5 Ways to Perfect Your Muscle Up Technique

Muscle Ups are an impressive and popular exercise within Crossfit – and for good reason. Whether you are a newbie or a seasoned Crossfitter, this article will give you the theory and provide drills and WODs to help you achieve excellent Muscle Up technique.


Do you remember the first time you walked into the BOX and watched another athlete hanging on the rings? One kip, followed by a second, and then BOOM, the athlete flew up and made their ring Muscle Up technique look graceful and simple.

Feeling inspired, you wanted to try it. So you gave it a go and realised that it was actually a really complicated movement, especially when you lacked the strength, coordination and technique to perform it properly!

female crossfitter muscle up technique
The Muscle Up requires strength, skill and practice

THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF MUSCLE UPS

First of all, let’s look at the two different types of Muscle Up technique:

  1. Strict Muscle Up
  2. Kipping Muscle Up

This article focuses on kipping muscle up technique. But let me quickly say a few words about the strict muscle up. To perform this muscle up, you need to have a decent amount of upper body strength and should be able to do at least 5-10 strict Pull Ups / Chin Ups, and to hold yourself in what is commonly called the false grip (see picture below).

If you can do this, then you can move on to the next step: the transition. You can use the exercise with the crossed band from the video to get help and support for the transition.

Let’s now move on to the people who are really frustrated because they are either close to, or don’t know the way to get to their first muscle up. Don’t worry you’ll get there!

1. MUSCLE UP TECHNIQUE: SUPERMAN AND THE HOLLOW

There are a few basic exercises that you need to be really good at such as the hollow rock and the superman. If you struggle with these two then you should practice until you are able to do at least 25-30 reps of both movements.

The next step is to jump up to the rings and start kipping between the superman and the hollow. Once you’re getting familiar with it, try to increase the kip but don’t let your feet go over the shoulder line. Make sure you keep your legs straight when swinging back in the superman position.

2. HIP EXTENSION OUT OF THE HOLLOW

The next step is to work on the hip extension that drives out of the hollow position (check the ‘common faults’ part in the video). If you struggle with the hip extension and are not really sure how to use the hip, please try the exercise showed in the tutorial.

Tip: use a powerful band when you first start, so that you don’t need to pull too hard with your arms, and you can really focus on the hip extension.

One disclaimer about the hip extension: I know that normal Gymnastics coaches never teach muscle ups with a massive hip extension. For them the movement is only coming out of the lats and it has a different purpose. For Crossfitters who aren’t aiming to become competitive gymnasts, using a big hip extension is an effective way of performing muscle ups.

male crossfitter perfroms ring muscle up technique
Strength, power and technique in action

3. TRANSITION UP INTO THE CATCHING POSITION

So now the tricky part starts. This is where most people struggle: coming up into the catching position. For an effective transition use the following tips

  1. Swing up to a great hollow position
  2. Use your hip extension
  3. Start pulling directly after the hip extension, when your body is ‘flying’. Make sure you pull below your chest and try to not only use your biceps but activate your lats to pull the rings down below the chest.
  4. Push your head trough the rings and keep them close to the body! Otherwise you will fall through.
  5. Perform the ring dip. This is a very important point too. It would be really sad to manage the first part of the muscle up and not being able to complete it because you lack the strength to perform the dip.

4. FALSE GRIP: YES OR NO?

False Grip

At the beginning, definitely yes! It’s so much easier to stay close to the body and this grip will make the transition much easier!

If it is hard for you to hold the false grip, then you should start adding false grip dead hangs into your training. As soon as you get more effective in the kip, try to Muscle Up without the false grip or use a semi false grip.

Muscle up technique grip types false crossfit
Different variations on the false grip

Semi-False Grip

Either you put the wrist directly on the ring and flex it to the extreme (right), or you place the ring at a diagonal angle, close your hand, and then flex the wrist (left). With the semi-false grip the wrist does not rest directly on the rings.

As soon as you know how to do ring Muscle Ups, try to move to a semi-false grip. When this becomes easy, focus on a massive hip extension and try to complete the movement with a neutral grip.

5. HOW TO TRAIN TO IMPROVE YOUR RING MUSCLE UP TECHNIQUE

I know Ring Muscle ups are really hard, and most people push them away instead of starting to practice early. Don’t make this mistake.

Take 15 min, 3-4 times per week, to practice your skills, and trust me, your Muscle Up technique will get better over time.

‘Don’t get frustrated, we all started somewhere. But you need to START, otherwise the magic will never happen…’

If you want to build strength and improve your Muscle Up technique, then regularly perform the following routine AS WELL as the techniques that I showed you in the video.

WEEK 1: REPEAT 3-4 TIMES

A: 3 rounds

  • 50 sec on 10 sec off
  • Hollow rock (without bobbing up and down)
  • Superman rock (without bobbing up and down)
  • False grip dead hangs

B: 3 rounds

5-8 strict pull ups (toes in front of the body with great tension in your abs)

In between 90 sec plank

WEEK 2: REPEAT 3-4 TIMES

A: 3 rounds

  • 50 Sec on 10 sec off
  • Handstand hold
  • Max rep hollow rocks
  • Max rep supermans

B: 3 rounds

5-8 strict chin ups (toes in front of the body for a great tension in your abs)

WEEK 3: REPEAT 3-4 TIMES

A: 3 rounds

  • 10-15 muscle up swings (look in a great Superman and hollow position in the swing)
  • 90 sec Hollow rock (without bobbing up and down)
  • 90 sec Superman (without bobbing up and down)

B: 3 rounds

5 Ring chin ups pull below the chest

10 ring rows


Youtube Video © Patrick Funk

Female athlete © Muscle Up

Male athlete © Muscle Up

Muscle Up grips © Patrick Funk

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About The Author

Patrick is the owner of Patrick's FUNKtionelles Training.What does CF mean to you? Crossfit is not only a sport for me, but rather a way of life. I have never encountered another sport that is so challenging and fascinating at the same time as an athlete or as a Coach. Crossfit offers this amazing possibility to see each person as an individual and cater to their needs. It is accessible to everyone and anyone can be coached; it doesn’t matter ...

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