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20 Muscle Ups Workouts for Dedicated CrossFit Athletes (Full Progressions Included)

Upgrade your game.

These muscle ups workouts, tips and progressions will help you to master this difficult movement and apply your new skill across a variety of fitness settings. 

Have a read through our tips and progressions to learn how to become smoother and more efficient throughout the movement and the best way to string muscle ups together. Then apply your knowledge with our muscle ups workouts.  

What Are Muscle Ups?

Do what the gymnasts do—muscle-ups! There’s hardly a movement that will work your upper body pulling strength better than a muscle-up. They also challenge your core (you have to remain braced throughout the movement) and your upper body pushing strength (you have to do a ring dip to complete the muscle-up).

Lukas Esslinger/ Katrín Tanja DavíðsdóttirSource: Lukas Esslinger/ Katrín Tanja Davíðsdóttir
Lukas Esslinger/ Katrín Tanja Davíðsdóttir

Set-Up: Set the gymnastics rings so they are approximately shoulder-width apart. Grab the rings with a false grip. Hang from the rings with the arms fully extended. Brace the core.

Execution: Pull the rings to your sternum as your torso leans back. Move your chest over the rings and come into a position that looks like the bottom of a ring dip. Keep your hands and elbows tight to the body. To complete the movement, get to the support position with arms fully extended.

Points of Performance: To get a “good rep,” ensure the following:

  • You start the movement below the rings with your arms fully extended and feet off the floor
  • You finish the movement above the rings with your arms fully extended in the support position
  • Your feet do not rise above the height of the rings during the movement (such as during a kipping swing)

Pro-Tip: You wouldn’t do handstand push-ups before you learned how to perform a standard push-up. You wouldn’t do kipping chest-to-bar pull-ups before you learned strict pull-ups. Apply the same mindset to the muscle-up. Learn the strict ring muscle-up before you try the kipping variation.

Muscle Up Tips and Progressions

These 6 progressions will help you master muscle ups. They are from the excellent coach Tom Morrison.

  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… And I became jealous. 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

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. 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!

I hope to see you posting your first muscle up soon!”

MUSCLE UPS WORKOUTS

Now that you’ve mastered the technique and got some practice, add these muscle ups workouts into your training. 

1. JAMES PROSSER

For Time:

  • 100 Muscle-Ups

Partition the work as needed. Think of a strategy that will allow you to get some rest early on so the final rounds are still smooth and don’t require you to rest more than you work.

2. HULK HOGAN

Every 2 Minutes in 20 minutes:

  • 3 Muscle Ups
  • 5 Power Cleans (185/135 lb)
  • 7 Burpees

You should complete all exercises within the 2 minutes, then start again.

Score is total number of two-minute rounds completed, plus number of reps completed in first incomplete round. If you finish all 20 rounds your score is 20 (next time add +1 rep to each exercise (4 muscle-ups, 6 power cleans, 8 burpees) each round, and see how many rounds you can get in 20 minutes).

3. DOBOGAI

7 Rounds for Time:

  • 8 Muscle Ups
  • 22 Yard Farmer Carry (50/40 lb dumbbells)

4. TYLER

5 Rounds For Time:

  • 7 Muscle-Ups
  • 21 Sumo-Deadlift High-Pulls (95/65 lb)

Sumo deadlift high pulls are great for learning proper progression for power generation.

This exercise is an explosive hinge movement that creates great momentum in the barbell and makes it easier to pull. The sumo deadlift high pull is invaluable for learning to transfer power from the hips and legs, through the upper body, and into the object being lifted with maximal efficiency.

5. AMANDA

9-7-5 Reps For Time:

  • Muscle-Ups
  • Squat Snatches (135/95 lbs)

With a running clock, as fast as possible perform the prescribed work in the order written.

Score is the time on the clock when the last round of squat snatches is completed.

Good Times for “Amanda”
– Beginner: 13-15 minutes
– Intermediate: 10-12 minutes
– Advanced: 8-9 minutes
– Elite: 5-7 minutes

6. POWER PLUS AMANDA

11-9-7-5 Reps for Time:

  • Power Snatches (135/95 lb)
  • Bar Muscle-Ups

Time Cap: 15 minutes

With a running clock, as fast as possible perform the prescribed work in the order written. Athlete must accomplish 11 Power Snatches and 11 Bar Muscle-Ups before moving on to 9 repetitions of each movement and so on.

Score is the time on the clock when the last round of Bar muscle-Ups is completed. If the athlete did not finish the workout within the time cap, the score is the total number of repetitions completed in 15 minutes.

Scaling

11-9-7-5 Reps for Time
Power Snatches (95/65 lb)
Chest-to-Bar Pull-Ups

7. NATE

AMRAP in 20 minutes:

  • 2 Muscle-Ups
  • 4 Handstand Push-Ups
  • 8 Kettlebell Swings (2/1.5 pood)

On a 20-minute clock, perform as many rounds and repetitions as possible (AMRAP) of the prescribed work in the order written.

Score is the total rounds and repetitions completed before the 20-minute clock stops.

8. JASON

For Time

  • 100 Air Squats
  • 5 Muscle-Ups
  • 75 Air Squats
  • 10 Muscle-Ups
  • 50 Air Squats
  • 15 Muscle-Ups
  • 25 Air Squats
  • 20 Muscle-Ups

Good Times for “Jason”

– Beginner: 29-34 minutes
– Intermediate: 23-28 minutes
– Advanced: 18-22 minutes
– Elite: 14-17 minutes

9. ULTIMATE WARRIOR

21-15-9 Reps for Time

  • Thrusters (135/95 lb)
  • Bar Muscle-Ups

10. BAMF V3

For Time

  • 21 Pull-Ups
  • 15 Chest-to-Bar Pull-Ups
  • 9 Bar Muscle-Ups

11. HARVEST

EMOM for 6 minutes

  • 4 Muscle-Ups
  • 20 Wall Ball Shots (20/14 lb)

On a 6-minute clock, every minute on the minute (EMOM) perform 4 Muscle-Ups and 20 Wall Ball Shots.

Score is the total number of repetitions completed before the 6-minute clock stops.

12. TOM

AMRAP in 25 minutes

  • 7 Muscle-Ups
  • 11 Thrusters (155/105 lb)
  • 14 Toes-to-Bar
Muscle-UpSource: Element 26

13. JOHNSON

AMRAP in 20 minutes

  • 9 Deadlifts (245/165 lb)
  • 8 Muscle-Ups
  • 9 Squat Cleans (155/105 lb)

14. HORTMAN

AMRAP in 45 minutes

  • 800 meter Run
  • 80 Air Squats
  • 8 Muscle-Ups

15. NASTY GIRLS

3 Rounds For Time

  • 50 Air Squats
  • 7 Muscle-Ups
  • 10 Hang Power Cleans (135/95 lb)

With a running clock, as fast as possible perform the prescribed work in the order written for 3 rounds.

Score is the time on the clock when the last round of the 10 Hang Power Cleans is completed.

16. NASTY GIRLS V2

3 Rounds for Time

  • 50 Pistols (alternating legs)
  • 7 Muscle-Ups
  • 10 Hang Power Cleans (175/125 lb)

17. LUCE

3 Rounds For Time

  • 1,000 meter Run
  • 10 Muscle-Ups
  • 100 Air Squats

Wear a Weight Vest (20/14 lb)

With a running clock, as fast as possible perform the prescribed work in the order written for 3 rounds. Wear a weight vest for the whole duration of the workout.

Score is the time on the clock when the last round of air squats is completed.

18. OGAR

AMRAP in 14 minutes

  • 3 Snatches (135/95 lb)
  • 1 Muscle-Up
  • 12 Wall Ball Shots (20/14 lb)

19. FRANKZILLA

For Time

  • 21 Thrusters (95/65 lb)
  • 21 Pull-Ups
  • 15 Thrusters (115/75 lb)
  • 15 Chest-to-Bar Pull-Ups
  • 9 Thrusters (135/95 lb)
  • 9 Bar Muscle-Ups

20. BSU

3 Rounds for Time

  • 7 Thrusters (165/110 lb)
  • 15 Muscle-Ups
  • 10 Power Snatches (165/110 lb)

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