Muscle-ups: Just the Beginning of Ring Strength
The muscle-up is often seen as the ultimate test of upper body gymnastics strength in various fitness circles. There is just something about combining a pull-up with a dip that excites many people about the muscle-up, and rightfully so. However, rather than viewing the muscle-up as ending the journey, we should look at this exercise as opening the door to the world of ring strength.
Pre-requisites for Muscle-up Work
Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, we should focus on first things first and prioritize the pre-requisites for muscle-up work. After all, if you are going to build a big house, you better have a strong foundation if you want it to last.
First, muscle-ups require that you have adequate shoulder mobility, both overhead (flexion) and behind you (extension). Being that muscle-ups include hanging at the bottom of the pull-up, if your shoulder flexion mobility is lacking, then your muscle-up will fail before it even begins. Shoulder extension comes into play as you transition into the dip with your elbows traveling behind your torso, something many adults cannot comfortably do.
In addition to shoulder mobility, muscle-ups demand that you have sufficient strength in both pull-ups and dips, of course. You should be able to effortlessly knock out multiple sets of clean, strict reps for both movements, being sure to pull all the way up to the top of your pull-ups and descend all the way down to the bottom of your dips.
Move beyond a muscle-up like this GB Athlete using dip variations from our Foundation Series!
Getting on the Rings
With these pre-requisites in place, now you can start to get on the rings. One key component of muscle-up work is holding a solid false grip, where your wrist joint stays stacked on top of the rings as you hang at the bottom of your pull-up. This requires both wrist mobility and forearm strength, and it is an area in which many adults can improve.
Just as false grip is required below the rings, you also need to have a solid support position when you reach the top. If you cannot hold a rings top support, then where are you going to muscle-up to? Be sure to keep the shoulders down, elbows locked, and rings turned out.
With these elements in place, you now need to work the muscle-up transition. From the top of your false grip pull-up, keep your wrists curled while you pull your elbows behind your body. Lean forward just a bit if needed, and you should end up at the bottom of a very low ring dip. As you gain strength and mobility, you can practice just this transition over and over again to build comfort and ease.
Muscle-ups and Beyond
If you have put in the time and effort and can now do muscle-ups, congratulations, now the real work begins. For instance, you can take your muscle-up and turn it into a forwards roll on the rings. Start from top support, and keep your false grip while performing a full forwards roll with your body, catching yourself at the top of your pull-up and transitioning back on top of the rings.
Many GymnasticBodies students know about front levers from the Foundation Series. As you get stronger and can perform both muscle-ups and front levers, you can combine them on the rings. From top support, lower down to the bottom of your dip. Curl your wrists to grab your false grip, and then lean back while lowering into a false grip front lever. If you can, also pull back up from your front lever to the top of the rings for another muscle-up.
Lastly, all of your handstand practice from the GB Handstand Series has not been for nothing. Rings handstands are a true test of both shoulder mobility and stability, as you need to work doubly hard to keep the rings under your body. Remember to keep your elbows locked, shoulders shrugged, and body tight. Practice this movement safely, always using mats and spotters when necessary.
- Muscle-ups are a fantastic exercise that requires strength and mobility throughout your shoulders, elbows, and wrists.
- Once you have pull-ups and dips mastered, it is time to work on false grip and top support on the rings.
- Muscle-ups should serve to "open the door" to harder rings strength elements such as forwards rolls, front lever muscle-ups, and rings handstands.
GymnasticBodies muscle-up progressions and programming are your ultimate guide to next-level bodyweight strength.