Upper Body Mastery: How to Properly Build Your Muscle-Up
Why is it, do you think, that so many people who can do strict pull-ups and dips, may not be able to come close to a strict muscle-up? The answer is pretty simple, and the reasoning behind this article: it’s because a muscle-up is more than just a pull-up and a dip. Specifically, a properly performed muscle-up requires false-grip strength in the transition, something which someone who only practices pull-ups and dips will of course … lack.
Here’s a simple step by step approach to get you working towards that muscle-up. For details and comprehensive programming, check out the GB Foundation Series.
Step 1: Prerequisite Strength
Before we get ahead of ourselves, keep in mind that any discussion about strict muscle-ups pre-supposes that you already have the prerequisite strength and mobility to perform several full range of motion repetitions each of both strict pull-ups and strict dips (click on the links to read more about pull-up and strict dips). So if you’re not there yet, that is the first thing to work on. Full range of motion in a pull-up requires a dead hang at the bottom and a and purposeful pull to your chin above the bar. A full range of motion dip on the rings requires that you get your shoulders all the way above the rings and then a full straightening of your elbows at the top. Once you’ve got these underway, you’re ready for the next step.
Step 2: False Grip
So now that you have mastered strict pull-ups and strict dips with a full range of motion, it is time to build strength in your false grip. The false grip has a two-fold purpose.
The first is to keep your wrist joint on top of the rings, as this helps prepare the elbows and biceps (brachialis), in particular for the rigors of more advanced rings training.
The second is provide a smooth, barrier-free transition mechanism for your body to pull itself above the rings.
To simply learn how to get into a false grip, grab a ring with your right hand as if you were going to do dips. With the left hand, grab the strap above the ring and pull the hand holding the ring up to about face level, making sure to bend at your right wrist as the ring goes above shoulder height. If done properly, this will place your right hand into a deep false grip, with the ring following the crease of your palm into the wrist joint right in-between your forearm and hand, the hand should be bent to approximately 90 degrees on top of the ring.
Step 3: The Transition
The only remaining ingredient for your muscle-up work is the transition from how you get from the top of your false-grip pull-up to the bottom of your dip beginning above the rings. This mystical and often skipped highly important part of the muscle-up is called, the transition.
The goal here is to build the strength to perform this movement in a strict, controlled fashion with no momentum or kipping.
Kipping muscle-ups, where you swing your body in order to utilize momentum to propel yourself above the rings, actually skips this transition phase making you miss very large brachialis size, stability, and strength gains, never building the strength to go onto more advanced ring strength.
If you kip, this is where your ring strength ends.
Finale: Full Strict Ring Muscle-Up
To perform a strict muscle-up properly, begin hanging from the rings with straight arms. Pull-up without kipping or jerking, in your false grip, keeping the rings as close to the center of your chest as possible, once the rings touch your sternum, firmly sit-up, while pulling yourself into the bottom of your dip and straighten your arms.
Learn more exercises, tips, and tricks to build prerequisite strength that will carry over into not only your strict muscle-ups but into your pull-ups and legless rope climb as well, for the mightiest upper body strength and mobility using the GymnasticBodies Foundations Series.