Muscle-ups from the Top Down
It is not uncommon to see someone who can easily knock out tons of pull-ups and dips try a muscle-up and fail miserably. Despite all their strength they still remain below the rings with nothing to show for the effort.
Rather than seeing these athletes resorting to kipping, which inevitably results in subpar results, we prefer to have them focus their efforts on the drills and exercises that promote longterm Gymnastic Strength Training (GST) gains. Here are a few tips to help YOU take full advantage of every step along the road to a muscle-up:
Don’t forget the basics: Muscle-up Prep
Starting with the basics, such as ring rows and push-ups, and progressing toward more intense exercises like pull-ups and dips, is always advised. With these fundamentals mastered first, it will just be a matter of time before you get to your muscle up goals. Muscle-up preparation consists of developing:
- Basic Mobility
- Pull-up strength
- Full Range of Motion (ROM) Ring Dips, and
- False-grip strength
We know that's a lot to take in already, so here are a couple of basic pushing and pulling movements we like to start complete beginners off with:
Basic rows (which can also be done in a false grip) and ring push-ups will begin to build your muscle-up foundation!
Piecing the Muscle-up Together
There are two critical pieces of the muscle up puzzle that often go untrained. The first piece of the puzzle is the ring support hold. Without adequately training the top of the ring support hold you will have difficulty getting into a full muscle up or risk elbow injury due to inadequate joint preparation.
The support position very importantly helps condition the elbows and shoulders for other straight-arm exercises as well, such as back levers, planches, handstands, and even Olympic Weightlifting. Be sure to lock the elbows, turn the rings out past parallel, and keep your body in one solid tight line.
The second piece of the puzzle is the transition. Without adequate transitional strength in your ring muscle up, your muscle up journey will end before it ever started either through lack of strength and not being able to do the movement or end in possible elbow injury… we know what you’re thinking: you can’t transition to the top of the rings. All is not lost… read on.
Notice how the elbows stay tight to the body and the false grip is always achieved as the athlete works down through the transition.
Muscle-up Hack: Negatives
So you can’t transition to the top of the muscle up from the bottom? No problem! Let’s get smart and let gravity do all of the work (almost). This is a simple method that allows you to specifically train muscle-ups with yet being able to do them. Here’s how:
The term ‘negative’ refers to the eccentric or “top down” portion of a movement when your muscles are lengthening and, in this case, when you're lowering your body toward the ground. Muscles are stronger in the negative phase of the muscle-up as compared to the concentric (bottom to top) portion, and you can use this strength difference to your advantage.
Set up the rings so that you can either jump, step, or have someone help you up into top support. Then simply lower down slowly through the dip, brutal transition, and pull-up with control all the way to the bottom of a dead hang position. Focus on maintaining your false grip, pausing in the bottom of your dip, and then pausing at the top of your pull-up for the best strength gain possible.
To continue safely mastering the components of a muscle-up, be sure to check out the GymnasticBodies Foundations Courses.