Learning The Bar Muscle Up
The bar muscle-up is one of the most popular bodyweight skills people in general try and learn, the bar muscle up is different to the ring muscle up as you need to pull up at an angle to come around the bar, unlike the rings where you come through the middle. If you would rather learn the ring muscle up you can find it here.
Like all the skills we write about you probably want to know, how long will it take me to get my first muscle up?.
If you are working the muscle up solely then it can be achieved in 8-9 weeks, I personally got my first muscle up after 9 weeks but this was because I had a good base strength which meant I could do the following reps.
- 5-8 strict pull ups
- 10+ dips
If you can’t do the same reps or more than my starting strength then you would be looking at anything between 2-4 months, this would include building the required strength.
We recommend that you can do at least 10-15 strict pull ups and 10-15 dips before starting to learn the muscle up.
Warming up is really important to get the most out of your training and help avoid injuries, an example warm up is outlined below:
Please note the following times for the triceps, arm circles and wrist stretch:
- Arm circles should take 30 seconds each direction
- Tricep stretch should take between 20-30 seconds on each arm
- The wrist stretch should be performed for 20 seconds each side and the wrist rolls should take 20 seconds each direction followed by a 10-second stretch on each side of the hand
Chest Stretch- 30 seconds
Jump Squats – 15-20 reps
Pull ups are a fundamental part of the muscle up so it’s important to get these right, here are a few tips to get the perfect pull up:
- Always start and finish each rep with straight arms
- Start from an active hang position
- Your palms should be facing away from you with
- Hands placed shoulder width apart
- Pull yourself up by pulling your elbows down to the floor and engaging your lats. Keep your elbows close
If you struggle to do pull ups then you can do band assisted pull ups or negative pull ups. We suggest that you always go for decent bands if you are going to use them as you don’t want them snapping, if you choose to use bands then all you need to do is wrap the band around the bar, pull the band down and put your feet inside the band.
Secure your band like this around the bar.
Simple and safe way to get into the resistance band
To get stronger at pull ups you can also do negative pull-ups, I personally always used negative pull ups before using the bands, once I was unable to do any more negative pull ups then I would use the bands to get a few more reps.
When performing negative pull ups you can either jump up to the bar from the ground or use a box, once you are at the top position of the pull-up you want to lower as slowly as possible, the eccentric movement will help build pull up strength.
Negative Pull Ups
High Pull Ups
Dips are an important piece of the muscle up transition and you will want to be strong here as you will be required to push yourself up from the lowest point of the dip after the transition from the pull up to the dip. If you don’t have a bar that you can get on top of, I would suggest doing standard dips but stopping at the bottom and pushing up as slowly as possible.
To perform the bar dip you will want to get on top of the bar with your hands placed shoulder-width apart, you can jump up to the bar or use something like a box. Once on top of the bar, you want to dip down as low as possible, don’t worry if it’s not that deep at the start as your strength grows so will the depth.
The lower you go the more beneficial it will be when it comes to pressing out of that position once you have transitioned from the pull-up to the dip.
Negative Muscle Ups
The negative muscle up is a useful tool when learning to muscle up as it builds muscle memory of the movement pattern and builds strength from the eccentric movement. When performing the negative muscle you will need to get above the bar by either jumping up or using a box, once at the top of the muscle up position you need to lower down into the dip, once at the lowest point of the dip roll your wrist backwards (away from the bar) and allow you body weight to drop below the bar.
The slower that the negative muscle up is performed the better and you will see far more gains from this than rushing through the movement, it will take time to slow this movement down so be patient and consistent while training the negative muscle up.
Band Assisted Muscle Ups
The band assisted muscle-up is one exercise you must not skip as it’s so important for muscle memory and technique, using a band will allow you to practice the correct movement pattern without doing “chicken wing muscle ups” this means bringing one arm over at a time which isn’t good as it increases the chances for injury and could mean that you aren’t strong enough.
If you have a set of bands you can start with the heaviest band and once you feel comfortable and your form is correct then you can start working down the band weights, if you only have one band then just work on getting a solid set of muscle ups before trying unassisted muscle ups.
There are a few ways to perform a muscle up, you can use a kip (swing) or perform a strict muscle up meaning that you hold the bar with a false grip. We will be focusing on the kipping muscle.
Here are the steps to follow to perform the muscle up:
- Start in the dead hang position
- Using your legs start swinging back and forth
- On the swing back when you are at the highest point pull your knees towards your chest (this will help raise you higher to the bar)
- Explosivly start to pull up at a slight angle (not straight up like normal pull ups)
- Once the bar is in line with your chest shoot your head forwards over the bar
- Now in the dip position push up to complete the muscle up
If you find yourself doing “chicken wing” muscle ups it may be worth going back to band assisted muscle ups and pull ups to build more strength, the hard work is worth it for the buzz you get when you nail your first muscle up!. Once you have mastered the kipping muscle up you can then you can start working on the more advanced strict muscle up, this would involve using the false grip.