The muscle-up... This incredible powerful upper body exercise... Many are willing to achieve this superior feat of performing their first muscle up, but only a few actually get there. The truth is that there are not any magical tricks or secrets that will get you there quickly. It is all about progressions. Moving from an easier version of the exercise to the next harder variation and making micro-improvements on a weekly basis. Doing the right progression according to your level of strength, stamina and explosive power consistently is the key to mastering the muscle up. The overall progress of doing your first muscle up can take anywhere from two weeks to ten months. Yes, it is a huge range but it really depends on the individual. Now, let's get started!
Level #1: Strict Pull-Ups and Dips
To perform the muscle up, you need enough strength in your lats (the movement of pulling), chest, triceps, and deltoids (to push yourself up). Without that basic strength, there is no way you will be able to lift your entire upper body above the bar. Make sure that you are able to do at least 15 strict pull-ups and dips before moving on to the next progression in the article. If you can not do that many pull-ups and dips quite yet, have no fear. Just leave this article to save yourself some valuable time and work on improving your pull ups and dips count. If you can do that many pull ups and dips, you deserve a lot of respect since you already have an incredible level of strength. Now you can officially move on to the next progression in the article.
Level #2: Chest-to-Bar Pull-Ups and Straight Bar Dips
After mastering the progression of strict pull-ups and dips, you can move on to the next level, which contains the progressions of high pull-ups and straight bar dips. The chest-to-bar pull-ups progression is pretty much self-explanatory. Essentially, your goal is to get your chest to be at the same level as the bar.
This exercise is specifically designed to work on your explosive power which is the most important component of the muscle up. The straight bar dips progression is a more challenging variation of regular dips. Perform this movement on a low horizontal bar (anywhere from abs to chest level) by descending down and going back up. This is the part where you push yourself up to make your arms fully extended in the top position of the muscle up. You should ideally strive for three sets of six repetitions of chest-to-bar pull-ups and three sets of 10-12+ repetitions of straight bar dips to be ready to move to the next progression.
Level #3: Easier Variations of Muscle Up
Congratulations! if you have reached progression #3, that means that you are very close to your first bar muscle up. Choose one of the following progressions below from 3A to 3C and do it consistently until you master it!
A) Box Bar Muscle Ups
In this progression start by standing on a high box and jump until you are at the top position of the muscle up. This movement will help you master the technique as well as build more explosive power. It may sound easy, but it is definitely challenging and demanding! As you get better at the exercise and can do at least three sets of six repetitions with the current box, choose a lower box. Eventually, after you have lowered the box a few times, your arms will be fully hanged on the bar in your starting position and will not need any assistance from the box anymore. That is when you can move to the final progression - the muscle up! For alternatives progressions to 4A (in case you can not find any box available to you), check out progressions 4B and 4C below.
B) Getting a training partner to Assist You Reach the Top Position
As an alternative to progression 4A, your training partner can give you a push from below to reach over the bar. You can both help each other do this progression to master the muscle up. If you do not have a training partner, then use progression 4A or 4C instead.
C) Using a Resistance Band to Reach the Top Position of the Muscle Up
As an alternative to progressions 4A or 4B, you can use a band to make the muscle up a bit easier. A band will give you some resistance that will be pushing you upwards and thus will make the muscle up easier to do. There are many different kinds of bands (each provides a different level of resistance). Make sure you choose the one that suits you the best based on your level. After you can do three sets of five repetitions with the current band, use a band that provides less resistance than the previous one to inflict Progressive Overload.
4. The Bar Muscle Up
This is the final progression on our list - The Bar Muscle Up. If you have followed correctly and consistently the previous progressions on the list (or even some of your own progressions), you can now do you first proper muscle up. Reward yourself and celebrate the accomplishment of doing your first bar muscle up, because it is undoubtedly a challenging exercise. If you can not do a muscle up yet, have no worries! Just go back to the previous progressions and get better at them. If you are consistent enough with the progressions, I can guarantee you will achieve your first muscle up and beyond!
Bonus Section: What Exercises Are Harder Than The Bar Muscle Up?
If you are super advanced and want to challenge yourself even more, you can try weighted muscle ups or ring muscle up. Ring muscle up require more stability and are therefore more demanding. Weighted muscle ups have more resistance added to your current body weight so they are a lot more challenging. These two exercises are definitely some of the hardest exercises on the planet!
What steps should I take now?
So you have just finished reading the article and I hope you have enjoyed the content. However, reading alone is not enough. If you do not apply the progressions you learn, you will never achieve your first muscle up. Therefore, your mission now is to choose a progression based on your training level (from one to five) and follow it consistently as part of your workout routine. Only when you have mastered a progression, that is when you should move on to the next one. Whether it takes you two weeks or two years to get there, it does not matter. If you are consistent, eventually you will perform the muscle up. Besides, I highly recommend you to invest in a high quality pull up bar, so you can constantly train for the muscle up and many other movements on the bar! You can also get a more sophisticated bar that includes a dips station as well! So take action and incorporate one of the progressions in your next workout! Good luck and feel free to contact us if you have any questions or concerns.
Quick Overview of the muscle up progressions in the article: