Mastering the Muscle Up for CrossFit

Many athletes struggle greater to do the muscle up, than they do just about any other technique in CrossFit. While technique is the most valuable tool an athlete has at his disposal, the development of the muscles used in this workout will assist the athlete in exploding above the rings, and having the kinesthetic muscle awareness to maintain proper technique. Many workout regimens I have seen are ineffective while others are dangerous. Today we are going to break down some vital workouts that, when used effectively, can help you achieve a perfect muscle up.

#1: Strict Pull ups

In CrossFit, I feel we focus a little too much on our kipping pull-ups and butterfly pull-up and forget the pull-up we all did in P.E. in elementary school. The strict pull-up is foundational for the bar muscle up. This movement develops your latissimus dorsi, traps, supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor and subscapularis which is vital for your strength and support for your rotator cuff. If you are unable to do a strict pull up, there are a number of exercises you can play with to develop this critical movement.

  • Negative pull-ups (start at the top and lower yourself slowly)
  • Ring Rows
  • Pendlay Rows
  • Isometric Pull up hold
  • Gymnastic Rings Archers

# 2: Develop your Core Strength

In addition to isometric lifts and explosive power, a strong core is vital to this. Abdominal isometric holds, like L-holds and hollow holds accompanied with explosive core work like pike-ups and GHD situps will strengthen the explosive muscles needed in the abdomen that you will need to get the pop your hips need for a muscle up.

#3: Chest to Bar

The next drill you should perfect in your quest to mastering the muscle up, is developing a strong chest-to-bar. For this drill I want you to focus less on stringing chest-to-bar pull-ups together, while instead trying to bring your hips and legs parallel to the floor and pulling the bar to your rectus abdominus. This will involve a dramatic back swing followed by an explosive kip.

If you can master this skill and can learn to pull that bar to your abs, you are just one step away from flicking your elbows to the air, and finishing your muscle-up.

You will also need to develop a strong hollow and a strong arch on the ground which will develop kinesthetic muscle memory.

#4: Learning the transition from False Grip to Ring Dip Position.

As stated earlier, technique drills are vital to this workout. While this articles scope is more focused on the muscle development needed to do a muscle up, there is one particular technique that simply must be practiced before one should try a ring dip from below.