The Inescapable Muscle-up Progression
So, you’ve been hitting the gym for quite some time now, doing a variety of exercises with heavy weights that prove you’re part of the pro team. All your hard work and Greek god workouts drive you to think that you should try that one exercise all pros seem to be doing; you’ve grown enough muscles and strength after all. Now it’s time to hone in on your muscle-up progression exercises.
As you set up for a muscle-up though, admiring your bulging biceps and muscular pecs, the bitter taste of reality hits: You can’t perform one single muscle-up! As frustrating as that can be, you should know that it’s not that unbelievable.
It’s true that you currently have lots of muscles making you stronger after months, even years of working out. But a muscle-up requires more than that. Aside from strong muscles, you should have a certain know-how to be able to do a muscle-up. It’s kinda like you should get your body used to the movement.
In this article, you’ll learn about muscle-up progression exercises that will make you smile and say: “I finally did it!”. Not only that, but you’ll also learn to do it right and effectively to boost your gains even further.
Mastering the Muscle-Up
A muscle-up is a compound exercise. It requires you to pull your body up over a bar or gymnastic rings and then push up to extend your arms. It’s basically a combination of a pull-up and a dip, so it’s twice as hard as each of them—which are hard btw! Fortunately, though, it’s not impossible to execute. With the right muscle-up progression program, crushing those muscle-ups will be a breeze.
Muscle-ups have two variations: the muscle-up progression on a bar and ring muscle-up. They both target major muscles in our body, such as the lats, biceps, triceps, pecs, and even the traps, delts, rhomboids, serratus anterior, and core muscles to some degree.
Side note: If you want to have an efficient but effective chest day, read How Many Chest Exercises Per Workout?
So, what’s the difference between these two? Firstly, although they have a similar range of motion, the body positioning and the grip are different in the two variations. A bar muscle-up offers more stability since the bar is in a fixed position. Plus, it generally has a shorter time under tension. Considering these factors, we could say that a bar muscle-up is relatively easier to perform. However, this ultimately comes down to personal preferences.
There is also a difference in the target muscles of the two muscle-up variations. An article published in the International Journal of Exercise Science tried to find the nuances between the muscles that the two variations of muscle-ups target and the results were interesting. It was found that the ring muscle-up had far more activation in the upper traps, biceps, triceps, and forearm flexors. Researchers concluded that a ring muscle-up is better at targeting smaller muscle groups and that’s why it would be better to start performing it after an athlete has built up enough strength in their bigger muscles to perform a bar muscle-up.
Bar Muscle Up-Progression
Bar muscle-ups are often the starting point for most athletes, offering a fixed base to execute this intricate movement. To do a bar muscle-up, you should have strong upper-body muscles. Basically, any upper-body exercise that you do at the gym, such as chin-ups for biceps or bench presses for the chest, is going to help you in your muscle-up progression.
Aside from your main workout routine that builds muscle, the following exercises are going to help you gradually perform a bar muscle-up.
Pull-ups form the foundation of a muscle-up, activating your lats, biceps, pecs, lower traps, and other upper body muscles. If you can do a pull-up, you can ensure you have the strength to lift your body weight, which is essential for a muscle-up. To perform a pull-up:
- Open your hands wider than your shoulders and grab the bar with an overhand grip (palms facing forward).
- Bend and cross your legs to hang from the bar.
- Engage your core and bring your shoulder blades down by bending your elbows.
- Raise your body until your chin is over the bar, squeezing your shoulder blades.
- Keep your back straight and avoid raising your legs.
- Slowly extend your arms and come back down.
- Gradually increase the number of reps as your strength improves.
Hanging Leg Raise
Hanging leg raises help enhance your core strength, a crucial factor in muscle-ups. Plus, it’s one of the main parts of the movement if you want to do a kipping muscle-up (more on that later). To do hanging leg raises:
- Hang from the pull-up bar
- Keep your arms straight and your core engaged.
- Lift your legs up while there’s a slight bend in your knees.
- Bring your legs down and return to the hanging position.
Jumping Bar Muscle-Up
This exercise helps in getting a feel of the muscle-up movement while giving you extra help. Jumping muscle-up gives you more momentum to perform the pull-up part of a bar muscle-up while still giving you the opportunity to go through the same movement pattern. To perform a jumping bar muscle up:
- Place a box under the bar.
- Stand on the platform and grab the bar.
- Bend your knees until your arms are fully extended.
- Jump up to grab the bar and use the momentum to bring your shoulders over the bar.
- Come back down to the box.
Straight Bar Dip
Straight bar dips work on your triceps, shoulders, and chest. They help in the transition phase of a muscle-up, where you move your body over the bar. To do a straight bar dip:
- Start with your arms fully extended above the bar.
- Bend your elbows while your legs are straight in front of you and there’s a slight bend in your waist.
- lower your body until your chest touches the bar
- Push back up.
Negative Bar Muscle-Up
Negative muscle-ups are the reverse movement of a muscle-up starting from the top position and slowly lowering your body. This exercise helps you master the eccentric (lowering) part of the exercise, which is crucial for building strength. It’s a good exercise for developing control and understanding the movement pattern of a muscle-up. To do a negative muscle up:
- Start with a jumping muscle up.
- When your body is at the highest position, keep your elbows back and bring your legs forward for balance.
- Come down as slow as possible.
Common Mistakes and Tips
When performing bar muscle-up progression exercises, avoid swinging your body excessively or relying solely on momentum. Ensure to engage your core and maintain control over your movements. Practice regularly but also allow your body enough rest to recover and grow stronger.
Ring Muscle-Up Progression
Performing a muscle-up on rings involves three phases: the pull-up phase, the transition phase, and the dip phase. Each phase requires a different set of muscles, and mastering each one is crucial for a successful muscle-up.
Just like the bar muscle-up, ring muscle-ups require a unique grip called the “false grip.” For a false grip, rest your wrist over the ring, allowing your hand to fold over the bottom. This grip provides the leverage needed for the transition phase of the muscle-up.
Ring muscle-ups present a unique challenge due to the instability of the rings. This section will guide you through a safe and effective ring muscle-up progression:
Muscle-Up with Resistance Band
Resistance bands provide support and allow you to perform the muscle-up movement with less weight. This exercise helps you practice the correct technique and get accustomed to the movement pattern. To do a ring muscle-up with a resistance band:
- Loop the resistance band through both rings. The band should be hanging down from the rings.
- Place your hips on the resistance band.
- Perform the muscle-up with the assistance of the resistance band, aiding you to pull your body up.
Doing a muscle-up with a resistance band is a great idea for muscle-up progression, allowing you to do muscle-ups while some of your body weight is supported by the band. But if you don’t have a resistance band, you can still do the movement while using your legs for support. Plus, if you’re still having trouble figuring out how the whole movement works, like how your hands should move, doing a self-assisted muscle-up can be a good practice. Here’s how to do it.
- Lower the rings so that your feet touch the ground.
- Lower your body until your hands are fully extended. This might mean that you should completely bend your knees or lie on the ground
- Perform a muscle-up while using your legs for support.
Negative Ring Muscle-Up
Just like in bar muscle-ups, negative muscle-ups on rings help develop control over the movement.
- Start at the top position.
- Slowly lower your body, ensuring a smooth and controlled movement.
- Pay attention to how your hand rotates and your body moves.
Common Mistakes and Tips
When performing ring muscle-up progression movements, avoid flaring your elbows out as it can put undue strain on your joints. Maintain a false grip throughout the movement and ensure smooth transitions between the phases. Regular practice, along with sufficient rest and recovery, will gradually lead you to a perfect ring muscle-up.
Kipping Vs. Strict Muscle-ups
When it comes to muscle-ups, there’s always this ongoing debate among athletes: To kip or not to kip. To solve this dilemma, we should first know the difference between a kipping and a strict muscle-up.
With a kipping muscle up, you bring your legs up to your chest as you’re pulling your body up. This movement helps create more momentum and allows you to do the pull-up phase more easily.
The strict muscle-up does the same thing without the kipping. You should adopt a hollow body position with your hips tilted posteriorly throughout the movement. It’s harder to do because you don’t have that momentum to help you move your body.
Here’s the drill: Both of these variations are great and are done by professional athletes. A strict muscle-up is harder to do but, if you can do it, works your muscles more. However, if you’re still trying to work your way up to your first muscle-up, chances are you won’t be able to do a strict muscle-up. So, start with the kipping and gradually advance to a strict muscle-up progression.
Performing a muscle-up requires strength, skill, and perseverance. It doesn’t really matter if you do a ring muscle-up or a bar muscle-up; they’re both great upper-body exercises for experienced gym-goers. Whatever your choices may be, you should be persistent in following your muscle-up progression. It won’t be long before you can finally pull your body up, navigate the transition phase, and perform that dip; and voila! All your hard work will finally pay off.
Training muscle-up progressions is a great way to add to any strength training program. This move is a great way to challenge your muscular strength and focus.
Add these to a program that incorporates cardio moves to get your heart rate up to lose body fat. Along with strength isolation moves, this is a great way to improve your health long term.
Make sure to also incorporate compound moves like bent over rows and overhead presses and isolation exercises like bicep curls to transform your upper body.
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