The Muscle-up

This article is about one of the most impressive bodyweight movements-The Muscle-up.

A lot of people when starting their journey with calisthenics are very determined to get over the bar.

So let’s break down the muscle up.

Muscle up involves the entire upper body. It requires a strong back, arms, and chest.

It consists of three phases:


2. Transition

3. Pushing


1. Pulling

Even though the first phase of the muscle up may look like a pull-up it’s not exactly like this.

In ordinary pull-ups usually, the goal is to get your chin over the bar or chest touching the bar. And yes, being able to do a lot of good quality pull-ups will definitely help you in developing the strength needed for muscle ups. However pulling phase of the muscle-up is much more explosive than normal pull-ups. When doing muscle up think about pulling the bar to your waist. The lower you get it the easier it will be. Another way that you can look at this phase of the muscle-up is a combination of lat pulldown and row. This is more applicable to the explosive version of muscle up rather than strict slow muscle up.

Try to do bodyweight lat pull down and once you get at peak height do the row. I know it’s easier said than done but this is one of the tips that helped me get my first muscle up.


This is probably the part that most people are struggling with.

Honestly the better(higher) you can pull yourself up the easier this part is. It requires a little bit of forearm strength and self-confidence to release the pressure of the bar to twist your hands. One thing that can make it easier is using hang-grip (thumb is NOT rolling over the bar) or using false grip (palms already in the pushing position).


This is probably the easiest part of the muscle-up.  If you can do few straight bar dips then this part shouldn’t be a problem for you. If however, you’re struggling with them then aim for improvement.


Now, there are two main ways to perform muscle up. Both require strength and proper technique.

Explosive Muscle-up

This is more commonly seen muscle up. It uses a little bit of swing. This variation is definitely good for improving explosiveness and getting a lot of reps.
This variation will also benefit you in terms of building your pulling and pushing strength while giving you all the benefits of explosive training. (Kinda like sprints, but for upper body). This variation is also better for muscle building than the
strict slow muscle up. (If done without a lot of kipping)

Strict muscle-up
This is a real strength achievement. Getting slow controlled muscle up requires a lot of strength and whole body tension. Now, this may not be the best exercise if you are looking to use muscle ups as a muscle building exercise but it will definitely give you great upper body strength.

What are the best exercises to get your first muscle up?

Of course first, you need to have a good base in your pull-ups and straight bar dips.

Once you get good at these two separately you can try doing muscle ups.

The absolute best two exercises for getting the first muscle up (in my opinion) are:
Negative muscle ups and Jumping muscle ups.

In terms of negative muscle ups, you need to get yourself over the bar and slowly perform a negative phase of the muscle up. To make it harder try going slower or kipping your legs in  L-sit.

As for the jumping muscle up.

Find a bar that is at a level of your neck and try doing the muscle up with a little bit of a jump. When you get stronger find a bar that is higher ( maybe forehead level) and try using less and less jump. Combine it with slow negative and you will get the muscle up.

And a very important thing.

When trying to get the first muscle up don’t let yourself lose perfect form. Once you get them and try increasing your reps it is okay to use a bit of kipping(as long as it’s not the only thing that is getting you over the bar) for those extra few reps. But in the beginning, you want to have your form looking super good.

And be aware that it takes time and consistency. Don’t get discouraged if you didn’t get it this time work hard and enjoy the process. You will get there eventually!


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