muscle ups

How To Go From Pull Up To Muscle Up

Over the past few years muscle ups become a popular topic in many gyms. It's a great goal and accomplishment for an adult with no gymnastics background to achieve a ring or bar muscle up. As coaches it such a refreshing change to see adults seeking out these new challenges, learning and achieving physical feats of strength and skill.

So why is it that some people just get it and other need to battle with the drills for months or even years?

It's because a muscle up requires more than just a strong pull up and dip.

ring training, muscleup, muscle up, adult gymnastics, gym,  gymnastics classes

Step 1 - Identify where you need more focus

1. Strength in full range pull ups - hang position with locked out elbows pulling all the way up to the sternum in narrow position. Adding tempo to pull ups can help in learning the positions and slowing down the movement to help the brain map out the path of the new skill.

2. Strength in full range dips - from a strong top position down into the bottom of a dip with shoulders below. Incorporating isometrics here is great for strength building.

3. False grip hang - practice a false grip in a de-loaded position, then with full body weight and finally jumping into a false grip hang.

4. False grip pull up - getting that grip conditioned so that it no longer makes you squirm. Starting with ring rows are a great starting option

False grip ring row

5. Strength in the transition - training the path from the top of the pull up to the bottom of the dip. Hundreds and thousands of reps. We do this in many ways, practicing the movement with no weight at all, with band, using a spotter & with full bodyweight.

Banded transition drill

Step 2 - dedicate some serious time to working your weakness and catch up to your strength

Step 3 - continue to work the drills once you get the skill.

Continuing to work the drills once you have achieved the skill is vital to continue progressing. Chances are one day you’re going to want to link your muscle up to another skill or another rep, you need to ensure your MU is not a one rep max.

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How you do something, is how you do everything

Starting gymnastics young taught us many lessons in discipline. Alarm clocks set at 4:30am, juggling school and training as well as sacrificing social events.


Generally, if you are putting in more than 10+ hours of training per week into an athletic endeavour you are showing some level of commitment to your goal. However, time alone as a measure of discipline is limiting. You can pour hours upon hours into an endeavour and but unless your mind is in the right place and your practice is extremely deliberate- you may see some average results but never discover your true potential.


We were taught that our success didn’t depend on purely just showing up and going through the motions. Our effort was noticed in every single movement we performed in a session. This meant perfect alignment in stretches, complete body tension during core work and our attitude towards training partners.  It even meant standing and walking was graceful and emphasis was placed on correct posture.


Two important lessons

  1. It’s not what you do, it is how you do it.

  2. How you do something, is how you do everything.


If you were "that" girl who needed the coach to be there watching and keeping you accountable for every piece of your training. Everyone knew it was only a matter of time before you gave up on something important. Your advanced goals would slip from your grasp and it would be because the correct attitude wasn’t a part of the small actions, so it wasn’t a part of you.


Patience towards goals was a given in our gymnastics experience. There was no skipping ahead and attempting skills outside of an athlete’s strength capability. Not even once. You were never allowed to ask your coach if you could attempt a skill because ‘you wanted to.’ More importantly, none of us wanted to skip ahead. We didn’t want injuries and we wanted the decisions to be left up to the coach instead of our ego. There was no sense of urgency in our training environment. However what it did have was a deep sense of importance and seriousness.


That small action and drill we were performing was just another piece being added to a future masterpiece.


This is something now ingrained in our teaching philosophy and it is something we are very proud of.

Proper progression and patience are keys to success and the ones who are rushing ahead to stay at the pace of somebody else or a false idea of their own capability are destined for injury and don’t succeed in our program.


Questions to ask yourself

  1. Are you in a training environment that supports proper progression?

  2. Is your practice deliberate or random?

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