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Slow Down to Muscle Up: 5 Progressions for Perfect Movement

THE BASIC MUSCLE-UP

A muscle up is a base level gymnastic move in which a person hangs at full extension below either gymnastic rings, or a pull up bar, and proceeds to pull themselves up as high as possible. They then leverage their torso forward enough to shift their elbows above their hands propping themselves into a low dip support. Pressing themselves up to full extension atop the rings or bar finishes the movement.

STRICT FIRST, KIPPING LATER

When performed from a static hang it is called a strict muscle up.  Another version, the kipping muscle up, utilises momentum from swinging the body to create lateral energy, which elevates the body’s center of mass vertically allowing for a more weightless transition to the support position. Both versions of the muscle up have become extremely desirable exercise movements within the functional fitness community.

TAKE YOUR TIME: PROPER FORM AND PROGRESSION

Though considered a potent training stimulus, muscle ups have their share of physical hazards such as strained elbow tendons, compromised shoulder joints, torn bicep tendons and strained pectoral muscles to name a few.  These are mostly due to the dynamic and ballistic nature of kipping muscle ups, but are also caused by immature skill progression, paired with impatient athletes who want it all too soon.

‘Learning the strict muscle up first, however, will help develop the strength, body awareness, joint integrity and support stabilizers that are integral when performing muscle ups.’

Proper preparation and development of a safe, consistent, strict muscle up before diving into kipping muscle ups is your best preventative measure to all the dangers just described.  Plus, it’s just plain common sense and smart progressive coaching.

FULL BODY MUSCLE UP PROGRESSIONS

The following standardised strict muscle up progressions centre around performing the full body movement rather than broken down components.

The goal of these progressions is to be used as a compliment to (and not in replacement of) the traditionally prescribed strength exercises such as strict pull ups, ring rows and ring dips.  The first protocol is to develop ring support confidence and stability in both the low dip support and top dip support positions.

1. BUILD CONFIDENCE AND STABILITY IN THE LOW AND TOP DIP SUPPORT POSITIONS

Muscle Up progression
Knock and push the rings in order to challenge the stability of the athlete

Have your athlete get into low dip support on a set of low rings cueing them to press their thumb knuckles into their ribs while resting their shoulders on top of the rings.  This eliminates airspace between the rings and the torso and allows the body to act as a stabilizer for the rings to brace against.

  1. Once locked in, the coach should attempt to push, pull and separate the rings from the athlete’s body.
  2. Gradually increase the force against the rings to really challenge the athlete.

Follow up with the same drills while the athlete is in top dip support while still on low rings.  Cue the athlete to again press their thumb knuckles against their thighs eliminating any airspace between rings and body.  The athlete’s elbows should be locked out with shoulders activated and core tight.  Once again, push, pull and separate the rings and challenge the athlete to maintain support.

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