How do I work towards a Muscle-up?

This is a little different from my usual. This is to help all my crossfit friends get that elusive “Muscle-Up”. Not about feelings, or dreams… well maybe dreams and goals.

The Muscle Up is the mecca of the crossfit world… and how gymnasts “just get on the rings” (as mentioned by Coach Everett EVERYTIME I am frustratingly not getting them).  I once said I would streak naked around the gym when I got my muscle up because I just couldn’t get it.  However, I take THAT back as I am determined to work HARD to get it and I’m not streaking (especially not in the cold). No. Never.

So here are my steps to work on to get your golden muscle up badge:

  1. Believe you can do it and WANT IT.
  2. Do the work. My pet peeve is when people come to me and say “I can’t do my handstand/walk/pullups/dips, what do I need to do?” and then I ask “How often do you practice?” and they give me a blank stare. It’s not magic people… it’s HARD WORK
  •  Do this 3-5 x week – or alternate every day ie. Push day, pull day, transition etc.
  • Just write out a schedule that works for you and commit.


The MU is made up of 3 phases; pull, push/press and the transition. You need to consistently practice all three phases regularly to gain the strength and the technique to get up there.

1.       Pulls: Working toward 10 Strict Chest to Ring Pull Ups (C2R)

  • C2R (work up to 10)
  • SPOTTED (not band) pullups PU (find a buddy)
  • Ring Rows (RR)
  • Active hangs (use your lats) ==>  false grip hangs
  • Negatives

An example of a set would be:

3-5 reps C2B or PU or RR (depending on level)

5-30s Active hang or false grip hangs

3-5 reps Negatives ie. Fast up and slow (3-5s down)

DO 3-5 reps (or 5-30s) for 3-5 sets

2.       Pushes: Working toward 10 Strict “deep” dips

  • Ring dips & Ring Supports
  • Box Dips & Box Supports
  • Negatives
  • Toenail Pushes from the bottom
  • Gymnastics Pushups

An example of a set would be:

3-5 reps ring dips or box dips (depending on level)

10-40s Ring or box supports

3-5 reps Negatives or toenail pushes from the bottom Fast down and slow up

DO 3-5 reps (or 10-40s) for 3-5 sets

3.       Transitions: Working toward a well performed STRICT MU

  • Spotted MU
  • Toenail MU’s
  • Russian Dips

An example of a set would be:

3-5 Spotted MU or toenail MU

3-5 Russian dips

DO 3-5 reps for 3-5 sets

Phewf!!!! That’s a lot of work… well if you break it up like this

Day 1 Pulls and Pushes

Day 2 Transitions

Day 3 Rest

Day 4 Pulls and Pushes

Day 5 Transitions etc.. it isn’t so bad. A little before or after your cf workout…

Remember that the key to good successful gymnastics is STRENGTH, TECHNIQUE AND MOBILITY in the appropriate joints…i.e. SHOULDERS!!!!!

So work your shoulder mobility before and after… that’s a whole other story.


So have now worked toward 5x strict MU’s… Here is stuff you can do to get better and stronger:


Remember that this won’t be done in your dreams… do the work and your dreams will come true.




About fitlikemia

Trying to live a balanced life to the extreme.
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