The Muscle Up

What is a Muscle Up & how does it help?

The Muscle Up, a multi-compound exercise that involves the entire upper body. A Push and a Pull, explosive power and controlled movement on the eccentric creates a fantastic total upper body workout.

But that is just one type of Muscle Up, if you are familiar with calisthenics then you will most likely see the muscle up I am describing, being performed by many calisthenics athletes across the globe.

However the exercise has its roots in gymnastics, now gymnasts perform it with a lot of momentum, their primary goal is not muscle growth but rather performance. That is the way they do it and that is correct!

The way we want to do it in calisthenics, also depends on our goals. Learning it will require following a few steps before you can perform the exercise in the manner and form that will lead you to achieving your goals.

First, practise explosive pull ups to the chest, plyometric pull ups and so on. Controlled bodybuilding pull ups are great, however that is not developing the raw power to get over and on top of the bar, though I’m not saying neglect those either. Once you have these down, with straight legs mind you, it’s time to perform the muscle up, focus on simultaneously rotating both elbows over as soon as your chest reaches the bar and tucking your knees upwards. You are almost doing a crunch over the bar. The next step is simply to perform a straight bar chest dip and the concentric part of the movement is complete!

Keep practicing the explosive pull up variations

A few tips:
– as well as the pull ups mentioned above, you may also want to practise straight bar dips, slowly progressing into a full range of movement, beware of shoulder injuries, always listen to your body.

– the way I was taught the muscle up was that if I could get one elbow over but not the other, stop, don’t try and force your way over, you are not ready. Keep practising the explosive pull up variations and perhaps some negatives from a dip on a lower bar, these will help you get used to rotating the elbows and shoulders over the bar.

Once you have mastered this basic muscle up and can get 5-10 repetitions, you can start to slow it down on the eccentric for more control and better muscular growth as hypertrophy is the result of micro-tears in the muscle fibres in the lowering phase of exercises. That is a whole other topic though.

Your next step is straight legs. Straight leg muscle ups with no kipping is the traditional clean muscle up in calisthenics. After this, depending on your goals, you can slow it down and perform slow controlled muscle ups for growth or you can add plyometric elements and perform tricks like many people do! Be careful though and progress properly!

Good luck and best of luck with accomplishing this exercise. It truly is awesome when you first get over the bar!

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