How to Muscle Up – Three things you MUST do

How to Muscle Up


Learning how to muscle up can be as confusing as it is frustrating. In this blog we share three of the biggest limitations that stop people from learning this king of calisthenics movements.


Calisthenics might seem pretty simple. No complicated machines, no bars to load and unload and no gimmicks. It’s just you and your bodyweight. The complexity and difficulty of calisthenics however becomes apparent when you try some of the moves for the first time. There is no doubt all of us have experienced the stark realisation that a) we’re not as strong as we thought we were, and b) calisthenics is seriously challenging.


When we’re talking planches, handstands and front levers it is generally accepted that these are hard moves and if you want to learn to do them you’re going to have to invest some time.


But many people seem to approach the muscle up differently. The mistake they make is to over simplify it and think it’s just a pull up and a dip. As a result, because they can do a pull up and a dip, they draw a blank as to why they can’t muscle up.


It’s confusing and frustrating in equal measure and we see this all the time at our workshops; right up to the point when we break it down, unpick it, talk about the specific strength and the movement patterns required to complete the movement. Then it makes sense. It’s more than a pull up and a dip.


The Muscle Up



So with the launch of our Muscle Up eBook
coming on the 29th July 2017 I thought I’d share with you the three things that currently stand in the way of people getting above the bar. This is not an exhaustive list. We put everything we know about muscle ups in the eBook, including over 45 coaching video tutorials. But here are three examples of things that stop muscle up virgins from getting above the bar for the first time.

They are also super relevant to those that have been trying to perform a beautifully controlled and perfectly executed repetition instead of looking like they’re in a car crash.


Your shoulders are all jacked up – and not in a hench way


Muscle Up Shoulder Pain


It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that the muscle up is about brute force. It is in some forms of exercise, but not calisthenics.


To create the body position for the first pull you need full overhead shoulder range of movement (shoulder flexion). To complete the transition, you need full shoulder extension. On our workshops we start the session with a simple shoulder range of movement assessment and that quickly reveals that a large percentage of the people in the room have inadequacies in this area.


For a lot of people that train, mobility is a secondary thought. To us it is the first thing we do before each session. There is a whole section of our unique framework dedicated to it. We called it Movement Preparation and is focused on preparing the body for the session you’re about to do.


If you’re going to train muscle ups, the most logical approach is to create the range of movement required to be successful. If you don’t, you’re going to hit some major roadblocks and your first muscle up stays in the impossible box.


Instead, if you take some time to mobilise your shoulders first, you lay the first and most important foundation before you even try and do a rep.


The video below is sneak peek from our muscle up eBook and will help you to improve shoulder extension which could be the key to nailing the transition phase of the ring and bar muscle up.



You have the postural control of an overweight basset hound


When you’re looking to move powerfully you need to keep force in the system. It’s the same in sprinting, throwing and striking. If during high force movements you let energy leak from the system you lose force output. Getting vertical height above the bar is a key component in the muscle up but it’s often compromised because people can’t hold a strong body shape and collapse at the critical moment.

When you pull hard on the bar to move from the bottom position you’re asking the lats to produce a stack of force. This however often comes at a cost as they overpower the midsection which results in a sudden loss of core activation as the back arches. Like a fat basset hound trying in vain to chase a runaway sausage you’re now not going anywhere quickly as all that precious force is escaping


This loss of postural control means less force stays in the system and ultimately gets transferred into the bar. That’s not good for our muscle ups because being powerful is the name of the game.


Here is another video taken from the Muscle Up eBook which will help you to control your body position, shape and keep all that strength and power working for you.


You have less pulling power than a robin reliant

Explosive Muscle Up

For those that are not in the know, a robin reliant is an old style car that only has three wheels. It’s not know for speed, acceleration, brute force or even staying upright in a stiff breeze. It will however get you from A to B, just like a lot of people get their chin from below the bar to just above the bar in a pull up.


The muscle up however demands more. It needs power. To relate this back our motoring analogy, we’re talking about cars that sit in the  0 – 60mph in less than 3 seconds category. I’m doubtful that a factory issued robin reliant has ever done that.


In scientific terms power = force x velocity. A lot of people have enough force to do pull ups, but they can’t apply that force at speed (velocity). Tractors are great at pulling a lot of weight, but they’re slow. We don’t need huge amounts of strength, you’re only having to move your bodyweight against gravity. But to muscle up you need to put that force down quickly because that is what accelerates you above the bar and high enough to be able to nail the transition.


Pull up strength that means you can nip your chin over the bar are substandard for the muscle up. You need to be aiming to get your hips to the bar. And not by thrusting them upwards a la Crossfit. We want vertical height. Watch the video below for a great exercise to train pulling power.

Learn How to Muscle Up

If you would like to learn to muscle up then you need to get a  copy of our Muscle Up eBook. The full version is available on  29th July 2017 but if you can’t wait that long, why not download the first two sections for free and get a feel for how good it is going to be at helping you to ‘Redefine Your Impossible’.

Enjoy the journey


If you’ve found this blog useful please share with your friends and other people that you know who go to bed at night still wondering why they can’t muscle up!

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