the bar. Start the muscle-up with a smooth and gentle swing; enough to get the motion but not enough to ruin your form.

Getting one elbow up, then following up with the other?

You are doing the “struggle-up”. This makes your muscle-ups look pretty terrible. Some find this is a stepping stone to getting a muscle-up in good form. But concentrating on good, symmetrical form avoids picking up bad habits early.

So good luck with your Bar Muscle Ups! Let us know which tips you find useful, or any other methods that worked for you.

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