The Muscle-Up is one of the most sought after moves to master in the fitness world. In commercial gyms, CrossFit boxes and even parks, you can see people attempting to get on top of the bar. This move relies heavily on technique and strength. Being strong is not enough to conquer this fitness milestone.
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To master this move you need to understand how to do it. To keep it simple, I break it down into three phases:
1) The Pull Phase: This is simply a Pull-Up.
2) The Transition Phase: Getting your elbows up and your chest over the bar. This is the most difficult part.
3) The Press Phase: This is where you drive your body up to complete the Muscle-Up with a movement similar to a Dip.
The actual movement is simple enough, but people make a few common mistakes that prevent them from properly executing the move.
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Mistake 1: The biggest mistake occurs during the pull phase. People focus too much on the power of the pull and not the direction. You want to pull around the bar not through it.
Mistake 2: Many people fail to adjust their hands during the transition. If you start with your hands gripping under the bar and don’t rotate them to the top of the bar during the transition, you physically can’t get your body over the bar.
Mistake 3: Finally, there’s often excessive kipping/swinging. When pulling up into the bar, you need to preserve your momentum to transition to the top of the bar. If you kip, you will ruin this momentum.
Now that you know how to perform Muscle-Ups, here are drills and exercises that reinforce the technique and strength needed to perform it correctly.
Pull-Up (to chest): It’s not crazy to think that you need to be decent at Pull-Ups before you can master a muscle-up; however, pulling up to your chin is not enough. To get a muscle up, you need to pull yourself up, at a minimum, to the bottom of your chest. The higher you can pull yourself up, the easier it is to get over the bar. With this in mind do your Pull-Ups and try to touch your chest to the bar.
Transition Bar Drill: This is an awkward drill, but it’s one of the most effective moves to improve your transition. Start with a bar lower to the ground (near hip level). This will allow you to use your legs to get through the motion. Start with your hands on the bar (slightly wider than shoulder-width). Sit on the ground and pull yourself up toward the bar, touch the bottom of your chest to the bar, get your elbows up and shoot your chest over the bar. Finally, finish by pressing yourself up like the top of a Dip.
Banded Transition Drill: This drill is also awkward but it strengthens your transition by limiting your range of motion and extra assistance from the band. Start by placing a band over the bar (set the bar low or stand on a box). Get inside the band with it under your rear end. Now perform as many transitions as possible. Start with a thick band to get familiar with the movement, then go from there).
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Straight Bar Dip: Get on top of a bar (or barbell). Lower your chest to the bar then press back up until your arms are straight. These are harder than they look and will get you more comfortable on the bar as well as strengthen the top of the move.
Band Muscle-Up: With a band hanging from the bar, put your knee (or foot) in the band. Explosively pull your yourself up to the bar (again until the bottom of your chest touches the bar). Transition to the top of the bar, then press yourself up to the top of the bar.
After you can do these moves relatively easily, it will be time to get back on the bar and master the Muscle-Up!