The muscle up – questions and answers

The Bar Muscle up

The Bar Muscle up

The Ring Muscle up

The Ring Muscle up

The muscle up is the prestige movement in CrossFit. Conquering this exercise can be a frustrating experience. While some get it in the first try, it can take months for others. Here is a short FAQ that brings some light in the dark.


Q1: Ring or bar muscle up - which one is easier?

If you succeed more likely in the ring or bar muscle up can't be answers. Often, the bar muscle up is the given scale version in WOD's that contain the ring mu, so you might conclude it is the "easier" one. I disagree. 
The ring muscle up asks for a great shoulder stability. Compare a ring dip with a matador dip - the difference is huge. But also, since the rings are movable, you can pull them in a position that reduces the strength component by a lot. The bar muscle on the other side requires a lot of pulling and pushing strength, with no way to hide.
So if you are doing well in explosive movements, have your timing on point and stable shoulders, the ring muscle up should be more comfortable to you. Strong and heavy athletes might find the bar muscle up simpler


Q2: Do I need the false grip for the ring muscle up?

Another question I have to answer with a small detour. The false grip allows to pull and push (for the ring pull up and -dip) at the same time in a quite powerful leverage. Therefore, it is helpful for the muscle up, but as long as your arm strength and your hip explosion is sufficient, you can handle the muscle up without.
The false grip is painful, at least awkward, hard to maintain for high reps and difficult to set up from a free hang initially. Especially heavy athletes can struggle with it. So it is an extra homework to get comfortable with it and learn the kip while using. Worth the effort? You decide. For the strict muscle up, the false grip is necessary anyway.

Q3: I can't manage to get into the dip at the ring muscle up - what am I doing wrong?

There are a few possibilities: a) You don't pull the rings underneath your chest where there need to be to start the dip. This could be caused by an incomplete kip (your are not horizontal in the air) or a leg of pulling strength. b) You are not fast enough in the transition. Thin about a really quick sit up. c) Your body is lacking tension. Keep your core and lats tight. 

Q4: Which are the (strict) gymnastic standards I need to fulfill before muscle up training is anyhow promising?

Difficult to find a benchmark here. Some athletes achieve big numbers in the strict pull ups and dips but can't get the muscle up - often a problem of coordination and explosive speed. Others compensate strengths deficits by a good sense for movement and rhythm. I found a statistic someone created within the members of his box, showing the average numbers people able to do a muscle up hit: 
9 strict pull ups
5 strict deep ring dip
1 strict C2B
8 kipping C2B
Again: This is NOT carved in stone! In any case, get your strength up, get familiar with the bars and rings and, most important, stay calm! You gone get it one day. Don't give up, Quitting is not a champions move. I'd like to close this text with one of my favorite quotations from one of my favorite female top CrossFitter Andrea Ager:
"Take the muscle-up off the pedestal. I preach this every chance I get because it's just another movement!" There are hundreds of things to work on in CrossFit, and they're all manageable if you put in the work required. Clean and jerking 135 lbs, stringing together wall balls, high box jumps, kipping pull-ups, a 100 lb snatch! All these things come easier
for some than others depending on our background athletics before we first stepped foot in a CrossFit gym.
For me, personally, two weeks into CrossFit I learned the false grip, and did a strict ring muscle-up."Check, Done and..... ON TO THE NEXT" I moved on to trying to tackle double unders and wall balls for the next 6 months. Something about those two simple movements were so hard for me and I had to practice alllll the time! I had whips on my arms from messing up on the rope and bloody lips from being stuffed by a 16 lb wall ball I could only do in sets of 5s. For the people that get their first double under with barely any effort: I am happy for you but I also think you are an alien and I will never understand you. LOL
I realize most people (women in general) have a lack of upper body strength that needs to be trained before they're capable of achieving this upper body feat of strength. But that doesn't mean THIS movement is intangible, impossible, or HAS ANY POWER OVER YOU! Switch your thinking to something positive...."it's something I have to keep working
on. It's just like any other movement I haven't gotten. I WILL achieve a muscle-up, but just haven't yet."
Our fitness journeys and accomplishments are so different because we were all created so differently. That's why it's so beautiful! If it were easy anyone could do it and we wouldn't appreciate it... be thankful to have a gym where you can walk up to a set of rings or a pull- up bar and GET STRONGER! Modified or Rxd strict dips and strict pull-ups will pay off, but you need to START somewhere. 1st, you need to BELIEVE it's possible, 2nd you need
to WORK. Take that muscle-up off the pedestal and go attack the work that will get you there."