The Only 6 Muscle Up Progressions You Will Ever Need!

Here are 6 muscle up progressions to help you get serious and master this tricky gymnastic exercise!

6 important muscle up progressions

  1. False grip rows
  2. Legless rope climbs
  3. Russian dips
  4. Baby muscle up
  5. Negative muscle up
  6. L-sit lift off

There really is nothing cooler than someone hopping up on a set of rings and doing a muscle up. Most people can deadlift and squat to some degree, a majority can do pull ups, but in the world of getting acknowledgement for being a legend, the strict ring muscle up is King!

I still remember the first time I ever saw one (and I would have already deemed myself pretty strong at this point) and thinking “that dude is a beast!”. I wanted to take him out and buy him drinks just in the hope that he would like me! Then I saw a 10 year old girl do one… Naturally, I just wanted to kick her in the face. So clearly this girl couldn’t be stronger than me, so she must have been cheating! Which she was, she was using this thing called “technique” and what made it even worse was this other thing called… “Practicing”.

The progressions I am giving you here I teach to all my athletes, and every one that has devoted time to them has got their first muscle up, generally around 6 weeks.

Even if you already have your muscle up, these progressions are great for tidying it up and helping you achieve multiple reps. A super secret programming technique for you: whichever ones you suck at, do them the most.

1. False Grip Rows

One of the most important parts of the muscle up is the false grip, if it’s not solid you’re going to have a really hard time with your transition to the top.

Remember, set up is King! Wrist stretches should be done EVERY DAY in an extended and flexed position so you should have no problem attaining this. You HAVE to train the pull in this position or you will just not get through to the top, even if you can do 20 unbroken pull ups and dips, it is the wrist position that gives you leverage, turn out at the bottom and turn your knuckles to face each other then pull to your chest maintaining the grip at all times.

2. Legless Rope Climbs

If I see you climbing a rope using your legs it pretty much takes all of my willpower not to beat you to death with a lacrosse ball and rubber band! The BEST exercise for pulling and grip strength is the legless rope climb. If you can’t do it then scale it so that you’re still having to pull with your ARMS, unless your goal is to get better at standing up while holding on to something. Almost try to pull the rope to your stomach and the slower you move the better, think like a ninja.

3. Russian Dips

The transition is the tricky part of the muscle up, and it’s generally were most people will get stuck when they’re having their first attempt, the Russian dip is a great way to break it down and just focus on that one part. Again, slower is better and you can really hit this one with some high volume, keep as low as possible during the transition from elbow to press and try to have a really long neck the whole way through the movement. It’s all about shifting your weight and moving your body as one unit, so your hollow body position is key here! Keep your elbows in close to your sides, this applies to the push up also.

4. The Baby Muscle Up

The baby muscle up is putting the movement together with the feet still on the floor for a slight bit of assistance, opt for the tip toes rather than the ball of the foot or you may subconsciously push through your feet too much. Keep the rings as close as possible to you and break it down into 1. Pull to chest 2. Transition and 3. Press, feel the weight shift in your hand and make sure to maintain that false grip! The higher the rings are the more challenging this exercise is.

5. Negative Muscle Up

Again, this is putting the full movement together but in reverse. Take your time with this one and try to get that feeling of where your weight needs to be at each stage of the movement, be as ninja as possible! If you’re just dropping down in the transition part then go back to the baby muscle up until you get more strength, when you can do this movement with really good control you are well on your way to your first muscle up!

6. Muscle Up Progressions – L-sit Lift Off

I accidentally came up with this one day when I was practicing L-sit muscle ups. I had started to get tired then all of a sudden I starting stringing massive sets together, it took me a good 5 reps to realise I was actually just cheating. Set up with your false grip in place then drive through your heels to give yourself a boost to the rings, it’s all about the weight shift again, stay really tight through the middle and use the legs as a counter balance for the transition to the top of the rings, to make it slightly harder just don’t use your legs as much!

I’ve lots more progressions that I have used over the years but these days I spend more time getting rid of exercises to keep things more simplistic. So to recap, you’ve got your grip, your pull, your middle transition for below to above the rings, your dip and your lockout! All there in a nice bundle! Thank you for taking the time to read! And again don’t be afraid to follow my Coach page, I am forever posting tips on the silly things that everyone seems to miss! I hope to see you posting your first muscle up soon!

If you like the movements and would like to see more just follow my Tom Morrison Coach page!

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About The Author

Tom Morrison is a British Weightlifting coach, martial artist and CrossFit trainer & competitor. He is known for his simplistic approach to teaching and has worked with all kinds of bodies including professional MMA fighters, football and rugby players, experienced CrossFit athletes and weightlifters, people with no mobility, people with hypermobility, people with chronic back, knee and shoulder injuries and most commonly, people with general ...

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