ring muscle up

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.


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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"Minimum work requirement" Why these three words are ruining your life

In 2013 Kat and I found out we were going to be competing at the CrossFit Regionals together on a team. 

I didn’t realise it at the time, but what unfolded next has shaped and defined Dalecki Strength as well as Kat and I as coaches.

The workouts were released..

EVENT 3 on Day 1 

Complete as many total reps in 7 minutes of:

Burpee ring muscle-ups.

MINIMUM work requirement- 6 reps per gender.

This meant that 2 out 3 women had to complete 3 burpee ring muscle ups. 

In 2013 ring muscle ups were very rare for women.

Kat had a natural ability for muscle ups. They were strong, consistent and beautiful.

Sam our other girl was very far away from her first muscle up. 

That meant I absolutely had to get 3 muscle ups on the day otherwise our team would be disqualified and knocked out of the competition.


Rewind back a year

I had started CrossFit exactly 1 year prior to this moment.

Yes I was an ex gymnast but I had ZERO exposure to ring training. 

In traditional artistic gymnastics, women (sadly) do not learn the rings as an apparatus. 

Not only that, when I started CrossFit I was de-conditioned, unfit and had even lost my strict pull ups!

During my first year of CrossFit I progressed really quickly. I took full advantage of the “beginner gains” but also I was able to rely on my previous athletic background. I knew how to move well, I just had to be disciplined with my training.

I pretty much picked up everything I needed to be decently competitive at CrossFit, I had all the barbell and gymnastics movements, the one exception being the dreaded ring muscle up.

I felt pressure to be good at CrossFit because people expected me to be good. 

“Oh you are an ex gymnast, CrossFit must be easy for you"

“Ah you are Kat’s sister.. Are you as strong as her?"

This caused me to become incredibly stressed. CrossFit was the furthest thing from easy.

I was embarrassed and anxious. To add to that, I was extremely competitive.

As it unfolded this adversity was the biggest blessing I could have asked for.

Kat worked with me on this every single day in the gym for hours. 

During these few weeks we learnt..

  • 1001 ways to teach and not to teach muscle up.

  • You should not be skipping any steps in skill acquisition.

  • A little bit of skin in the game is very useful motivation to achieve a crazy goal.

The trivial outcome. 

I got those muscle ups and we progressed through the whole weekend of competition. 

It was surprisingly easy on the day.

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The lasting outcome

We learned true empathy for our future clients. 

We know how to help them because we have been through the struggle personally. 

Another lesson was in the beauty of CrossFit. 

Competing in CrossFit is not just “an exercising competition.” It is more than that. It is about tackling your fears and insecurities in front of thousands in a public arena. Whether that is on the Open Leaderboard, Regionals or a local comp, it takes bravery and can make you a better person in the process.

If you need help with gymnastics to get better at CrossFit and you care about doing things properly, we are here to help. We have been through the struggles you are facing now.


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